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Kylie works at a Canadian sexual assault center and has been kind enough to share some of her experience translating her learning in a Data Equity Framework (DEF) workshop into action in her organization.

The organization Kylie works for provides direct services to survivors of sexual assault, school-based prevention programs, public education and awareness campaigns, professional development trainings, and advocacy at provincial and national levels. They are driven by their mission to provide information, support, and counselling to those affected by sexual violence and to work towards its eradication.

As part of this work, the organization collects a variety of data, some directly, others from external frontline sources. They found they were often scraping to fund their service delivery programs and large amounts of staff time was taken up by applying for, delivering and reporting on their grant-funded projects.

Kylie says these circumstances made it hard for them to approach data collection with strategy, intention and transparency at the organization level.

In some cases, the reasons for collecting certain data weren’t clear, which led to tensions between frontline staff, who had to collect this sensitive information from assault survivors, and the project staff, who were juggling demands from many different project funders. The data demands on the project team by funding bodies were not clearly communicated to the frontline staff, and the siloed organizational structure made it difficult to get a clear idea of the broad data collection needs across the organization.

After taking part in the DEF workshop, Kylie organized an afternoon session with her colleagues where she introduced them to tools from the first three steps of the DEF: the Funding Web, Motivation Statement and Perspective Microscope. These tools, and the subsequent discussions, helped the organization to move through the impasse that had developed between frontline and administrative staff.

The team used the Funding Web tool to brainstorm stakeholders for a province-wide data collection project. This simple, visually impactful tool maps out the ways that money, data and influence interact to create a holistic overview of the power structure of a project. The identification of lines of influence between stakeholders helped them recognize areas where the organization has the influence to collect and deliver data to funders in alignment with their worldview – even if it differs from the (real or imagined) worldviews of the funders. This includes federal government funded projects, where they need to provide statistics but have the leeway to decide which statistics and how the story is shaped.

Kylie says: “The thinking and conversation the Funding Web inspired moved well beyond the bounds of this particular project and had us discussing how data, money, and influence move between the different teams in our organization, and between our organization and the larger context in which we work and are funded.”

The team crafted a Motivation Touchstone for the same project to clearly and transparently define the ‘why’ behind the project. This enabled the frontline and administrative staff to understand the restrictions each face in their data process roles and to clearly articulate the worldviews they want their data collection, and work, to reflect.

The Perspective Microscope sparked an interesting conversation about the differences between what founders want to know, what the organization wants to know, and what they imagine survivors want to know about their service delivery. Thinking about the data project design principles (“Where does this research question put the onus to change? Whose definition of success is operating in this research question?”) sparked great discussions among the staff who do the grant writing. The organization now plans to use the Perspective Microscope to build equity into their funded projects (whether they are data focused or not) from the get-go.

All the tools facilitated lively, thoughtful and clarifying conversations within the team about how and why they collect data in their various programs and services. The tools provided framing and momentum for the discussions, which helped the team recognize that while they are all motivated to collect and report on data in an equitable way, there are different demands and pressures felt in different roles.

Since introducing the tools to the team Kylie has seen interest in them spread through the organization. The discussions provided people with clarity on how they individually fit into the organization’s data collection processes, as well as an understanding of places where their hands are tied due to funding realities, and where they have more agency and influence than previously realised.

The introduction of these easy to use, visual and conversation sparking tools, has kick-started interest in the organization to develop an organizational data strategy that can guide the integration of equity and worldview into their data collection processes across projects and teams. Kylie says:

“These DEF tools helped us address equity issues at several levels. The intentional and transparent approach to adding equity really is game-changing. These tools helped us to apply it meaningfully to our current projects AND to think about how we can incorporate equitable data collection approaches into the bigger picture of our organization and our work. Between organizations – and, in our case, within organizations – the tools provide a framework for having conversations, (re)establishing shared goals, and working toward those goals using the different resources we bring to the table.”