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FordMomentum! is a data-informed communications firm that has created a new methodology to give leaders the information and tools necessary for real radical change across the nation. Called the Standard of Love (STOLO), it’s backed by MIT’s Data, Economics & Development Policy program and the system is quickly becoming the go-to in compassionate and accurate data collection in Texas, Colorado, Nevada and more.
In fact, Ford believed in STOLO so much that she pulled more than $40,000 from her own retirement to start the work in 2016 with her colleague Tiffany Nelson.
This Q&A has been edited for clarity.
What is STOLO? Can you help us understand the main points of the system?
Ford: The Standard of Love is a way to collect, analyze and actionize data, using five pillars: literacy, values, economic power, self-esteem and justice. We use this information to drive equitable results that are true to what people want and need- not to only benefit those in power. Historically, data has been used to confirm a theory instead of being used to offer new considerations. So, this is a radical way of owning our own data, our voices and leveraging our own assets for change. Each pillar informs our approach (whether we go with surveys or, as we did in Harris County, a mobile gaming app), our analysis and even how we check-in later to confirm the data. It’s important to us that our data reveals the power communities already have to make change. We’re just making what change they’d like to see more clear and actionable.
Tell me more about how you used it in Harris County (TX) specifically.
Ford: Yes, so we worked with The Kinder Institute for Urban Research to produce the landmark My Home is Here study, exploring what residents wanted to see in their neighborhoods and how they were able to access their needs. Harris County is the third largest county in the country with very diverse needs and residential makeup, yet we were able to speak with more than 17,000 residents. Going into this project, we knew we really valued residents’ responses, so we focused on how we could encourage them to be a part of this, which meant traditional surveys wouldn’t be enough. We made the mobile app I mentioned and we also used diverse, colorful messaging in various languages. Our graphics showed the way people live in Harris County, both intergenerationally and multi-ethnically. It was critical to us that people saw our messaging as reflective of the actual communities they lived in. STOLO was really the backbone of the My Home is Here research in the communities. Ultimately, this research will result in more than a billion dollars in key infrastructure upgrades, including safer housing from climate change and improved transportation infrastructure, including new bike paths that connect historically-ignored communities.
What really sets STOLO apart?
Our work isn’t just ‘data and numbers.’ It’s about equity and creating new systems that actually work for us. We never know what’s ‘right’ until we get in there and we ask, and then we confirm our research as well. We aren’t the expert; the people are. STOLO gives us a starting point; a way to define our values with authentic language. Cultural and community literacy ensure we’re going in the right direction in a fair and earnest way where everyone is included - this is justice. From there it’s just tweaking to the project’s needs. So we’ve used STOLO in small organizations and in major governmental agencies. We know it works and we love seeing our system fill in critical gaps across the nation.
How can people learn more?
You can learn more about FM! and STOLO at thefordmomentum.com. We love working with leaders who want to make real, equitable change and we’re excited for how STOLO can help them achieve this.
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