Disempowered by Data: Nonprofits, Social Enterprises, and the Consequences of Data-Driven Work

Organizations across many sectors are under intense pressure to become data-driven. Yet, for mission-driven organizations, the path to becoming and value of being data-driven is not always clear. We present results from an interview-based study of the role of data in the monitoring and evaluation practices of mission-driven organizations. Instead of leading to productive and empowering data-driven decision making, monitoring and evaluation work is characterized by the erosion of autonomy, data drift, and data fragmentation. Together, these consequences of monitoring and evaluation practices play into a cycle of increasing disempowerment for the mission-driven organization. These findings suggest that the design of information systems should work towards empowering organizations in ways that make sense for their unique data needs and those of their constituents.