Decolonize Data

Essay by Nithya Ramanathan, Jim Fruchterman, Amy Fowler & Gabriele Carotti-Sha: “The social sector aims to empower communities with tools and knowledge to effect change for themselves, because community-driven change is more likely to drive sustained impact than attempts to force change from the outside. This commitment should include data, which is increasingly essential for generating social impact. Today the effective implementation and continuous improvement of social programs all but requires the collection and analysis of data.

But all too often, social sector practitioners, including researchers, extract data from individuals, communities, and countries for their own purposes, and do not even make it available to them, let alone enable them to draw their own conclusions from it. With data flows the power to make informed decisions.

It is therefore counterproductive, and painfully ironic, that we have ignored our fundamental principles when it comes to data. We see donors and leading practitioners making a sincere move to decolonize aid. However, if we are truly committed to decolonizing the practices in aid, then we must also examine the ownership and flow of data.

Decolonizing data would not only help ensure that the benefits of data accrue directly to the rightful data owners but also open up more intentional data sharing driven by the rightful data owners—the communities we claim to empower…(More)”.