When it comes to research, activists often don’t have enough. Activism is fast-paced and under-resourced. Research, on the other hand, can feel slow and expensive, so it often gets second priority. But when critical information emerges too late, we quietly complain, If only I had known this sooner.
The DataCenter’s new website (www.datacenter.org) will help organizations avoid this pain. DataCenter.org reflects nearly 25 years of experience helping organizers and activists get the best information, in the most efficient and effective way possible, before making critical decisions.
Many of you know the DataCenter. We began in 1977 as the Investigative Resource Center, a small library in downtown Oakland where activists could do research on corporations, plant closures, the military industrial complex, and foreign policy, especially in Latin America. Over the years, we grew into a national organization that has provided customized research services and training to thousands of activists.
As one example, a national environmental justice campaign wanted the Environmental Protection Agency to release a report admitting to the sources and dangerous health effects of dioxin, an industry-produced toxin that poisons communities of color disproportionately. But many worried that the EPA-appointed committee in charge of reviewing and releasing the report would drag its heels. DataCenter research showed that some committee members had ties to polluting industries. Using this research, activists effectively muted the report’s opponents and convinced neutral committee members to support the report.
We hope our new site helps you create systems to discover critical information like this early in your campaigns. It features tips on research planning, target research, and using the web, including our Ten Step Campaign Research Process. The ten steps are designed to make research–whether done in-house or out-sourced to groups like the DataCenter– an organic part of your campaign process. The site also has an indexed, regularly updated guide to useful research websites. This includes a link to CorpWatch’s web-based corporate research guide (http://www.corpwatch.org/research/guide/).
DataCenter.org will be regularly updated with tips, tricks, and tools that our researchers have tried and tested along the way. To keep up with these updates, you can sign up for our new listserv on the site as well.
Strategic information can move us forward more effectively, but only if we learn to capture it. We hope DataCenter.org helps you learn.