This post was sponsored by Submittable.

When your grant program honors the importance of community members’ perspectives alongside hard data, you power a virtuous cycle. Better relationships with community members improve the integrity of the data you collect, and better data strengthens your relationships within the community.

The first step in weaving together a trust-based and data-driven approach is to reorient your relationship with community members. You need to see them as partners with valuable perspectives. And you should be responsive to their feedback.

To build these relationships, your team should adopt “culturally responsive” data practices. Researchers define these practices as “models which treat communities as research partners and involve them in the process from beginning to end, from defining research questions to collecting and analyzing data.”

Like any partnership, building relationships with community members and leaders is all about mutual respect and genuine interest. Rather than expecting people to come to you, seek them out to learn about their unique experiences.

Forming these relationships will allow you to understand community needs from the inside. You’ll get a clearer picture of how issues impact people’s daily lives. Plus, you’ll learn about the historical and cultural context of their experiences in a way that metrics might not be able to capture.

Community members can provide incredible insight into what data matters and what it means. Rather than trying to collect and interpret data yourself, invite the community to be part of the process. Kim Bui, a journalist with the Arizona Republic, puts it like this: “It is important to tell stories with a community rather than on behalf of them and to seek out what they would want to learn and what would be useful for them along with their concerns.”

Read the full article about trust-based and data-driven grantmaking by Laura Steele at PEAK Grantmaking.