Data-Driven Solutions for Environmental Justice: DataKind Joins the Climate Resilience Peer Learning Network

In early 2023, DataKind joined the Open Data Institute, Microsoft, and five other social impact organizations for the Climate Resilience Peer Learning Network (CR-PLN). We entered this learning cohort eager to gain knowledge and understanding from community-driven organizations around the world, and to share our own insights with those organizations. DataKind works worldwide, and for the purposes of the peer learning network case study development, we focused on work related to environmental justice in the U.S. 

Climate change is the greatest threat that we face in modern society. As a cross-multiplier, climate change is a destabilizer – impacting health, resources, safety, and security around the globe. It’s the wicked problem of our time. DataKind is keenly aware of these threats, and deeply believes that making data-driven insights and tools available to communities, governments, and changemakers are part of the solution to building climate resilience and preparing for adaptation.

As an organization that has sat at the intersection of data and action for the past decade, DataKind has witnessed firsthand the power of data-driven tools to enable action in the face of climate change. From building tools to help manage potable water in the face of drought in California, to building software to aid in natural disaster response, to enabling brownfields cleanup, to working with conservationists to mine data in the face of biodiversity loss, DataKind and collaborators have shown that data and AI are key components of climate response.

DataKind focused on the environmental justice movement in the U.S. because of a conviction that analytics for equity must be incorporated into any climate resilience movement. As recently stated by the Environmental Protection Agency: “The most severe harms from climate change fall disproportionately upon underserved communities who are least able to prepare for, and recover from, heat waves, poor air quality, flooding, and other impacts.”

DataKind’s approach within the peer learning community and in our current portfolio of work is to understand the community perspective through a human-centered design process, and to create accessible and sustainable data-driven solutions at the right level of data maturity for stakeholders.

Within the CR-PLN, DataKind worked to expand our knowledge, connections, and active body of work, building tools to aid the community leaders in the environmental justice movement through the peer learning network. We succeeded in three key ways:

  1. Creating a robust ecosystem map of the environmental justice domain, showing how knowledge and resources flow across actors and identifying gaps that toolbuilding agencies like DataKind could fill
  2. Refining a theory of change for how toolbuilding entities can be positioned alongside community actors for impact within the domain
  3. Joining conversations regarding data and tooling standards that can create legitimacy for community-driven solutions as well as to ensure and protect data provided by these communities

DataKind is continuing our engagement with the CR-PLN and actively working on data-driven platforms to aid in environmental justice. You can read more about our research on energy equity and water rights, explore previous data solutions and partnerships such as the Black Wealth Data Center, and on humanitarian data insights and join us in conversation at the Joint Statistical Meetings this summer in Toronto as we continue to develop our work on analytics for equity in climate resilience.

Header image courtesy of iStock/FG Trade.

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