Data standards 1: Why data must be inclusive

Rosie McLeod

There’s a lot of work happening around data standards in the charity sector. ‘Data standard’ is a very broad term used in different ways, but the goal is generally interoperability: being able to exchange standardised data between different systems, owned by different parties. Having common approaches is a requirement for comparison and aggregation, for building a common evidence base, and advancing knowledge – standards are important in any field of learning.   

There are three main areas where data standards are being advanced: inclusivity of contextual data, outcomes, and social value for whole interventions. Each brings quite different considerations, opportunities, and risks worth exploring.   

Covid has disproportionately affected certain groups, yet the gaps and biases in data and analytics has made it hard to track and respond to this. Some people’s experiences are simply not included in the data. Click To Tweet

The Black Lives Matter movement has crystallised this issue and the need for action. It’s led to a stronger desire to make data more inclusive and equitable. For example, 360 Giving is co-creating a taxonomy for funders to collect and disseminate data about the demographics of communities supported by grant-making fundsWithin government, ONS’ Inclusive Data Taskforce is looking to improve both the inclusivity and usefulness of equalities data. On a global level, the Inclusive Data Charter of the Sustainable Development Goalcommits to five principles along similar lines. The key is getting more granular, disaggregated data to understand how issues affect different groups in different ways and being transparent about our analytic assumptions and choices. The data equity framework is helpful here. 

If these standards were universally applied then the picture of need and provision would look quite different. We’d start to shift some longstanding blind spots and inequities within the sectorWe’d be able to see better evidence on disadvantage and discrimination, advocate for change, and direct resources to areas of greatest need and demand.  

We’re asking:  

  • How is the sector best supported to do that?  
  • When it falls to individual organisations to marshal this data, what are the gaps they can help to fill, and how?  
  • Do we need platforms to support charities’ use and sharing of better population data? And how can they best advance this agenda? 

We’d love to know what you think in response to these questions, comment below with your thoughts, ideas and what else we should be asking…

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