Teaming with the Riches: OLIP’s Data Action TableAugust 6, 2021
By Natalie Serois
For people who have taken a deeper interest in matters of equity in organizations and in social justice more broadly, the collection, analysis and use of sociodemographic data quickly becomes a fundamental requirement for effective practice. However, the idea of asking people about gender, race, origins, or other such markers in order to be more inclusive can seem counter-intuitive to many. How can we be more united by asking people about how we might be different?
OLIP’s Data Action Table has been a remarkable intersectoral collaborative laboratory to do just that: identifying and investing in practices which use sociodemographic data to be fairer and more effective for all. Its recent efforts supporting the adoption anti-racist approaches for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic are invaluable in the immediate. The ways race-based data is being collected and used in this instance show its relevance to the lived experiences and outcomes of those rendered most vulnerable by existing systems. This chapter clearly shows the extent of what can be missed when we allow ourselves to think of questions surrounding this kind of data as abstractions or as an exercise only of use to scholars.
The lessons learned here can also be invaluable to leaders in a wider array of organizations, beyond the public health crisis which must be presently addressed. Here are a few examples of the kind of elements to be mined and disseminated in service of the continued evolution of an equitable and inclusive Ottawa:
- How can data collection and use on identity-markers like race be done in ways that do not build on, or inadvertently replicate, the harmful ways of past colonial authorities?
- How can the voices of marginalized communities be effectively integrated not only in the initial design of practices but also for collaborative monitoring, assessment and adjustment of their implementation?
- What steps must be taken to ensure that the way leaders and practitioners interpret use such data does not become a further source of stigmatization and injustice?
If we take the time to mine all that has been tried and learned, we will glean powerful insights in addressing the concerns, fears, and distortions commonly associated with the use of race-based data – and other forms of sociodemographic data – in the service of our individual and collective flourishing.