NNIP's Goals to Improve Use of Data in Advancing Racial Equity

NNIP Partners help their communities use data to shape strategies and investments so that all neighborhoods are places where people can thrive. As a network, NNIP and its partners have been working to advance racial equity for decades. Our partners are in a unique position having both data expertise, as well as deep knowledge about their city’s neighborhoods and the people who live in them. But we want our data services and analysis to be more effective in furthering racial equity in each of our communities, as an outcome and a process. To that end, we have drafted a set of aspirations for NNIP partners to hold ourselves and each other accountable as we strive to democratize data for people to use in strengthening their communities.

This statement is a living document, which we plan to update as we learn from both outside perspectives and partners’ efforts to improve our practice. As a network, we will explore together what these goals mean for our institutions, identify how we can make our data and methods more inclusive and equitable, and share our successes and challenges.

We also compiled an online guide of resources for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in both our internal practices and external products to help our partners and others navigate this space.

Goal Rationale
We strive to incorporate community voice and collaborate with residents on research design, data collection, interpretation, and dissemination. We recognize that the lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and other people of color and their communities are often excluded from research. We need to improve on our quantitative and qualitative methods to better incorporate their experiences into analyses. This includes designing research and interpreting data with people and communities represented in the data and returning the results of analyses to the community in forms they can use in their own advocacy.
We strive to produce and share data analyses to benefit the people and communities that have been harmed in the past. We recognize that data have been and continue to be used to cause harm to people and communities of color, both intentionally and inadvertently. By centering community interests in our efforts, people can use data to set their own priorities, advocate for change, and track progress.
We strive to identify and name the root causes and the systems that perpetuate inequities. We recognize that structural racism1 has caused inequitable outcomes for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and other people of color and the communities in which they live. We need to name these forces in our analyses and communications.
We strive to be transparent about the biases and limitations in the data and document the contexts in which the data were created. We recognize that data are not neutral, but shaped by the interests, assumptions, and biases of those who collect and analyze them.
We strive to use data in ways that reveal the inequities in systems. We recognize too often indicators focus attention on individual behaviors, which has led to blaming the people themselves and inadequate responses to systemic problems. We need to develop more indicators about the systems driving inequities like disparate funding or access to opportunities.
We strive to use data in ways that highlight the assets of people and communities. We recognize that data and indicators used to describe people and communities of color are often deficit-oriented, an approach which risks stigmatizing them. Our analyses need to portray the strengths of the community, not just the challenges.
We strive to use our power to partner authentically with communities and organizations of color and to build their capacity to use data to advocate for change. We recognize that our organizations may have excluded marginalized communities from participating or accessing needed information. Our organizations should use our privilege and power to shift power to communities and organizations of color.
We strive to prioritize changes in our organizations and governance that will meaningfully increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in our workplace culture, hiring and retention, and strategic vision. We recognize that people providing data and data services do not always reflect the communities in which they work. We must put significant effort into our own organizations to build racially diverse and inclusive workplaces, teams, and organizational and advisory boards.

Published 8/30/2021

1Structural racism is a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist. Source: Aspen Institute.