‘Good Enough’ Data: the benefits of data activism within school communities

One of our project ambitions is supporting teachers, students and parents to generate their own data as a complement (or perhaps even a counterpoint) to the ‘official’ data being generated within their schools.

Here, then, we might take inspiration from the field of data activism, where ordinary citizens, journalists and activists work together to (re)appropriate existing data-sets and/or create alternate data-sets. Favoured data activist techniques include scraping data from public websites, crowd-sourcing data from ‘citizen reporters’, as well as generating new data from surveys, sensors or similar tools.

These forms of data activism aim to produce what Gabrys, Pritchard and Barratt (2016) term ‘good enough data’ or perhaps merely ‘just good enough data’. This refers to data practices conducted by ordinary people, aimed at creating new ‘data stories’ that might be used as part of the schools’ evidence-based decision-making. At the very least, these forms of ‘alt-data’ might be used to stimulate and mobilize community responses to engage with official authorities and make a case for change.

While perhaps not as comprehensive or fine-grained as the official data that is seeks to challenge, these forms of alt-data can be surprisingly effective. Gutierrez (2019) argues that citizen-generated alt-data will often lead to the development of ‘impactful bottom-up narratives’ and alternate data stories that are otherwise absent in official accounts. Often, an act of data activism might be motivated by a lack of official information – with any new data being ‘good enough’ in as much as it is able to fill the gap. As Gabrys, Pritchard and Barratt (2016) put it: “The question of whether data are ‘good enough’ must be framed by the context in which the data are being used; it should respond to the question ‘what for’”.

So, to what extent can these techniques that have so far been pursued in areas such as environmental activism and social justice be adopted in school contexts? What gaps, omissions and inaccuracies in schools’ official data discourses might be identified as meriting the generation of alt-data? What groups might be willing and able to take responsibility for engaging in these actions? How receptive might school authorities receptive be to taking these alternate data stories on board?



Gabrys, J., Pritchard, H., & Barratt, B. (2016). Just good enough data: Figuring data citizenships through air pollution sensing and data stories. Big Data & Society3(2): 2053951716679677

Gutiérrez, M. (2019)  The Good, the Bad and the Beauty of ‘Good Enough Data. inDaly, A, Devitt, K. and Mann, M. (eds)  Good Data.  Amsterdam, Theory on Demand #29  (pp.54-76)