“Be bold, approach people. You never know what might happen.”

Report & Visualise

At Our Community, we want to help connect data practitioners and not-for-profit organisations. One of the ways we’re doing this is by profiling data scientists who’ve used their skills within the social sector, so that others like them might be encouraged to do the same.

Charlie Edgecombe recently volunteered with the environmental not-for-profit Climate for Change on a project which analysed the impact of the group’s flagship program, Climate Conversations.

Charlie holds a Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) and recently completed a Graduate Certificate of Data Science. With an interest in the environment, Charlie was looking to gain experience within the field. A friend put him in touch with the Our Community Innovation Lab, which led to an introduction to a contact at Climate for Change, and then a placement with the organisation.

Charlie Edgecombe
Charlie Edgecombe said working with Climate for Change allowed him to take more initiative.

Climate for Change’s Climate Conversations Program borrows from the Tupperware party plan model to facilitate discussions about climate change in people’s homes. Attendees are surveyed to evaluate behaviours and attitudes before and after they attend an event.

Before Charlie’s volunteer placement, a data analyst crunched the survey data to produce the Climate Conversations Impact Report. They also built a model to feed the results of future surveys into. Charlie carried on that work, producing a standard operating procedure so that anyone at Climate for Change could use the model without the assistance of a data analyst or data scientist.

Charlie described the project as rewarding, saying that working with Climate for Change allowed him to take more initiative than he might have been able to in a different environment.

“I enjoyed working with someone else to figure out what the problem statement actually was, and then devising a timeframe and the constraints in a conversation. The process of going back and forth and chipping away at how it was going to get done was rewarding,” he said.

Mike McEvoy
Mike, the national program manager at Climate for Change

The national program manager at Climate for Change, Mike McEvoy, said that if Charlie hadn’t got in touch, the project may have been left to gather dust. Mike’s advice to data practitioners who want to gain volunteer experience is to reach out, because “sometimes the timings work really well.”

“It may have been left in the too-hard basket if we didn’t hear from Charlie. The opportunity of someone saying, ‘Hey, I’m interested in doing this’ was the bit that made it possible,” he said.

Mike acknowledged that engaging and working with volunteers takes time and energy –“It’s hard to find the time to do these things” – but it’s worth doing, he said.

“It’s helped us confirm that our work has an impact. It has pointed to a few areas that we can make improvements. And it’s helped us communicate to potential funders and other potential stakeholders with even more legitimacy.”

Charlie says the power of networking should never be underestimated, and it’s invaluable in gaining experience.

“A lot of events are going online – it’s worth making an effort to go to those sorts of things. Be bold, approach people. Give them a ring, email them, talk with them at an event. You never know what might happen.”

MORE INFO: Our Community Innovation Lab | Climate for Change Climate Conversations 2020 Impact Report

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