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 In Current Events, Data Resources for Nonprofits, How To

Collecting socioeconomic data is one of the best ways for your nonprofit organization to avoid discrimination or human rights violations.

If that sentence seems like an oxymoron, you might have missed the first post in our series on the importance of social identity data collection – a topic we’re focusing on in honour of Pride Month.

This week, we’re going to dive a little deeper and look at how to get started. For many, collecting socioeconomic data can feel risky, but asking sensitive questions carefully can provide valuable insights into the communities you’re trying to serve.

Let’s begin, shall we?

First Steps in Collecting Socioeconomic Data

The key to collecting socioeconomic data in a way that is both unintrusive and respectful is to ask the right questions — in the right way. We’ve broken the process of choosing what social identity data you want to collect down into four simple steps.

Step One: Determine Which Data Matters to your Team

The first step towards collecting socioeconomic data is figuring out what data points you should be collecting. Your frontline team is a great source of insight here, as they are most familiar with the population your organization works with. Ask them:

  • Which social identities are most important in the people they are working with?
  • Which important social identity groups are being overlooked in your efforts?

Understanding who you are serving (and who you’re not serving but should be) is a critical stage in improving your programming and services.

Step Two: Examine Other Social Identity Data Being Collected

Many governments and social sector organizations have already begun to recognize the importance of collecting socioeconomic data. Examining the types of data already being collected in your area can help you better understand the people you’re working with and what data is readily available.

Pro Tip: Not sure where to get started? Make your first stop your national census.

Census data and information collected by other organizations in your sector can provide a useful starting point when collecting socioeconomic data.

Step Three: Coordinate With Other Collectors

Standardization of data between organizations can increase data’s usability and facilitate data sharing, which is a win for everyone (especially in the nonprofit world).

Take some time to research how other organizations in your sector are collecting and using socioeconomic data and make an effort to standardize your efforts with their as much as possible. Leaving data siloed or in formats that other groups can’t use is effectively the same as collecting it and then locking it away in a dark room — sharing data can benefit both your team and the teams you share with.

Pro Tip: Standardization between organizations can be challenging to coordinate. Choose a key dataset (for example, census data) to align your data collection and analysis with.

Step Four: Develop Levels Within Each Data Point

There are varying levels of social identity data, and you’ll need to determine how detailed you want to get before you start collecting socioeconomic data.

For example, if you plan to collect data on sexual orientation, there can at least two (and possibly more) levels of specificity to the data you’ll need, depending on the situation:

There are varying levels of socioeconomic data your organization can collect, whether on gender, sexual orientation, or race/ethnic background.

There is no right or wrong level of detail for this step — how specific you need to get will vary depending on your organization’s goals, programming and the population you’re trying to serve.

Go Get to Know Your Audience

These four simple steps are enough to set your organization on the right path to collecting and using socioeconomic data to better understand the needs and challenges of the people you want to help.

Of course, it’s always important to consider how any data you use was collected and to remember that data on real people will always have a level of subjectivity — but with a little bit of care, collecting socioeconomic data can make a huge difference to your organization, and more importantly, to the community relying on your for support or assistance.

If you still have questions about the ethics of collecting socioeconomic data or need more hands-on help getting started, the team at Datassist is here to help. Drop us a line to discuss your project and how we can best help you.

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As part of our celebration of Pride Month, we examine the importance of social identity data collection.Can you fight sexual harassment with data? You can, and you should!