Hi, I’m Heather Krause, PStat, and I’m writing from the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. After many decades of conducting quantitative research for mission-driven organizations, I realized that most of the work I was doing was unintentionally racist, sexist, colonial, homophobic, and much more. Today I’m working on building a Data Equity Framework with the We All Count community that offers evaluators robust tools and methods for embedding equity in data projects.
One tool I’ve found that can make a dramatic difference quite quickly is to simply interrogate my research question for power dynamics. Exploring my research questions to identify who we’re actually expecting to change has opened my eyes to a lot of implicit bias. I could share many past mistakes and they’re learning. But I’ll just pick one to share today.
Recently, we were involved in a project trying to understand the poor outcomes of Indigenous children. We started out with the research question: “What factors and trends are causing the vulnerable Indigenous children in Australia to have poor health outcomes relating to burns?” Is this an equitable research question or world view? The expectation that indigenous populations change to adjust to ‘the system’ rather than the other way around reflects a common colonial worldview and reinforces an underlying assumption that non-indigenous people ‘figured out’ how to use a system rather than the reality in which that system was constructed specifically to work for them.
Lesson Learned: Acknowledging this allowed the question to be reframed to examine how the healthcare system better supported white children with burns and how that effectiveness could be extended and altered to serve a more inclusive group. In this case, the research question was changed to be “How can an understanding of the ways in which healthcare systems produce advantage and positive health outcomes for white Australians help improve Indigenous healthcare.”
Hot Tip: I like to think of the different variables involved in a project as puzzle pieces that can fit together well, poorly, or not at all. When we design research questions we try to decide which piece to rotate, shift or swap out to see improvement or ‘positive change’. Choosing which piece to study is easy when you ask, ‘What’s the most equitable piece to adjust?’.
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