Giving Compass’ Take:
• Researchers at Urban Institute are using data walks to explores how communities can address food insecurities and spark more conversations around critical issues.
• Data walks are community-engaged research methods that rely on community feedback and input about challenges and solutions to problems. How can data walks help inform donors’ strategic giving plans?
• Here are four ways to improve your data culture.
Do the data researchers collect reflect people’s actual experience with food insecurity? How can researchers link communities with data they can use to implement strategies for addressing food insecurity?
This summer, our Urban Institute research team explored these questions by traveling to six communities across the US to host community conversations on disrupting food insecurity.
This approach to research is called a “data walk.” It’s a community-engaged research method that strives to create a more equitable research process by checking researchers’ initial conclusions and creating a feedback loop of challenges and solutions with communities.
Data walks can help break down traditional barriers in research by providing an opportunity to center the community, rather than researchers, as experts. Our data walks served several purposes: to elicit feedback on our food insecurity data, provide on-the-ground context for the data, and brainstorm strategies for addressing challenges represented in the data.
Hosting a data walk can be a powerful avenue to make research more meaningful, but without proper considerations in the research design and framing, “community engagement” may reinforce the very structures of inequality we are seeking to dismantle through the research (PDF). Based on our own experiences, here are some strategies we use or are working toward incorporating into all of our research.
- Before planning a data walk, ask if your product is useful for the residents you are engaging.
- Tailor data walk posters to spur conversations toward research questions.
- Compensate everyone involved for their time and effort.
Data walks demonstrate the importance of balancing community knowledge with Urban’s knowledge as a research organization. If we present ourselves as experts, it can invalidate community experiences, but we can also serve as conveners and facilitators.
Read the full article about data walks by Clare Salerno and Olivia Arena at Urban Institute.
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