Using Data to Disrupt Systemic Inequity – Stanford Social Innovation Review – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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Student with backpack; illustration of pie chart, graph, and a school in the background

(Illustration by Hugo Herrera)

On the road to economic mobility in the United States, inequitable education, health, and employment systems, designed to benefit the few, leave many children and families of color behind, stuck in deep ruts along the lines of race, wealth, and zip codes. To really have an impact, we must look below the surface to understand the factors that contribute to inequities. Data enables us to get at the root causes and work upstream to create equitable pathways for those hindered by structural racism.

Equipping communities with tools to identify, collect, and report “systems data” that perpetuates racial disparities in education and employment outcomes can help change this. Communities can use data to engage the people most impacted by systemic inequities—including Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian youth and families, and people experiencing poverty—and then disrupt those systems. Quantitative and qualitative data informs strategy, guiding communities in identifying, testing, and improving strategies to address the root causes of inequities. Data fuels an equity-centered collaborative improvement approach to getting better results. By working toward fundamental and institutional shifts in policies, practices, resources, and power structures, we can eliminate structural racism and advance equitable outcomes.

Rigorous use of qualitative and quantitative data has guided the evolution of the nonprofit I lead. Since the early days of StrivePartnership, a collective impact initiative in Cincinnati, Ohio, and northern Kentucky, we knew we could make a positive impact by using data to resolve systemic barriers that limit opportunity. Early successes led to a national movement, a Cradle to Career Network spanning 30 states and nearly 70 communities. Now known as StriveTogether, we continuously learn from communities as we strengthen data use to achieve population-level results. Data helps network members unearth the root causes of structural inequities within education, health, food, housing, transportation, financial, legal, and other systems that impact the well-being of youth and families. Data also guides communities in testing and improving strategies to achieve lasting results. The ultimate aim of systems transformation is creating equitable pathways to economic mobility. Network members use data to highlight inequities in per-pupil funding, access to transit, and community support services to hold systems accountable in for improving outcomes for young people.

Shifting Data Analysis for Equitable Results

A rigorous use of data has been a


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