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Roundtable Recap: Mapping Your Data Impact Journey

How can social sector organizations use data to increase their impact, and how can they ensure that impact will lead to equitable outcomes? These are guiding questions addressed in our roundtable series hosted by the Social Policy Institute’s Data Science for Social Impact initiative, which kicked off on October 20, 2021, and continues through November 19, 2021. You can register for the roundtables here.   

Data is a powerful tool that can improve services and impact. Our public roundtable discussions geared toward St. Louis non-profits and community-based organizations are designed to promote dialogue about where organizations currently are and what they need to move forward in this work.  

The first roundtable in the series, “Mapping Your Data Journey from Vision to Impact,” took place on October 20, 2021. Esther Shin, director of Urban Strategies, Inc., presented a framework she uses in order to think about results, impact and equitable outcomes. The Results Count framework consists of five key components:  

  1. being results-based and data-driven 
  2. bringing attention to and acting on disparities 
  1. using oneself as an instrument of change to move a result 
  1. collaborative leadership 
  1. adaptive leadership 

Demonstrating the importance of centering equity when thinking about data for impact, Shin highlighted an example of how not incorporating data risks presents incomplete stories and policy blind spots.  Shin shared an example of a juvenile justice program, aimed at moving youth from incarceration to diversionary programs,  that reported diverting 10,000 young people away from incarceration a year after program implementation. However, upon closer examination of data, of those 10,000 youth, not one was a person of color—even though people of color are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system.  

“If you’re not disaggregating the data and developing strategies that are targeted towards … systemic issues, then you end up actually not helping the individuals that are at the greatest need of being served,” Shin explained.  

Chapin Flynn, senior vice president of Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, discussed the importance of assessing data maturity, or the extent to which organizations are able to utilize data to advance their missions and work. He emphasized how organizations of all sizes can land on various points of the data maturity spectrum,  from “where do I start?” to “how do I optimize the use of external and internal data assets?”  

“Equity by design… needs to be a foundational piece of what you’re doing, and it needs to be acknowledged right inside of your data strategy.

Chapin Flynn, senior vice president of Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

Flynn also underscored the importance of centering equity along the way,  “We really believe in a principle called equity by design… It needs to be a foundational piece of what you’re doing, and it needs to be acknowledged right inside of your data strategy.”   

Breakout discussions provided a chance for participants to engage with facilitators from Urban Strategies, Inc and the Social Policy Institute, as well as with each other, about how their organizations might work to achieve a higher level of data maturity while also building capacity to promote more equitable outcomes. While there are no easy answers to these complex questions, the DSSI roundtable series is providing the space for provocative conversation among the social sector organizations to grapple with these questions. 

Join the conversation & help us build DSSI  

The feedback and conversations from our roundtable series will directly inform free trainings and resources under development for social sector organizations seeking to utilize data to increase impact and promote equitable outcomes in St. Louis.  

Registration is still open for two more roundtables with no repeating content: “Using Data to Promote Equitable Outcomes” on November 1st, and “Community Centered Data Practice” on November 19th.  We hope you will bring your voice and perspective to the conversation! 


Data Science for Social Impact (DSSI) is a partnership between the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, in collaboration with an advisory committee, the St. Louis Regional Data Alliance, and data.org.