Accelerate Your Efforts
If you are already implementing all or most of the strategies listed above, consider adding some of these to deepen your data efforts:
Utilize community-led participatory research. Involve community members in data collection and analysis and incorporate their unique perspectives into the overall understanding of the challenges facing the community and the assets that might be leveraged to create solutions.
Value lived experiences as valid sources of data/information. Collect and regularly share the lived experiences of community members along with quantitative data on priority issues. As noted earlier, the broader context in which we operate in the U.S. often values certain types of data (e.g. quantitative versus qualitative data) and specific data/research methods (e.g. randomized control trials versus ethnographic studies) over others. These biases are ingrained in how we generally interpret and value information. Aggregated community data can help your United Way determine the prevalence of an issue but has limitations in terms of understanding the root causes of disparities and the interconnectedness of what may appear to be on the surface discrete issues. Sharing personal narratives, stories, and experiences as part of your overall data presentations also helps to legitimize this approach to better understanding community needs, assets, and challenges.
Acknowledge bias is present in data collection. Publicly share the inherent bias that exists when assembling and presenting data and proactively work to mitigate that bias through decolonized methodologies of research.1
- 1Smith, Linda Tuhiwai, 1950-. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London; New York: Dunedin: New York: Zed Books; University of Otago Press; distributed in the USA exclusively by St Martin’s Press, 1999.
Establish shared agreements with funded agencies and partners of what data you will collect and why. Ensure that the data collected includes both quantitative and qualitative measures. Clearly articulate how the data will be used and who will have access to it. Pay special attention to the ways data can be used to disadvantage communities and groups and proactively mitigate that practice. This includes making certain that individuals are given the opportunity to consent to have their data used (or to opt-out). Equitable data practices ensure that a broader definition of data is valued and seen as legitimate.