Grassroots data sharing empowers communities and not for profits to change the system
15 December 2021 at 12:00 pm
By giving communities governance over their data through data sharing, all collaborators can come together to determine which stories matter most, and how they are told, writes Kristi Mansfield, CEO of Seer Data and Analytics.
Victor Dominello, NSW’s minister for digital, unveiled a bold ambition to build out the state’s digital future through data activation and sharing in his opening speech at Digital NSW recently.
The NSW government wants to make data more accessible to increase the speed and quality of decision-making. The ultimate goal is to improve quality of life, but the first step is to establish trust with the community.
The data age brings huge potential to provide better outcomes for our communities. Yet, an obvious part of the trust building story has been largely missing from the dialogue – data needs to be shared with communities, not just between governments.
Addressing the inequity of data access and capabilities across Australia is helping close the “data divide” and putting local communities, not for profits and community groups in control of their own destinies.
Community-led decision making is more important than ever, particularly as governments and grantmakers place a greater emphasis on local place-based programs and outcomes. There is a growing recognition that when communities and local places can control their outcomes, they get better results for all involved.
This approach has been more effective than prescriptive policymaking and funding models, both in terms of cost and impact. This is evidenced by community-led models like the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment project in Bourke, which is the largest community data sharing project in Australia.
This initiative draws together data from 15 different contributors, ranging from local schools and police to the NSW Department of Communities and Justice. It is also one of the collective impact initiatives supported by the Department of Social Services through the Stronger Places, Stronger People initiative.
It’s clear that communities need a seat at the table with policymakers. To do this, they require access to data – to help build a full picture of their community in order to understand complex issues, share learnings, build evidence bases, set baselines, track change and measure impact.
The challenge is granting them easy access to that data and enabling collaboration between the many different stakeholders – including community groups, businesses, not for profits and government agencies of all different levels.
Another recent example of data sharing is by FRRR (Foundation for Regional and Rural Renewal), a charity dedicated to supporting grassroots community groups and not-for-profits in remote, rural and regional Australia. The Heartbeat of Rural Australia dataset on the Seer platform highlights the needs of unseen and unheard organisations and shares their firsthand experience of how non-metro communities are faring.
These organisations are vital to the health, wellbeing and prosperity of these communities. In particular, they provide vital social connections; manage and maintain critical community infrastructure; deliver essential services to community members; and a range of other supports. Getting direct access to the FRRR Heartbeat dataset will enable grassroots organisations to build their own data stories for advocacy and grantseeking with policymakers and grantmakers.
Sharing data democratises access to this wealth of valuable data so that communities can be authorised to make decisions that are right for them.
One of the challenges with data storytelling is that the narrative is often dictated by those with access to the data, such as government agencies. By empowering communities with sovereignty and governance over their data through data sharing all collaborators can come together to determine which stories matter most, and how they are told.
Our future vision is to see more thriving communities around Australia transformed through data sharing, collaboration and data storytelling. We want to help people to come together to make better decisions about the important issues – decisions which are made with communities and not just for them.