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Transforming non-profit data: Empowering Rānui Action Project through Data Insights

September 2023, New Zealand Aotearoa


Introduction

We are thrilled to share the successful project that was completed with Rānui Action Project and GDI this year. In this post you will get an insight into not only the amazing analytics solution that our volunteers built, but also what it's like to work on a project as a GDI volunteer.


Rānui Action Project (RAP)

Rānui Action Project is a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting the community of Rānui, an iconic suburb of West Auckland, Aotearoa. RAP offers a wide range of programmes, initiatives, and events aimed at empowering individuals and fostering growth. As comes with an inspiring mission, RAP creates an atmosphere that makes you feel right where you need to be, creating a sense of effortless care.



GDI x RAP Collaboration

GDI initially got in contact with RAP through Greissen, the GDI Fellow leading the project. Her family member works for Rānui 135, an organisation within RAP that focuses on supporting youth. Through this connection we began working with the amazing RAP team of Ara, Jolene and Carol.


The GDI team consisted of:

  • Greissen - Software Engineer from West Auckland

  • Joe - Data Analyst at EY based in Australia

  • Tom - Data Scientist from London

  • Lizzie - Data Engineer based in Australia

While the team had some new GDI volunteers and the RAP team were relatively new to data analytics, which made this collaboration a huge learning experience for them all.


Our GDI Volunteers (from left to right): Joe, Greissen, Lizzie and Tom


The Problem

The project aimed to leverage data insights to enhance two of their programs:

  1. The driver's licence programme - an initiative that helps people get their appropriate drivers licence

  2. Employment services programme - an initiative that helps people get back in the workforce

Much of RAP’s work is people-centric, which makes gathering necessary data challenging. Capturing this impact was a significant factor that attracted RAP to GDI’s services. A dashboard on these two programmes was a great first step towards RAP making more data driven decisions, highlighting areas they are excelling in and creating better data gathering strategies overall.


A few of the many services run by Rānui Action Project


The Solution

The final outcome of the project was a Power BI dashboard that offered insightful analytics for RAP's driver's licence and employment services programs. Tom took charge of the data cleansing tasks, ensuring that the datasets were prepared for the dashboarding done by Joe. Greissen led the communication between the two teams and ensured the final product aligned with their needs.


1) Data Cleansing


The majority of the data cleansing was done in Excel/Python, this involved getting the current spreadsheets into a format that could be used by the dashboard, while also formatting them to be easily used by the RAP team. The team also took into account any metrics that were regularly reported on, and ensured summaries of both programmes fit into the most relevant format. The employment services data was a bit more tricky to work with as a lot of the data was free text, which makes sense as this programme is centred around conversations, with the type of support varying quite greatly person to person. This was solved by making each new consultation, even with the same person, its own event whilst keeping a collective notes section to make it easier to track a person’s progress.


2) Visualising the data


The dashboard consisted of two key pages, summarising the cost, demographics and participation for both programmes. GDI decided to use an Excel spreadsheet backend, with a Power BI dashboard because RAP already operates in a Microsoft ecosystem and are looking into moving into Salesforce at a later stage. With all this in mind, it made sense to kick off RAPs data journey with something simple and easy to integrate into their current processes.

A view of the Power BI dashboard that was built for RAP's team (blurred for privacy)


3) Key challenges


It was a struggle to integrate a workflow that supported relevant dashboard insights, mainly because of the ad hoc nature of the two programmes. RAP are cautious not to overwhelm any people seeking support with unnecessary admin, making it a little difficult to track specific metrics. Alongside this, the plan to eventually move into a more robust data centric system like Salesforce kept the project slim with a focus on providing fast and easy insights.


Another challenge was overcoming geographical barriers. The project faced the challenge of managing time differences, as Tom was based in the UK, Joe in Australia and the RAP team and Greissen in New Zealand. Nevertheless, we were able to accommodate these challenges and adjusted our schedules as needed to enable fruitful collaboration.


The Impact: A Journey of Learning

By visualising the data, the dashboard allowed RAP to uncover patterns, and opportunities for improvement in the way that they currently collect their data. This newfound ability to harness data-driven insights transformed the way RAP operates, as they now have a new perspective of their day to day operations.


“Having the opportunity to work with GDI has been invaluable to the RAP team and the organisation as a whole. Through the process of the GDI team developing a dashboard that combined our 'Get Licenced' and 'Employment Matters' data, we increased our understanding of the value of data collection and analytics. The dashboard the GDI team developed has enabled us to visualise our work through our data, and to commence the journey of implementing an organisational-wide data management system that meets our needs. This is significant for the organisation moving forward.”

Meanwhile, for us at GDI, the collaboration with RAP proved to be a remarkable learning experience for our volunteers. Coming from backgrounds predominantly focused on assisting large companies with their data needs, this opportunity allowed us to contribute in a way we had never done before. Witnessing RAP's commitment to community development and their openness to learning about new technologies was inspiring and provided us with a new perspective.


Author:

Greissen Leslie (GDI Fellow)






About GDI:

The Good Data Institute (established 2019) is a registered not-for-profit organisation (ABN: 6664087941) that aims to give not-for-profits access to data analytics (D&A) support & tools. Our mission is to be the bridge between the not-for-profit world and the world of data analytics practitioners wishing to do social good. Using D&A, we identify, share, and help implement the most effective means for growing NFP people, organisations, and their impact.



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