Tell me why it matters: connecting the dots between having data and seeing impact

Over the last five years, we have all worked hard to help data gain its place as a key part of the global development conversation. The UN World Data Forum is testament to this as data and statistics enthusiasts gather for the second time this October in Dubai.

However, I believe that for our work to stay on the agenda and reach outside the data community, we must find ways to move beyond an acknowledgement that having better data is important -- and show in practical terms how having better data leads to positive outcomes.

Often in our quest to communicate the importance of data (more complete, more timely, more inclusive) we focus on how to improve our methods, explore new data sources, and increase our overall data production. That work will always be critical, alongside increased and sustained funding to support it. However, we all know that data only has power if it is both collected and used—to inform decision-making and drive change within communities. And data funding can only be sustained when those directing financial resources, whether public or private, have a clear understanding of how quality data helps solve important problems and answer critical questions -- and, in turn, an understanding of the risks created when data is not available.

So how can we as the data community strengthen and help encourage data use? How can we increase the number of participants in this conversation and ensure its longevity? One way is to do a better job of collecting and sharing stories of data impact -- stories that directly demonstrate how the use of good data has led to positive change at the local, national, or global level.

At Data2X we believe these types of data impact stories are a crucial tool for encouraging data use and building a coalition of data supporters beyond our immediate community. We believe that real-life examples of data use leading to improved outcomes can help "make the case" for data. And yet, at least in gender data, stories where we can validate true impact, rather than only anecdotal stories, are not easy to trace -- in part due to the long-standing and persistent gaps in gender data, and in part because there was no concerted effort to compile these stories.

To address this issue, earlier this year Data2X, along with Open Data Watch and Devex, put out a call for gender data impact stories. Our aim was to gather and share stories where use of gender data led to a positive change—on government policies, legislation, or societal attitudes and practices that affect women and girls. Through this work we've documented the creation of a national care policy using data measuring women's unpaid care work in Uruguay; we found evidence for wide-scale legislative, advocacy, and financial action spurred by the collection of domestic violence data in Vietnam; and more.

We look forward to sharing some of these stories during a panel at the World Data Forum. We hope you will join us to explore how data impact stories can help encourage data use and contribute to efforts to drive increased funding in this space. And, we hope that sharing these stories will help our joint efforts to surface more stories, answer the critical "why it matters" question about data, and ensure that data retains an important place within the global development conversation.