This month I hit my 6 month mark in my new role as Data Evangelist with Measure for Justice. If you’ve never heard of us, we’re a criminal justice transparency organization, on track to push robust performance measures on each stage of the justice system in every county in the USA. I wanted to share a little about the process of adjustment in a new role, as well as a bit about what I’m seeing in our work.
The short version of what I’m doing here is best presented as a Venn+ diagram. Wait, this doesn’t all align properly! Quite true. It feels like there are two halves of my role with two components each, there’s clear overlap within each half but not so much across the halves, for now.
Our work is focused on collecting record level data from state and county agencies, and some of my time goes to helping local county agencies across California with data extraction, I would say ETL but it’s often not that sophisticated. I’m also building relationships with vendors to develop sustainable methods of data sharing for their clients; we may get API access, have vendors dump data with approval, get queries or ad-hoc reports built into their systems to reduce the load on local agency staff. Many agencies in California have very little technical capacity in-house, and IT staff often do not understand the nuances of nor the laws around accessing raw data, so improving the process of data sharing is key for the long term!
A New Fellowship
We’ve just announced a Data Fellowship program designed to create a whole new era of open data in the Florida criminal justice system. We’ll be placing fellows in two pilot counties where they will be working on bringing data collection up to new standards, developing ETL processes to publish data, digitizing scanned data forms, building tools to scrape and convert data and helping with the data culture around these problems, all with the goal of a new standard of transparency in criminal justice. Way to go Florida.
You can read more and apply for the fellowship here.
Things Repeat (Or Is this The Point)
So many things from my almost twelve years at Urban Strategies Council were first-time activities–bespoke data analysis, apps, reports and community coalitions, so much uniqueness and so little efficiency. This keeps things interesting, but is makes an organization broad without sufficient depth, and the same can go for the people inside the organization. The allure of scaling for me was the chance to do things again, to learn, to iterate and to improve, which all requires active reflection.
I’ve found myself in a very strong organization, one that has plenty of depth and that is scaling in depth and somewhat in breadth also, yet I’m aware that I myself am repeating things, things I’ve done before, things I learned just barely, and battles I’ve fought before. Sometimes it feels strange to be pushing for things I’ve fought for elsewhere, and this feels a touch bizarre to have to do it again, but I think also
We hire new people, or change jobs, not just to learn it all anew, but to put things into play that we’ve worked on prior. If you’re pushed for change x in organization y, then you’re in a great position to push for the very same x in organization z. In fact you’re prefect for that! You’ve seen the value (if not, rethink maybe?), and you know what it takes to make something happen, also meaning you’ve fucked some things up and are more sensitive to Not. Doing. That. Again.
So once more I’m writing a Writing Plan, developing an Editorial Calendar, pushing for On-boarding processes, refining marketing and comms approaches and helping lead a values and culture effort.
Wait, aren’t you a data thingo? Also yes.
And when you start to feel the pieces coming together, this ends up being quite fun and rewarding.
Change is good in the end, even if it hurts in the process.
I’m looking forward to avoiding not writing more soon!