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Community Matters

3 Ways to Use Speaking for Ourselves Data in Your Work

The recently completed Speaking for Ourselves study provides up-to-date data about the experiences of immigrants and refugees who live in Hennepin and Ramsey counties. The community-wide assessment highlights the needs, strengths, and service gaps among Hmong, Karen, Latino, Liberian, and Somali populations.

The study aims to provide information to change perceptions, improve public policies, and provide better services. I’ve outlined three ways you can use the data to help inform your work. These are just examples – the Speaking for Ourselves data and reports may be useful in any situation in which background or information is needed about one of the participating cultural communities.

Example 1: Provide context
A local news outlet is doing a story about behavioral health needs within the Karen community.

There are two sources of information that you could use to inform yourself or provide to others in this situation. First, the report Perceptions of Health, Mental Health, and Health Care Access Among Immigrants and Refugees in the Twin Cities includes a section about self-reported emotional health. Alternatively, we’ll soon release Populations at a glance reports for each participating community that will provide a better understanding of the community as it relates to your service area.

Example 2: Case for support
A community-based organization is writing a grant to help fund an employment training program focused on getting Latino immigrants jobs that pay a living wage with benefits.

The data show that about half of Latinos who completed the survey that are employed have paid time off at their job. This compares to two-thirds to three-quarters of the employed respondents from the other cultural communities who receive paid time off from their employers.

If you look at the report Perceptions of Employment Among Immigrants and Refugees in the Twin Cities or the data book, you can find these and other data related to your topic of interest. These data can be used in the “statement of need” or “description of the problem” section of your grant application. The example below appears in Section 6 – Employment in the data book.

Does this job offer paid time off table.
Example 3: Program development
An after-school program with an increasing number of Liberian refugees wants to provide a culturally appropriate program.

The data can show program developers where the priorities are for the cultural communities that participated in the study, which can help to inform them about if their program is needed or wanted (and how important it may be relative to other possible needs within this community).

The data book includes the results of a question we asked about recreation and informal learning. While the need for a community center or gathering space was the most commonly mentioned need among the Liberian respondents, several Liberian respondents also noted the need for after-school programs. This may inform the type of program you develop if you are starting from scratch, or it might help you to consider ways to combine your after-school program with a community center or gathering space that the community clearly wants.

But knowing there is a need for the program isn’t enough. These data can also help you understand what types of supports Liberian youth might need to participate in the program. For example, the data book table below shows that some Liberian youth may need transportation assistance in order to be able to participate in your program.

When it comes to helping your children with their education, to what extent are you able to provide transportation to school activities?

While this data may not tell you exactly what you need to do to make your program accessible for Liberians, it can help you prioritize your limited resources.

Dig in!

Now it’s your turn. Dig in to the reports and fact sheets and let us know how you use the data from the Speaking for Ourselves study. If you have questions or feedback along the way, please contact me.


Nicole MartinRogers, Ph.D., is a senior research manager at Wilder Research and director of the Speaking for Ourselves study. Since 2001, she has been working to design and carry out culturally responsive research projects that provide useful information for decision-making among communities, organizations, and in public policy contexts. She can be reached at or on Twitter @NMartinRogers.




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