Data As a Tool for Social Justice

DCPNI: Data as a Tool for Social Justice from Stone Soup Films on Vimeo.

DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative’s resources are dedicated toward measurable outcomes. We believe that using data to guide our choices in planning and implementing programs improves our chances of helping children and parents succeed in their lives. We also believe that how data are collected is as important as the data and findings. As this video illustrates, we conduct our neighborhood and school climate surveys with the highest standards and rigor. In partnership with community residents, City Year volunteers and the Urban Institute, DCPNI’s bi-annual neighborhood and school climate surveys deepen our understanding of the Kenilworth-Parkside community and determine how we can best serve the needs and aspirations of residents.

This work is managed by a team headed by our Chief of Data and Evaluation, Kevin Jones. A native of Detroit, Kevin grew up in a family and community that was often suspicious of data collection and highly protective of their privacy. “There was extreme concern that the information could be used against you,” he says. “People didn’t always trust the government. The prevailing attitude was: don’t tell people your business.”

Kevin’s path is a somewhat unusual one. “These experiences provided me with many lessons,” he says. “They helped me find a road where data could be used by residents as a tool for social justice. I’m driven by a passion for working in Kenilworth-Parkside – a defined geographic area of 6,000 residents. My goal is not only to see their addresses and grades in the data, but to be out meeting those same individuals in person. The parent described in the report may be the same person who is living across the street from my office.

“Data holds us accountable as an organization,” he says, “but it also tells stories. Every time we share a number, we also want to share the implications behind that number. Are students performing at grade level? How many households are food insecure? Are parents confident in how they are parenting their children? These are the stories we are trying to uncover. These stories and their data will help shape our strategies in Kenilworth-Parkside. The best way to do that is by developing relationships in the community. While I have master’s degrees in public health and education and more than 15 years working with data and evaluation, it’s the human connections that make the difference in this work.”