This post was sponsored by Submittable.

Many of the conversations around trust-based and data-driven grantmaking often present the two approaches as mutually exclusive. But this either-or choice is a fallacy. In reality, you can choose to be both trust-based and data-driven, and your program will be stronger for it.
The key is to build a grantmaking strategy that makes space for relationships and data. Community voices provide important context for the data you collect, and data helps you capture the lived experiences of community members.

When your grant program honors the importance of community members’ perspectives alongside hard data, you power a virtuous cycle. Better relationships with community members improve the integrity of the data you collect, and better data strengthens your relationships within the community.

View community members as partners

The first step in weaving together a trust-based and data-driven approach is to reorient your relationship with community members. You need to see them as partners with valuable perspectives. And you should be responsive to their feedback.

To build these relationships, your team should adopt “culturally responsive” data practices. Researchers define these practices as “models which treat communities as research partners and involve them in the process from beginning to end, from defining research questions to collecting and analyzing data.”

Like any partnership, building relationships with community members and leaders is all about mutual respect and genuine interest. Rather than expecting people to come to you, seek them out to learn about their unique experiences.

Community members can provide incredible insight into what data matters and what it means.

Forming these relationships will allow you to understand community needs from the inside. You’ll get a clearer picture of how issues impact people’s daily lives. Plus, you’ll learn about the historical and cultural context of their experiences in a way that metrics might not be able to capture.

Community members can provide incredible insight into what data matters and what it means. Rather than trying to collect and interpret data yourself, invite the community to be part of the process. Kim Bui, a journalist with the Arizona Republic, puts it like this: “It is important to tell stories with a community rather than on behalf of them and to seek out what they would want to learn and what would be useful for them along with their concerns.”

Embrace data justice

Data is a valuable resource. As with any resource, you need to be mindful of how you approach ownership and authority over it. The concept of data justice applies some of the tenets of social justice to the world of data, helping grantmakers honor the communities they support and research. To adopt data justice, you need to shift how you think about the community’s relationship to data.

  • Avoid the scarcity mindset. Data is not a finite resource you can use up. Some organizations are hesitant to share data with community members as if they’re worried that in doing so, they will diminish its power. But that’s not how it works. Sharing your data with community members can actually strengthen it, providing nuance and connecting the metrics to real, lived experiences.
  • Let community members retain ownership. Though you want to avoid the scarcity mindset when it comes to sharing insights with community members, it’s important to honor ownership. Data is not a resource to be extracted and hoarded away from the community. Even if you collect the data, the community should retain ownership. They should be the ones who decide if and when data is shared. If you have permission to share the data publicly, be sure to anonymize it to protect community members’ privacy.
  • Stay in dialogue with community members. Building partnerships with community members is not about connecting with people once and then moving on. You want to open up lines of communication to continue the conversation over the long run. Build a feedback loop that allows community members to easily reach out to you and share their perspective. Their voices should be incorporated into every step of the grantmaking lifecycle. Be sure to act on the feedback you receive, and take time to circle back with community members to discuss how you’re putting their feedback into action.
A new era of grantmaking

Weave together trust-based and data-driven grantmaking practices to better serve your community and understand the depth and breadth of your impact.

This balanced approach allows you to more deeply understand the context of your data and pinpoint any gaps or inaccuracies in the data you collect. For instance, statistically small populations, such as Indigenous people, are sometimes overlooked. Listening to community voices can shed light on those real-world experiences that the data doesn’t always capture.

Weave together trust-based and data-driven grantmaking practices to better serve your community and understand the depth and breadth of your impact.

One big benefit of combining a trust-based and data-driven approach is that you’ll have more confidence in the data you collect. When you use that data to shape your future programs, you’ll do so knowing that your data accurately reflects the lived experiences of the people you serve.

As you look to reimagine your grantmaking process, you want an effective framework to guide you. Our latest guide, Trust-Based and Data-Driven Grantmaking: How to Find the Right Balance, uses real-world examples to help you build your unique strategy.

The post Breaking the Binary: Your grantmaking can be trust-based and data-driven appeared first on PEAK Grantmaking.