Case Study: Clean Up Australia tidies up its dirty data

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Clean Up Australia, the not-for-profit responsible for keeping our natural environment free from waste is cleaning up over 30 years of accumulated data.

Digital Nation Australia spoke to Terrie-Ann Johnson, managing director at Clean Up Australia about the organisation's move to improve the data collected by volunteers and the value it extracts from that data.

According to Johnson, “We now mobilise over a million people a year across 14,000 locations and those people still pick up the rubbish. They go to hotspots in their local parks or along their beaches or walkways or bushland and they identify what the rubbish is, they tell us where the rubbish is.

“We then take the data that they share with us and we use that to leverage for what we call waste management reform or resource recovery.”

Validating the data is one of the challenges facing the organisation, as its quality is dependent on the rigour of each individual volunteer.

“We get a really patchy lot of data and it's quite inconsistent. So, the challenge for us was to try to get some level benchmark of that and also to get some quality into this data analysis.”

Data and analytics business Slalom volunteered their services to the charity free of charge, to help clean up Clean Up Australia’s dirty data.

According to Johnson, the organisation is already seeing results from the partnership.

“We now have this wonderful, quick dashboard that we present to our board in every quarter. And suddenly our board is starting to look at the scope and scale of what we do in a whole new way,” she said.

“We’ve spent a lot of time as a team, working out all of the targets against participation, engagement, volumes of information coming through, fundraising. Every aspect of our business is now being targeted out and we can show progress towards those targets.”

Clean Up Australia has also engaged Slalom in its Citizen Science project, where volunteers are providing volume counts on key items that they are finding in their local environments.

“The Slalom team developed a quick dashboard, so we can get in at any point in time, any one of us and say, ‘Oh gosh, look at that. This particular item has skyrocketed. Why has that happened?’ We can go back and find out why,” said Johnson.

“That's the level of engagement we’ve just not had with our communities, and it's also information we can share with them all day, every day, anytime of the day.”

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