Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Administration
Derek Coursen has extensive experience leading the management of information in nonprofit organizations and for government. His focus is on helping human service, justice and public health organizations to meet the complex challenges that arise from multiple stakeholder perspectives—program planning, front-line service provision, fiscal administration, performance measurement and program evaluation—by developing creative and holistic strategies around information system design and deployment.
After graduating from the University of Delaware, Derek spent six years working on journalistic and educational projects for social sector organizations in Central America, followed by four years at Queens Library planning immigrant services and managing performance data. In 1998 he joined the Vera Institute of Justice, where he formed and led a department that carried out software development and performance measurement consulting engagements in areas including juvenile justice, child welfare, substance abuse treatment, offender re-entry, healthcare advocacy, crime mapping, court automation, and the intersection of race and prosecution. Derek joined Public Health Solutions in 2007, and currently directs planning and informatics around the administration of New York City’s portfolio of HIV care and prevention contracts, with particular emphasis on the development of systems for performance-based reimbursement.
Derek holds M.S. degrees in management (NYU Wagner), information systems (Pace University) and information and library science (Pratt Institute). He is a member of the Data Council of Measures for Justice, a nonprofit organization that promotes common performance measures for the U.S. justice system; and is a member of the Board of husITa (Human Service Information Technology Applications).
Information Systems in Public and Nonprofit Organizations
The management of information in human service, criminal justice and public health interventions is fraught with complexity because of the diverse perspectives of stakeholder groups including clients, front-line workers and supervisors, measurers of performance and evaluators, executive leadership, funding agencies and software developers. This course will prepare students to understand and constructively mediate these challenges. Students will adopt a systems stance to critique different ways of construing the boundaries and nature of the service environment. The course critically examines common techniques including the system development life cycle, process modeling and logic modeling, their limitations and their practical (and unintended) consequences for decision-making about data and information systems; and it explores alternative approaches, including cybernetics, domain modeling and the ecosystems perspective, which can help organizations develop more effective, holistic and evolvable information systems.
Information Management and Systems in Public and Nonprofit Service Organizations
The goal of this course is to prepare non-technical stakeholders working in the human service, justice and public health arenas to participate effectively in decision-making about information management practices and tools. Using a framework of general systems concepts to explore organizational and technical issues, the course will address how various roles—clients, front-line workers and supervisors, performance measurement staff, evaluators and funders—conceive of useful information; the challenges of developing information management capacity and acquiring information systems; and the context and implications of creating comparable measures and/or integrating data across multiple programs and agencies. The course is designed to enable students to understand differences between various stakeholder groups’ desire for and use of information; analyze the costs required to collect data and produce information; become familiar with the structure, development and customization of software; and the factors that contribute to success or failure. Students will also learn to understand the particular complex problems that client-serving agencies face around competing internal priorities, software acquisition, reporting to external funders, integration of data across multiple programs, and managing change; and learn how emerging trends in shared measurement and data integration may affect agencies.