Hannah James is the Tzedek Fellow at the Center for Diversity Education at UNCA focused on youth and young adult equity and inclusion education. In March 2017, she enrolled in Evaluate for Change’s data visualization course to learn more about using data to evaluate educational programming. Here is her reflection about using data for evaluation.
Those of us with a basic working knowledge of research methods probably remember the Tuskegee Study, in which 399 Black men were unknowingly withheld medical treatment in order to study the effects of syphilis. We remember the Tuskegee Study because it’s an alarming reminder of the ways that data has historically been unjustly extracted from marginalized communities who were seen as expendable.
In my work at the UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education I use data to evaluate the impacts of our educational programming. I am also a member of the 2016-17 Tzedek Social Justice Fellowship cohort, where I receive a wide range of trainings and workshops that inform my sense of justice and equity. I consider myself both an evaluator and an advocate, and am constantly considering the ways that these identities support each other. When dealing with data, as with life in general, I try to ask myself, “Who is benefitting?” I don’t have all the answers, or many answers at all. I enrolled in Evaluate for Change’s course on Data Visualization to learn more.
Visual data is often much easier to understand, making it increasingly accessible to non-academic audiences. So, who is benefitting from visual data? Of course, the answer is endlessly complex, and leads to just as many new questions. Who collected this data? Who did they consult? Whose privacy was prioritized? Who is using the data? One thing, I think, is certain. Visual data is informing more people than ever before. To me, that’s pretty revolutionary.
To read Hannah’s entire blog post, Data with a Social Justice Ethic, visit Evaluate for Change’s website.