My workshops to advance equity in data are built with this intention — to build collective knowledge around data collection and visualization in a way that allows us to appropriately challenge those places where data can lead to exclusion and alienation. I learned five lessons by offering these workshops to individuals from different roles, sectors, and data comfort that I want to share with you.
Meenakshi Das Archive
For a long time in past jobs, early in my career, a bad day meant needing to go back to college career fairs. There, after trying to deliver a just-decent elevator pitch to the few companies who could sponsor international students, I’d always stumble upon two groups I hoped to avoid…
I remember, whenever I encountered either of these two groups, I needed to pause, almost always, for a few hours after the job fair to probe and ask myself: Hmm, what else am I missing that I can work on?
The top 5 reactions I hear from nonprofit leaders when I bring up ‘inclusive and equitable research and analytics’ — and how I respond
We, as a world, take pride in our data collection abilities and the evolving technologies at our disposal. However, when we look closely, we often realize that especially in our nonprofit sector, the data we have is flawed.
For far too long, we have ignored collecting critical data points, missed creating healthy dialogues around that data, and we have added our biases to all of it — all of it — to perform research operations and take crucial decisions from it. And, while we leveraged this insufficient data to build our research capabilities, a set of analytics-based terms entered our industry – machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence.
You don’t have to hold a C-level title to be a leader. You already are one — especially if you are chasing ridiculously long to-do lists, especially if your day is littered with activities ranging from people management to overseeing operations to technology wrangling to sitting in on check-ins and other meetings — especially when you’re doing all of this so that your project or program stays on course.
But why is shifting your mindset — to acknowledge and embrace yourself as a leader — so hard to do?
How do you feel about the power of just two vaccine shots, taking you back to normal? (Though I understand ‘normal’ can mean different things to different people.) Do you think we should use those two doses as a reason to forever leave the pandemic chapter to the history books — something we have wanted to do ever since all this started?
I’m not asking you these questions because I’m an anti-vaxxer (in fact, I am due for the second dose soon.). I am raising these questions because I believe that, as an Indian immigrant in North America, I have the power and privilege to observe two worlds — India and North America. And these two worlds are on two opposite sides of a spectrum, one made up of a catalogue of pandemic-related events from the last 16 months in history. While North America is ready to plan the post-pandemic world, India is preparing to survive a third wave of COVID.
After 2020’s wake-up call for everyone to be better at embracing diversity and social equity, has philanthropy finally learned to make this a priority in every area of our work?
From where I stand (as a person of color, female, of Asian ethnicity, and an immigrant from India), while it appears that these issues are gaining in popularity, there is still an uncomfortable gap that needs to be acknowledged and addressed.
Have you ever felt disconnected from your board? Maybe over that fall campaign planning? Or the end of year appeals? Or general COVID fundraising practices?
I think we all know the answer already. Yet, as a consultant, sometimes I eagerly await to work for those Nonprofits that have a balanced alignment with their Board. For most of my clients this year, there’s been such a need to deliberately use available research tools to bridge the gap between staff and the board.