What’s a Data Dive?

Part 2 of our Community Owned Data blog series

Last week, we kicked off our month-long “community owned data” blog series. You can read the first post here. Every other year, Best Starts collects community data that helps guide our funding strategies. To ensure that we are truly partnering with communities and sharing data ownership, Best Starts partnered with specific communities to have conversations about the data from our Best Starts for Kids Health Survey and help us understand it. We learned a lot from this process and want to share our learnings with our larger community here. Today’s post shares more details about how “data dives” happened.

We heard from partners, including the Equal Starts Community Coalition, about how essential it is for communities to own and interpret their own data. Part of the idea behind the data dives is to put the power in the hands of specific communities to shape the narrative of what their data “means,” rather than having people without knowledge of community context and history tell the story. That’s why, rather than having generic community-wide events, we decided to hold community-specific data dives where we shared survey results specific to a community, alongside members of that community.

There are many diverse and overlapping communities in King County. While we’re excited that we got to build relationships with eight groups over the course of this project, we know there are certainly many more communities to partner with in the future. These communities were selected because their voices were underrepresented in the Best Starts for Kids Health Survey results, and existing relationships helped facilitate successful data dives. Five of these gatherings were held in languages other than English, and materials were translated by community partners as necessary.

A Data Dive with the Somali community

One of our lead partners in this work was the team of consultants at the Community Café Collaborative. They have an amazing model for holding conversations that are not just about discussing a topic – they build community leaders, develop relationships, and strengthen families. They work with individual parents and family members to facilitate conversations with their peers, and hold concurrent “kids’ cafes” where children address the topic in a play-based, developmentally appropriate way, and then present their feedback to adults before the evening ends. Community Café Collaborative hosted data dive cafes with Black/African American; Latina/o; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and two spirit (LGBTQ2S); Samoan; and Somali families.

Children contributed their thoughts to the Data Dives too.

We also partnered with Open Doors for Multicultural Families, a nonprofit that serves diverse families of children with developmental disabilities and special health care needs. They were a key partner when we did outreach about the Best Starts for Kids Health Survey and have received Best Starts funding in a number of areas including out of school time and youth and family homelessness prevention. We were eager to continue working together. They chose focus groups as the appropriate engagement model for the families they work with, and held data dives with Chinese- and Vietnamese-American parents.

Finally, we partnered with United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (UIATF) to hold a talking circle with American Indian/Alaska Native families. UIATF is a partner that has received funding for home visiting and youth and family homelessness prevention programs from Best Starts and holds deep relationships with many native families in King County.

While the format varied a bit across all of these gatherings, a few things were key.

  • A budget of $2,000 was provided for each partner to spend as appropriate so that families could attend and feel comfortable, safe, and welcome.
  • Each data dive was held in a location familiar and comfortable to the community, in their language, and led by a member of that community.
  • Delicious local food and childcare were available, and participants received thank-you gifts to recognize their generosity in sharing their time with us.
  • County staff did not control the agenda. At each one, Best Starts staff presented “data placemats” showing the community’s survey results and answered questions about them – but our main purpose was to listen!

When we listened we heard feedback like this:

We are in a developed nation and rich county but we are at the lowest level economically. We don’t understand the system and there is a need for systems understanding for us. Coming to see us like you are doing right now helps us. We need a flow of continuous community. We need a flow of conversations that is coming back and forth not just one visit.

Stay tuned to read more about what we heard, including a guest post from a Community Café facilitator. And if this model interests you, we’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments or on social media so we can address them in future posts.

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