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Data for Social Impact Initiative Launches Data Equity Learning Cohort

To build connection and capacity for social sector leaders in equitable, collaborative data practice, Data for Social Impact (DSI), an initiative of the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, launched a Data Equity learning cohort in January 2024 in collaboration with Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP) of the University of Pennsylvania.

Leveraging data for social impact is as much about process and translational skills as it is about technical skills—and finding ways to approach data more equitably is a key component of that work. While numerous resources exist to build technical data capacity, fewer opportunities exist to advance non-technical data skills across government, philanthropy, non-profits, and impacted communities.

DSI learning cohorts are designed to fill this void, creating spaces for social sector practitioners to share ideas, explore questions, and identify resources in a supportive environment. They are designed for a wide range of users and sectors, with no prior data experience required. 

“Incorporating data equity principles into our day-to-day work can feel like an overwhelming task,” says Amy Hawn Nelson, Director of Training and Technical Assistance at AISP. “Our goal for this cohort is to create space and time for practitioners to think about the concepts and the discrete steps each of us can take in our work to center equity in our data use.” 

Past participants in the Data for Social Impact offerings have expressed a desire for more opportunities to connect with their peers and for examples of what data equity looks like in practice. “In the social sector field, the need for equitable data practices is a necessity,” says Sara Mohamed, Engagement and Equity Lead at the Community Action and Innovative Center at University of Missouri St. Louis. “Data is based on and has impacts on real world outcomes and framing it around equity allows for the realities of an inequitable society.”

One thing that makes learning cohorts unique is the focus on peer learning. Though Mohamed is a co-facilitator, she is also excited about what she stands to gain from the collective knowledge and experience represented in the group. “This cohort will allow us to jointly explore and learn with the participants how to center equity in everyday data practice,” she says.  

The Data Equity cohort has attracted a wide range of participants from government, philanthropy, and nonprofit organizations, and includes school board members, chief data officers, social service providers, evaluation managers, data analysts, public health practitioners, epidemiologists, data governance specialists, community advocates, and more. The inclusion of such a broad range of roles and sectors has sparked lively conversation among participants who may not otherwise cross paths. Regardless of role, the cohort provides a sense of community and space for understanding and applying principles of data equity. 

While the Data Equity cohort is under way, additional learning cohorts are launching soon. For those  in the St. Louis region, registration is open for the DSI-STL Learning Cohort, which will hold its first meeting on April 17!  Click here to learn more and please direct any questions about DSI or learning cohorts to Jenrose Fitzgerald at