Fellow Changemakers,

Despite the misconception that data nerds like us prefer dark solitary spaces where we can number-crunch in peace, sunnier days ahead have put a skip in our step! To some, spring represents a new beginning, a rebirth or renewal, which feels apt after a particularly lonely winter indoors. Even with the great deal of work to be done to contain COVID and the myriad of challenges ahead, the vaccine rollout seems to mark a new chapter emerging on the horizon. In this transitory time, we are reflecting on the lessons learned and skills gained amidst the upheaval of 2020 that will make us better at what we do.

The very uncertainty and need for rapid adaptation that characterized 2020 has challenged some of our approaches and confirmed that we’re on the right path with others. We’ve been trying and testing new models at a speed that we couldn’t have envisioned pre-COVID – necessity is the mother of invention, right?

At Databoom, we’re all about evidence. We love helping clients collect, analyze, and leverage data to generate impact. But, with most in-person data collection on hold (for now) and funding cuts, we’ve had to rethink the type of data we can collect, the biases we can accept, and what it means for data to be “good enough.” We’ve adapted to virtual data collection through online platforms to continue to provide insight and enable audience engagement. We’ve also been revisiting existing data – desk reviews, systematic literature reviews, monitoring data, and big data – and thinking about new data – like AI – that can reduce the burden of collection and keep everyone safe. Using data triangulation to fill in evidence gaps, understand trends, and examine the “why” behind results has proven essential. Upon reflection, the inability to collect new data through traditional methods has pushed us to do more of what we should have been doing all along – exploring novel methods of data collection and leveraging what our clients have before collecting anything new.

We love learning from the community and it’s been great to see other changemakers sharing how they’ve adapted their approaches and research methods to accommodate the evolving landscape. At Databoom, we’re evangelical about communicating and sharing good work, amplifying voices, and making processes easier. To a large extent, 2020 has facilitated greater and more accessible information sharing. Many conversations in our community have moved online, including large conferences, advisory committees, and working groups. In many ways, these conversations have been richer and online engagement means that participation can be more equitable, and people can join from around the globe (no travel visas or large budgets needed). The more we can communicate our findings and the remaining unknowns, the faster we can build a collective knowledge base and drive impact. Watching organizations share information – and not just through traditional communication channels – about what they are trying and what’s working in this era is something we hope continues past COVID.

Moreover, as our community has performed the high-wire act of balancing personal and professional commitments in the age of COVID, we’ve been thinking about how to make things easier by making our tools, ideas, and processes more accessible. To that end, we’ve started a Databoom Resource page that includes tools for drafting an authorship agreement and publishing work in peer-reviewed journals. We will continue to add resources in 2021 and to share how we get things done and share our learnings.

Despite the dumpster fire of 2020, there have been some silver linings –namely, the opportunity to feel immense gratitude for our community of changemakers who are working towards a kinder, more just and equitable world. We wish you a vibrant spring and hope we can start a new page together in 2021.

Thank you,

Your Friends at Databoom