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A data-driven framework for social justice in California

12 minute read
The goal of achieving social justice and a higher level of equity with regard to municipal services, The municipality of San Jose, California, has adopted an innovative methodology to analyze data collected by government agencies to better understand the reasons for the lack of social justice in government services that leads to the marginalization of some segments of society.
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With the aim of achieving social justice and a higher level of equity with regard to municipal services, The municipality of San Jose, California, has adopted an innovative methodology to analyze data collected by government agencies to better understand the reasons for the lack of social justice in government services that leads to the marginalization of some segments of society.

While it has become common around the world to use words such as justice and equity in the provision of municipal services, The municipalities went to review their plans, and review its programmes, to check if these two attributes are available. In the United States of America, municipalities provide many community, educational and health services, Primarily aimed at supporting the lowest-income or underserved segments of the population for ethnic, cultural or other reasons. But in reality, Several groups continue to suffer from societal exclusion and unfairness of services. This reality has become clearer than before. In various American cities, With the implementation of restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

This case prompted the municipality of San Jose, California, to investigate the reasons why community groups do not benefit from municipal services equitably. It came up with an innovative methodology to achieve the highest level of equity in the services it provides to its population, She called it "data analysis for social justice."

To begin with, The municipality has transformed many of the services it provides into digital platforms, Such as educational services, planning and nutrition services, licensing, and municipal council meetings and others. Although this shift represented a good advantage for many city dwellers who were able to access services and participate in meetings from anywhere and at any time, However, this excluded groups unable to access the Internet, Whether due to lack of financial resources or lack of digital skills. These excluded groups are not small, San Jose is the tenth largest city in America, It is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse.

The first challenge faced by the efforts of the City Council and the Office of the Governor of San José was which included the Office of Racial Equity and the Office of Technology and Innovation, is that the data available to them was limited to old data, or population statistics, and others resulting from survey questionnaires, That is, it was not enough to serve the population effectively or to deal with the inequity that members of the community were complaining about – on the contrary, These data were providing general indicators that seemed positive on the surface. In addition Government program managers and staff who deal daily with city residents did not have a clear action plan to address disparities between community groups regarding accessibility to government services.

In order to address this phenomenon, The decision to adopt a bottom-up approach, It focuses on the processes through which the various services provide their services. Whereas, a special team in the Office of Technology and Innovation led by a data expert was commissioned in collaboration with the Knight Foundation (, By studying the situation and finding solutions. This team has developed a new three-step framework: The first step is to define the objectives and outputs of social justice from the point of view of each department and program, Analyze current administrative data instead of data from surveys. The second step was to agree on an indicator through which to measure the success of the targets on the ground. To empower policymakers, decision-makers, and employees of service agencies in the municipality at various levels, From understanding the impact of their decisions on the application of the concept of social justice in services. Then in the third step, monitoring and evaluation processes are carried out, And training employees and workers in government agencies on the methodology and indicators that they must adopt to ensure the achievement of the desired results in the long term.

The Group has recognized from the outset the importance of determining which data to adopt, directly related to the provision of services, Except for the administrative data collected at the beginning of the work from interviews with stakeholders in each entity, To be analyzed later to form the basis of the recommendations. This process includes identifying trends and collecting any additional data or information that shed light on challenges. These include interviews with prominent members of society and the population itself. The team also focused on social safety net programs and services that have an impact on social justice in the city.

On this basis, The work of the team revealed many gaps that were not clear to the concerned authorities in advance, Filling these gaps will contribute to providing more equitable services to those most in need. In his first pilot project, The team collaborated with the San Jose Parks and Recreation Service, This body provides grants to thousands of programs that deal with children and youth, Such as fun activities outside of school, or helping children with their homework, Or summer camps that encourage children of all ages to build friendships and skills. The team sought to gain a better understanding of the value of these programs and the segments that benefit from them. analyse data on the number of eligible households served by the programmes year after year, The distance separating family dwellings from the social centres offering such programmes, In addition to developing a vision of the extent to which childcare services reach the families who need these services the most.

Analysis of data for the past ten years has revealed that some households enrolled in programs are not eligible to be enrolled in the programs because of their high incomes. There are also many families who deserve to qualify but are not clearly aware of these programs. The working group has sought to attract the greatest participation from stakeholders, He has reached out to more than 300 local organizations and associations, Some of them have helped with awareness campaigns showing families in low-income neighborhoods how to apply for federal assistance to cover the costs of caring for their children. By drawing a clear picture of the distribution and concentration of scholarship programs throughout the city, The Department of Parks and Recreation Services can now carefully plan the locations of the programs it funds, with a fair and fairer approach.

To date, the Working Group has completed six projects over a six-month period. For the benefit of four different service entities in the municipality, Using the new framework and its approach to analyzing relevant data. He had also recently begun to prepare a project to assist the Housing Department in providing housing grants to groups suffering from homelessness.

The new framework has gained importance among San José for its contribution to the development of comprehensive strategies for the groups most affected by the decisions of the Municipal Council. It has also become a priority on the agenda of the Mayor's Office, which pays special attention to the city's cultural diversity and social justice in the services provided by the municipality.


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