It’s no secret that societal injustice disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, perpetuating disparities and sustaining imbalances of power. But perhaps lesser-known is that the world of data is no exception. Systems of information collection are designed and used by individuals in power; personal information has historically been abused to withhold access to resources and to restrict human rights. For this reason, there is resistance among marginalized communities to share information truthfully due to mistrust in the institutions collecting information.
We take responsibility for approaching a system with data equity in place. In order to promote equity, we must take an active approach of inclusion in order to shift the power back to the individuals most impacted.
What is Data Equity?
Data Equity is an approach to empowering individuals with ownership over their information. Data equity requires that those about whom we are collecting data are included in decisions about what data is collected, how it is collected, and what data is of value. It also requires prioritizing transparency so that those who provide data are informed about how we store, protect, and use their information.
The Data Lifecycle
– The amount of information a program collects should be proportionate with the value we offer the client.
– Clients should be informed of the purpose of data we collect.
– Clients should help us decide what data our agency collects and how we collect it.
– We should not expect clients to share information, but always provide clients the option to opt-in.
– Information should be self-identified by the client; we should not document information without their consent or ascribe information based on appearance or language.
– We should collect information in a way that aligns with how participants define themselves; we should not impose categories on individuals that do not fairly represent them.
– All information collected should be captured only to the degree that it is useful and beneficial to the client.
– All information should be stored securely, and clients informed of our efforts to protect their data.
– Clients should be informed of their right to recall or destroy their personal information.
– Analysis methods should faithfully represent the diversity of clients and should be determined by the intended purpose of the data.
– All reporting should communicate only what is relevant to the stated purpose of the data; it should be informative without being gratuitous.
– When sharing information, we must do so in a manner that is clear to the intended audience and fairly represents our clients’ voices.
– We should create intentional space to share reporting and information back to our clients.
What is Data Equity?
– We should not use information in a manner to which the client did not consent.
– We should use information to generate change and deliver value that will benefit the client (e.g., improve programs, generate funding, and/or advocate for policy reform).
We recognize that information collection is just one more way that systems of oppression persist – so we combat it head on.
The Data Lifecycle ensures that client participation is an essential component of our information collection processes. We strive to uplift their voices at every step.
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