This is my love letter to data.
I *heart* the rich data that allows us to understand what we do. It allows us to dig below the anodyne, identikit, university mission statements that promise transformation, inspiration, impact etc… and see if we actually change things.
I *heart* data is a bit of a riff on the TASO (Transforming Access and Student Outcomes) annual conference on evaluation where they handed out ‘I *heart* evaluation’ stickers. I don’t want to break up the relationship between data and evaluation, I *heart* them both and I don’t think I’d find one especially interesting without the other. In fact, it is the interaction between the two which is fascinating to watch.
I am discerning in my affections though – it is EDI data (and evaluation) specifically that excites me, I am particularly drawn to data that has a good story to tell, data that challenges me, data that makes me better at what I do. I would suggest that we all need to develop a better relationship with our EDI data, and I would go further, I would argue that we need to develop a mature and meaningful relationship with our EDI data.
A meaningful relationship
This is the part where I sidle up to you and ask if you want to see what a mature relationship with your EDI data looks like before whipping out the new EDI data maturity framework that I’ve created for the Living Black at University Commission.
I have shown I know what immaturity looks like – just read above – but I also know, at least in the context of data and evaluation, what maturity looks like. I strongly believe, if you’ll excuse me stretching the metaphor, that we will all grow if we develop a more meaningful and honest relationship with our EDI data (and evaluation).
The EDI data maturity framework facilitates this relationship, it introduces you to your data and shows you why you should love it and then, once the matchmaking is done, it provides a roadmap to a better relationship with your data. It needs to be a roadmap because like any relationship this is a journey, we can recognise a good relationship, but we cannot develop our own good relationship without starting at first principles and developing slowly. The EDI data maturity framework is the toolkit to do this, it allows us to evaluate our relationship with data, see where we are doing well and where we need to be putting in more effort.
So here are some ways that you can use the EDI data maturity framework to make your relationship with data better.
In your relationship you must prioritise honesty. We know that data can be manipulated, that it can be used dishonestly to serve our interests rather than the truth. But who wants a relationship built on lies and manipulation? A mature relationship with data is one based on honesty and trust, where we admit to our own failings and seek to improve. We need access to data we know we can trust; we should use it honestly to reveal truths and then address those truths, however unpleasant they may be. Used in this way the EDI data maturity framework will support development.
Though external analysis is useful, we don’t always want data that’s been filtered through the interpretations of others. This time we want the opportunity to get to know and understand data on our own terms. I know what my institution – and yours – would like us to know about their staff survey, the data they will share in corporate comms, and what they will spin it to mean. But if we want to know what the data is really telling us, we need raw data, and we need to allow it to speak for itself. The EDI Data Maturity Framework supports the honest sharing of data sets.
If your relationship with data is dull, you need a date night. Challenge your relationship by exploring something that you have not done before. Spend quality time with your data discovering something new and meaningful and then share the fun you have had with colleagues. Develop measurable actions that give you targets to work towards, hand-in-hand with your data. The EDI data maturity framework gives examples of the many and varied areas in which data can be used.
And always be careful with your data. If you are not responsible, your relationship with data could land you in trouble. For good reasons there are laws that govern our relationships and safeguards put in place at sector, institutional and local levels. Data can be very revealing, but there are some things that need to remain private. The EDI data maturity framework should be used alongside legal frameworks and ethics procedures for everyone’s protection.