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Tableau to launch racial justice Equity Data Hub

After unveiling the Racial Justice Data Initiative, Tableau is building a new data hub to help organizations working in the fight against systemic racism.

Just as Tableau did six months ago when it developed the COVID-19 Data Hub to help organizations battle the spread of the coronavirus, the vendor is now aiding in the fight for racial justice by setting up the Equity Data Hub.

Back in the spring when the pandemic was still in its early stages, Tableau developed the COVID-19 Data Hub. Since then, the tool has been used to inform the general public as well as organizations directly involved in battling the virus.

Now, in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police last spring that sparked nationwide protests and fueled a renewed call for racial justice, Tableau is developing a similar data hub to help provide organizations devoted to the fight for racial justice use data.

On Oct. 6 during the keynote address of Tableau's virtual user conference, president and CEO Adam Selipsky said the vendor is working with racial justice organizations including PolicyLink and the Urban Institute, and as part of that work Tableau is in the process of developing the Equity Data Hub.

The hub, however, is still in the development phase and Tableau said it hopes to have a beta version before the end of the year.

"The systemic inequality and racism that still exist in so many arenas is something we must address, and I firmly believe this is one area where Tableau can, and should, contribute uniquely [with] data," Selipsky said. "Data can influence change at every level, from local governments to federal agencies, businesses and community organizations."

Those groups, however, often don't have the data they need to influence change. They may have some information, but not all of what they need. And what data they do have may be coming from disparate sources and need structuring before it can become actionable.

In response, Tableau unveiled the Racial Justice Data Initiative in June, a $10 million commitment over three years through the Tableau Foundation to partner with organizations working to dismantle what they see as systemic racism in the U.S. And soon -- in addition to the donation of software, services and direct funding -- as part of that initiative it will launch the Equity Data Hub.

"So many people working to drive racial equity are frustrated by the disaggregated, incomplete, inconsistent data that they must wrangle," Selipsky said. "There simply is no central repository for that data, and that is a significant hurdle."

According to Michael McAfee, president and CEO of PolicyLink, data could have a significant influence in the fight for racial justice.

Michael McAfee, president and CEO of PolicyLink, speaks during Tableau's virtual user conference.
Michael McAfee, president and CEO of PolicyLink, speaks during Tableau's virtual user conference about the importance of data in the fight for racial justice.

In particular, he said, the data available in a central hub has the potential to drive change. By having wrangled data and prepared data sets, organizations can demonstrate the structural barriers people of color face as they work with governments at the local, state and federal level to enact change.

In addition, being able to put data in context is crucial to propelling people to invest in the fight for racial justice and act to change policies that disproportionately affect poor people and people of color.

So many people working to drive racial equity are frustrated by the disaggregated, incomplete, inconsistent data that they must wrangle. There simply is no central repository for that data, and that is a significant hurdle.
Adam SelipskyPresident and CEO, Tableau

Data is often disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, ancestry, nativity, income and a host of other factors. Without aggregated data -- data prepared into meaningful data sets -- the message can get muddled by a morass of numbers that have little meaning without being joined together to create a broader picture.

"I have seen firsthand the power of data, the power of data analysis and the power of having conscious leaders who know how to put data in context and to lead on that data," McAfee said. "In this moment of racial awakening, data is critical to our understanding of how to move forward and how to craft solutions that really work."

He added that while data is just one tool, the fight for racial justice needs to take full advantage of it.

"The work for our generation is to use everything at our disposal -- the rigor of the data science, the rigor of data tools -- to bring about a just and fair society in which everyone can participate, prosper and reach their full potential," McAfee said.

Once it's launched, the Equity Data Hub will pull data from such sources as American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, prepare that data and plug it into data visualizations so the data can be analyzed and fuel data-driven decisions.

In addition, just as members of the Tableau community are able to contribute to the COVID-19 Data Hub with their own visualizations, they will be able to create and share their work in the fight for racial justice on the Equity Data Hub.

"Look at criminal justice, housing, healthcare, education, unemployment," Selipsky said. "Name the social issue and it's likely impacting communities of color disproportionately … [so] we're making grants of software, services and direct funding to support advocates and community organizations who will drive action at every level."

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