Building toward equity and justice on the new Racial Equity Data Hub

Tableau Racial Equity Hub

Data is a critical tool in the fight against racism and for justice and equity in cities, towns, and rural communities across the United States. It is a societal problem, one that every individual and institution has a role to play in dismantling. That’s why today, the Tableau Foundation is launching the Racial Equity Data Hub as a first step toward democratizing more of the types of data that can empower grassroots organizations in the movement towards equity and justice in their own communities.

Since its founding in 2014, the Tableau Foundation has worked with select nonprofit partners to increase the use of data as a tool to understand and address inequities. After the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery brought the long history of violence against Black Americans into the collective consciousness, we recognized that there was much more to be done—and more we could do—to not just inspire change, but drive it.

The Racial Equity Data Hub has been designed as a platform for local organizations and advocates doing the work of addressing institutionalized racism in their communities. It is being built to connect them with relevant data, analyses, tools from experts, and each other to advance the use of data in this work.

We’re proud to launch this platform alongside our partners at equity-focused organizations PolicyLink and Urban Institute, public data leaders United States Census Bureau and USAFacts, as well as longtime Tableau Foundation partners Feeding America, Equal Opportunity Schools, Headwaters Economics, and others. Together, we can see a pathway toward meaningful change: by visualizing data, race-based disparities become evident—and so do opportunities for investment and action. 

The Racial Equity Data Hub combines our company mission—helping people see and understand data—with the expertise of researchers and advocates working to advance equity across the United States. The site brings together a coalition of contributors to publish original dashboards and case studies and encourage the exploration of data across four key issue areas—Achieving Equitable Education, Building Economic Power, Building Political Power, and Advancing Equitable Justice

Through the Racial Equity Data Hub, organizations and advocates can:

  • Learn from each other about how they are using data to inform their equity work in communities across the country. 
  • Access resources to ensure that data is used ethically, responsibly, and in ways that drive toward positive change.
  • Find resources for starting to work with data from the American Community Survey—one of the most critical data resources for understanding race-based disparities across a range of indicators, from health and wellbeing to income and wealth. These resources are being developed in cooperation with a team from the US Census Bureau.

Understanding how a particular metric captures the community’s experience and seeing how that metric compares to others—be it geography, or by racial group—can focus local discussions about both problems and solutions. Advocates can use this data to shape their conversations with local elected officials. Organizers can rally their communities around a new solution to a clear and present injustice. And community leaders can rally investment around the next generation of local, minority-owned businesses that can create jobs by the thousands.

A call to action

We launched the Racial Equity Data Hub at today’s opening of the 4th annual Tableau Foundation Summit. There, PolicyLink President and CEO Dr. Michael McAfee was clear about why he is so hopeful about the possibility of change in this tumultuous moment in American history:

“We get to get up every day and, if we have love in our hearts, we get a chance to create a different nation. If we can couple the use of data with our leadership and our leadership of our institutions, we are going to realize the promise of equity—a just and fair society in which all participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.”

That challenge—to embrace the potential of data as a tool to realize the promise of equity—captured the spirit of the moment, and was a fitting backdrop for the work-in-progress release of the Racial Equity Data Hub. 

We were all reminded that this data fundamentally represents individuals and the facts of their lives. Making these data visible is another way of making these people visible, their experiences being seen and understood in a way that brings urgency to the demand for change. 

PolicyLink CEO Dr. Michal McAffee discusses the importance of data in race and equity work at the 4th Annual Tableau Foundation Summit. Click to view.

Finding a place in the movement for change

Equity has been a cornerstone of Tableau Foundation’s efforts since 2014, and through these partners we have seen how data—some massive and nuanced, others simple and straightforward—is inaccessible, incomplete, or just unapproachable to anyone but the experienced researcher. And at the same time, we’ve also learned about the data that doesn’t exist, or may exist but is scattered across thousands of different places without any central source to bring it all together.

Thinking about what we could do more broadly—outside of any single organization or partnership—meant listening and learning through dozens of discussions with partners and other experts who have been working with data to pursue racial justice for years. These conversations led to a pair of important conclusions:

  • A majority of the work that needs to be done is local—everywhere from local school boards to planning commissions, district attorneys offices to community development corporations, or dozens of other institutions where progress is possible.
  • There is a need for a platform to help make data as accessible and easy to understand as possible, in order to meet people wherever they are on their own data journey. Whether they have some analytical skills or are just looking for a particular statistic on their own city or neighborhood, all would benefit from removing as many barriers to information as possible. 

Our partners also reinforced to us that the ethical use of this data could not be taken for granted, and that misrepresenting this data could cause real harm in people's lives. Shena Ashley, VP of Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute and member of the Racial Equity Data Hub Advisory Board, shared her perspective with Summit attendees.

“Lack of attention to context and causation does little to help inform changemakers to take intentional action,” she said “and can unintentionally serve to reinforce narratives that attribute racial disparities to inadequate or inferior behaviors in communities of color.”

That’s why, this spring,  we’re teaming up with the Urban Institute to publish a comprehensive Do No Harm Guide that will provide context and guardrails to ensure the data shared on the Racial Equity Data Hub and elsewhere is used ethically and responsibly.

Urban Institute VP of Nonprofits and Philanthropy Shena Ashley discusses the opportunities and ethical challenges of working with racially disaggregated data at the 4th Annual Tableau Foundation Summit. Click to view.

What comes next

The launch of the Racial Equity Data Hub is also just the start. For as early-stage as the platform is today, we felt it was important to bring it to the public now because we believe in the power of community in doing this work. For a project designed to bring together the power of Tableau with local community leaders, expert insights, and grassroots action, we believe wholeheartedly that it will be strongest if we build it together.

Speaking to the importance of partnership in this effort, Poppy MacDonald, President of USAFacts shared that the organization is “[excited] to be a part of this initiative. USAFacts is committed to empowering Americans with access to the facts by bringing more data into the public conversation, and making it approachable and valuable for the people fighting for change in their communities.”

As our collaborations deepen, as work progresses, and as circumstances change, the Racial Equity Data Hub will evolve to reflect the growing work. Throughout the site, we point to where resources—like Urban Institute’s Do No Harm Guide—are “Coming Soon”, and we have created space for engagement and suggestions around the content and resources we feature. 

We’d love to hear from you all through the Community Forum set up to support the Racial Equity Data Hub, and are inviting everyone to to be a part of this work through our shared language of data in order to realize the potential of this hopeful moment for change. 

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