At the end of May, Red Hat made a statement of solidarity with the Black community. As part of that, Blacks United in Leadership and Diversity (B.U.I.L.D.), one of our associate-led Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) communities, selected the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) to receive a donation to help further its mission.
Beyond the donation, we decided to engage with SCSJ in a more hands on way through our social innovation program, one way we connect Red Hatters and nonprofits in an effort to support their work with the power of open source.
SCSJ is a nonprofit organization founded in Durham, N.C. by a multidisciplinary group, predominantly people of color. SCSJ works with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South, and defends and advances their political, social and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing and communications. One of SCSJ’s current goals is to bring social science research, communications strategies and community organizing skills to help serve community priorities.
Driving change through collaboration and open data
The area in which SCSJ decided we could make an impact is its Racial Equity Report Cards (RERCs) project. The goal of this collaboration was to help improve access to and display of its data platform by using open source technologies so that relevant decision makers can better assess information.
RERCs provide a snapshot of a community’s school-to-prison pipeline (STPP) using public data, which can help identify any racial disparities that exist in the pipeline. According to SCSJ, the STPP is the system of policies and practices that push students, especially students of color, out of school and into the juvenile and adult criminal systems. The STPP has many entry points, spanning from student criminalization to the systemic underinvestment in resources for Black, Latinx and LGBTQIA+ students.
“Organizers, educators, students and parents use this data to identify issues, organize community members and strategize solutions,” said Tyler Whittenberg, Chief Counsel of Justice System Reform, SCSJ. “Thus, the success of our work often depends on access to accurate data and our ability to depict data in a way that tells a story.”
The RERCs are meant to be a starting point for community education, discussion and advocacy. They provide data showing regions that are making progress with diversity and inclusion, and the regions that are struggling. They illustrate if kids are struggling in certain areas of the state with regards to their grades, college readiness or juvenile complaints. They can be a call-to-action for students, parents, advocates, policy-makers, and institutional stakeholders, urging them to collectively examine the causes of racial inequity in their community and develop solutions that will help young people, especially youth of color, avoid the STPP.
For this project, the team focused on North Carolina where there is one RERC for each of the 115 school districts and one for the state of North Carolina as a whole.
Open data technology solutions
The challenge with these reports is that they were difficult to keep up to date. The reports take a long time to create as the data entry and compilation process was done manually. SCSJ needed help streamlining the process, from entering the information to turning that data into reports that can track state and school district metrics on an annual basis.
The new solution uses Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform to deploy a collection of open source web-based technologies to drive greater efficiency and provide a platform for more flexible innovation. Red Hat created a new platform for them to more easily enter data through an online form and generate up-to-date report cards available instantly, with an application programming interface (API) deployed on Red Hat OpenShift. Red Hat OpenShift also provided a staging environment for the application so SCSJ could see the progress along the way. While the report card data is currently only available for North Carolina, site admins will be able to rollout this solution to other states.
“This solution allows us to focus more on supporting grassroots campaigns addressing these issues and provides these communities with a user-friendly platform to identify racial disparities that need to be addressed,” said Whittenberg.
Ryan E. Roberson, SCSJ’s executive director of Finance and Administration, also added, “From the beginning, Red Hatters listened intently and translated our objectives into the technological heft we knew the RERC could deliver. Enhanced ease of use and graphical presentation for end users are just two of the critical improvements the Red Hat team brought to a tool that's used across the entire state of North Carolina.”
Our work with B.U.I.L.D. and SCSJ showcases the importance of collaboration where we can create better shared solutions by leveraging each other's expertise to solve a common problem. Red Hat will continue to support the SCSJ through technology so that they can keep making a difference in the world.
About the authors
Alexandra Machado leads the Social Innovation Program at Red Hat. She is a thought leader in the open source and cross sector collaboration space. Machado is passionate about defining new and better technological and corporate culture strategies to help the world be better equipped to overcome global problems. She holds an MBA and MSc in Information and Communications Technologies. She currently lives in New York City.
Christopher Tate, a Senior Consultant at Red Hat, loves to create systems for people to use in many places to solve problems. He believes in the power of open source and this quote by Richard Goodman: “Open is an opportunity, a chance to broaden the mind, free tools and resources to benefit all of mankind. Open is an aperture, something you look through, access for all, not just the few.”