The drive to find solutions to complicated and longstanding social problems drew me to Resultant. In fact, I see my work at Resultant as a continuation of my rewarding career in public service. Among the most heartening experiences I have had while becoming an established Rezzer is the realization that our company mission—to help our clients, co-workers and communities thrive—is not merely aspirational but truly lived and reinforced through our collective output and in the way we show up for our clients and each other.
I started at Resultant in September 2020, deep in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic. Joining Team Resultant represented not just a new job but a shift to a new career in management consulting, all while working entirely remotely. These are circumstances that can easily derail one’s career trajectory. Instead, they revealed the inclusive, human-centered character of the company.
Given our earnest company climate, it was not a surprise to see themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion readily embraced, executed, and reflected upon for improvement; this is the Resultant way. By month one, my calendar was filled with virtual meet-and-greets from individuals from across all areas of the company. This is one of many ways Resultant puts its values in action and promotes inclusion.
Still, I propose there is more we can all do to advance principles of equity, advocacy, and inclusive storytelling in our daily work, particularly in public service. This post explores additional approaches tech-focused companies can take to remain responsive and forward-looking.
Inclusive change begins with who and what is measured.
An expansion of demographic categories must be a part of our work with clients.
Standard demographic demarcations leave people out, limiting participation and obscuring the true characteristics of populations we seek to analyze. We cannot meet the needs of citizens without an accurate understanding of who they are and what challenges they face.
In 1997, the United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued its Statistical Policy Directive No. 15, which identified five racial and one ethnic category. It was a good start.
But to capture a more complete and accurate understanding of populations today, we must expand racial and ethnic definitions, while also considering gender, sexual orientation, ability, and other categories differently than in the past.
Often, government data collection efforts query sex (biological and binary) rather than gender (how a person identifies). Offering citizens only a biological, binary descriptor automatically excludes a significant and underserved population and doesn’t allow the full sociological input of gender into the citizen view.
Data collection also tends to leave out disability status entirely even though it’s an incredibly important factor for appropriately serving constituents. When questions about ability or disability are posed, they tend to be binarily generalized with no opportunity to specify physical, neurological, learning, mental health characteristics, or other descriptors, leaving an incomplete understanding of populations.
Rigid survey language and labels can drive down response rates for people who have historically been reluctant to opt into tightly defined categories, leading to a negative feedback loop that keeps data categorizations outdated and populations marginalized and underserved.
Inclusive and equitable data collection does not need to compete with legacy systems and past approaches. A move toward equitable data collection requires conscious efforts to gather data in ways that reflect shifting understanding of identity yet link to historical data. This can be accomplished by mapping out in the beginning how historical and contemporary data can be brought together to provide context to one another and increase an organization’s understanding of the current and historical worlds they are serving.
It’s time for action in UI reform.
Consider the potential for using data to close the service gap in the unemployment insurance and workforce landscape.
On March 11, 2021, the president signed into law the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARPA, hereinafter the ACT). A subsection of the ACT created the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided $2 billion to the U.S. Department of Labor to prevent and detect fraud as well as promote equitable access to historically underserved populations in the unemployment insurance program.
The Department of Labor in turn is providing these funds to state workforce agencies in the form of grants to fund activities and commitments made by agencies in their individual applications.
The right data can reveal which populations in your community don’t receive unemployment benefits they’re entitled to and who is struggling to reenter the workforce at a sustainable wage. These insights can further target outreach by making eligibility information available in specific places, via different platforms, and in multiple languages and reading levels. The right data can connect a citizen with programs to expand their workforce skills based on their experience, interests, and strengths, resulting in more fulfilling jobs with better wages.
The unemployment insurance program is a vital lifeline and critical component of our social safety net. I am confident this historical investment to address such a longstanding social injustice is just the beginning in what I hope to be ongoing productive dialogue and meaningful change.
Measure impact in real outcomes.
Agencies not only want to understand who they are serving but how successful they are in achieving their goals. The opportunity to measure organizational impact and make it viewable by the agency and the public reinforces themes of transparency, organizational effectiveness, and accessibility that are key to building trust between our clients and the people they serve.
Through thoughtful collection of new and historical data, governments can more deeply understand their work and inclusively talk about where they have been, where they are going, and how they are impacting the lives of constituents.
As an example, Resultant recently partnered with a city police department to help provide traffic stop data to the public in transparent, understandable ways. The city recognized that local governments, and police departments specifically, need to be more accessible to the communities they serve.
Who is included and not included in the process of building a solution like this deeply matters. Before developing the traffic stop dashboard, we initiated listening sessions with citizens about their concerns and conducted workshops with patrol officers and supervisors on using data to understand decisions.
The city learned perceived blind spots in community service were not what they believed they were. More importantly, the process established a foundation of continuous improvement, a blending of qualitative and quantitative data, and a genuine community engagement that continues to serve the city today.
Forging ahead in solidarity.
As conscientious problem-solvers, we must remember that our work does not exist in a vacuum. Often our projects are tied to larger, complex sociological issues. We must consider the ways in which all social injustices intersect and impact how we make decisions about ourselves, our families, and the creation of our futures. When providing advice to our clients we must ask what is not being discussed that should be, and where outcomes can be better captured and understood through new ways of collecting and analyzing our data.
I am excited about our continued and ever-expanding work at Resultant. Most of all, I am thrilled to learn with my team while making meaningful contributions for our clients and our communities. Our technological tools and innovations are developed in the spirit of helping people live better lives.
Let us be urgent, intentional, and humble as we forge ahead to ensure that we are improving and evolving to meet the rapid rate of change happening around us all.