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Alter Everything

A podcast about data science and analytics culture.
MaddieJ
Alteryx Community Team
Alteryx Community Team

Working to create a socially just and sustainable society, data is very important to Green America. We're joined by Pat Keyes, IT and Facilities Manager at Green America, to chat about how they're leveraging the Alteryx Tech for Good program to help fuel Green America's mission.

 


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Transcript

 

 

Episode Transcription

JENNY 00:02

Hi Pat. Good to see you again. Or good to hear from you again.

PAT 00:05

Hi Jenny.

JENNY 00:06

How’s the weather in DC these days?

PAT 00:08

It is up and down and up and down. We’ve had snow and then sixties.

JENNY 00:14

Interesting. Hopefully not because of climate change. [music]

PAT 00:18

Well, we can only--

JENNY 00:20

[crosstalk].

PAT 00:21

One can only assume at this point.

MADDIE 00:25

Welcome to Alter Everything and happy Earth Month. In this episode, we’re going to talk about, you guessed it, the environment. Whether it’s been from the media or from activists in your communities, you might be in tune with environmental initiatives aimed to help take care of the planet and society overall. But what about from an economic standpoint? How are consumers and businesses contributing to these initiatives focused on sustainability and social justice? Our guest today is Pat Keyes, IT and Facilities Manager from Green America, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. Green America is focused on harnessing economic power to create a socially just and sustainable society using the Alteryx Tech for Good program that provides free or reduced Alteryx licenses for qualifying nonprofits. Pat shares how important data is in supporting the mission of Green America. Our host for this episode is our ESG and Sustainability Manager at Alteryx, Jennifer Yuen. You also heard her on our last episode, and she’s focused on all thing’s sustainability at Alteryx from our corporate culture, our products, and the way we do business. Jennifer brought a great perspective to this conversation with Pat. So let’s get started.

PAT 01:47

I’m Pat Keyes. I am the IT and Facilities Manager here for our organization here in Washington, D.C. So I am responsible for all of our network computer infrastructure as well as everything that goes on around the physical office itself. We’re an environmental organization that is focused on greening the economy, and we take that greening to include social justice issues as well as just what people typically think of environmental issues. So we really are all about people and the planet. Our organization really breaks down into three basic areas. The first being our public-facing consumer side, which is our individual members where we do a lot of education and some consumer activism work. Then we have our Green Business Network where we do certifications and screenings for companies to join the network that then they get advantages of being in our network and being able to collaborate with other people in the other organizations in the Green Business Network. And then we have our Center for Sustainable Solutions, which we work within industries, a lot of supply chain work, and that sort of work to help green the economy from that side.

JENNY 02:56

Awesome. And you have been at Green America for a few years now, is that right?

PAT 03:00

It’s been about a dozen years now that I’ve been there.

JENNY 03:03

Oh my gosh.

PAT 03:03

Yep.

JENNY 03:04

Getting better every day.

PAT 03:06

It’s a great place to work and yeah love all the colleagues. And you’ve found the right thing in life when you enjoy going to work every morning?

JENNY 03:14

Definitely. I totally agree with you on that. It’s nice when the job that you’re doing is something that you’re passionate about personally because it really makes the day go by faster and feel like you’re really making a meaningful impact with everything you do every day.

PAT 03:28

I couldn’t imagine not working for someone that I wasn’t passionate about.

JENNY 03:34

Awesome. So I know you already shared with us Green America’s mission. I know that it has a pretty broad focus area. Are there any big picture stats you want to share with us or a specific inspiring story that you want to tell us?

PAT 03:48

I’d love to bring up one of the campaigns that we recently made public called the Toward Zero Exposure campaign. This is coming out of that third branch that I was describing of the Center for Sustainable Solutions. And one of the particular projects inside of that center is the Clean Electronics Production Network. And one of the most recent projects from them is the Toward Zero Exposure project, where we are working with many industry leaders to try and get a lot of the most dangerous chemicals removed from the production process, full of a lot of the electronics that are ubiquitous in society today.

JENNY 04:28

That’s amazing. Was that campaign just recently launched? How long is it going to go for?

PAT 04:33

Well, it’s been going behind the scenes for over a year now, but it’s been recently made public, and we’re now looking for more people to join that. Some of the original founding signatories on the project were Dell, Apple, and HP. So we definitely have some of the major players in the industry to actually make some real movement in this one. And the project does work with everybody involved in the supply chain, along with the labor side, often in China in this case, and as well as the retail side as well from the United States in the supply side from there.

JENNY 05:06

That’s amazing. Have you been able to see any collective impact from the campaign yet, or is that something that you’re going to be doing in the future?

PAT 05:15

Well, the first round of the campaign has happened where we focused primarily on solvents as the chemicals, and we have gotten commitments from all the companies that are involved to try and remove the most deadly ones out of the supply chain to protect the workers that are involved there. One of the major pieces of this project is actually the data collection of what chemicals are actually being used by all these companies. One of the interesting stories around that is, of course, all of these methods are proprietary, and these companies don’t want to give their competitors that are working closely with them in the coalition in a group like this. So all the data that we collect has to be anonymized and come out. And so we use the services of another group as part of our network called the Responsible Business Alliance to help us do that anonymization of the data as it comes forward. But unfortunately, the data collection itself isn’t any more sophisticated right now than filling out an Excel spreadsheet.

JENNY 06:07

That perfectly tees up my next question, which is how does data come into play to help fuel Green America’s mission? So obviously it comes into play with this campaign. I know we’ve worked previously with you on how you use Alteryx to analyze and automate donor information. So if you could just do a deep dive into data and the importance of it at Green America?

PAT 06:32

Sure. As you mentioned, data’s everywhere. Whether you’re a nonprofit today or a for-profit company, if you’re not looking at data, then you’re going to be left behind. In a lot of the nonprofit world, a lot of the data analysis comes through your membership analysis and where are your members, where your revenues coming from, and how do you make the best gains on those and increase your revenue and so you can do better work. And thankfully, Alteryx invited us to be part of their internship program last summer, where a few of the intern groups actually got to analyze our membership data and show us some very eye-opening results of that analysis, a lot of which we knew, but perhaps not to the extent that it was that we’ve been able to have better A/B testing when we send it out and sort of refine our searches and refine how we’re doing member acquisition to help us grow our membership bases.

JENNY 07:26

Very cool. And just for context for our listeners, Pat was talking about our 2021 Next Leaders Retreat, which was part of our internship program in 2021. And during that retreat, interns were able to participate in a program called Solving It Forward, which was an intern learnathon that encouraged students to form teams and solve real-life problems faced by nonprofits such as Green America. So it sounds like Pat, you had a really good experience with getting some solutions from our interns that really helped your nonprofit organization. So aside from joining our intern learnathon and participating in our Solving It Forward portion of the intern retreat, could you tell us a little bit more about this experience that you had working with students, especially students that are focused on the data science and engineering fields and what you gained from it?

PAT 08:20

Absolutely. It’s great to be able to reach out and interact with students, especially in this particular case where we’re looking at our membership statistics. And one of the glaring facts that came out in that was the aging of our membership. And so having younger people be able to infuse ideas into it and sort of give you that spark that you’re looking for to get your message out to a different group and certainly diversify your donor base is a great opportunity.

JENNY 08:51

I seem to recall the group that presented on Green America had a lot of creative solutions around like social media.

PAT 08:59

They did, and we’ve certainly made several attempts to up our social media games since then. And--

JENNY 09:05

Yeah. Ideas like that really benefit from having, like you said, a more youthful perspective.

PAT 09:11

Absolutely. A lot of the technologies that are out today just aren’t things that the older generations are exposed to. So it’s not something that they can necessarily envision the impact themselves.

JENNY 09:26

Awesome. The other nonprofits that we brought to the Solving It Forward retreat were-- so Pat obviously was representing a sustainability nonprofit. We also had nonprofits focused on social justice, health, healthcare around the world, and then education. Did you enjoy getting to meet other colleagues from other nonprofits and have that opportunity to network?

PAT 09:48

Of course, especially in these days of everybody being remote in COVID, any chance to interact with colleagues of yours in person is always a welcome opportunity. The ideas that can be shared in person just casually over conversations are invaluable in those types of events and situations.

JENNY 10:07

I think we had a lot of fun as well because I actually had a chance to meet you there in person. So we were able to work with the YANA Cancer Comfort nonprofit organization to make blankets for terminally ill patients, which our interns helped us with. We also got to have dinner by the beach. So I think we had a really fun time.

PAT 10:27

Yeah. And that’s something that’s really impressive and really goes a long way for the sustainability and the people and planet pieces. Every corporate event like that, having a give-back opportunity and a chance for employees to actually feel that opportunity to give back, is extremely important.

JENNY 10:46

Awesome. Well, I wanted to ask you; you mentioned that you’ve been at Green America for 12 years now at this point. How is the importance and use of data changed at the organization since you started until today?

PAT 11:00

Big question. Okay. [laughter] Well, data is so much more abundant now that what is able to be analyzed is so much more available than what we’ve had in the past. 12 years ago, you were basically working with names and addresses and most things were being done by snail mail. And so your analysis could often take weeks to months to actually get the full analysis of that data. Where now with email clicks and online donations and those sorts of things, you have such a more instant feedback that the ability to capture those instant trends and act on them is much more vital in to maintaining your organization today than it was a decade ago.

JENNY 11:55

Definitely. I feel like data’s so pervasive today, so you really have to-- you have to take a step back and really try to understand what the data is telling you in order to be able to operationalize and act on it.

PAT 12:09

The other piece that I would have on that is the potential for data overload is greater now than it ever has been. There’s so much data available that you can waste a lot of your time going down that rabbit hole that doesn’t produce you any good results.

JENNY 12:25

Besides the donor information renewals that we were talking about earlier, are there any other major sources of data that Green America has to comb through on a repetitive basis?

PAT 12:38

Programmatically, basically, on any campaign that we have, they all involve data at some point. Even if you’re looking at recycling rates or energy consumption or any programmatic work that I can think of is going to have some kind of data element to it. Whether it’s a large siphoning through data or a small sort, there’s always going to be a data comparison in any project that you take on in this day and age, regardless of the industry you’re in.

JENNY 13:09

Yep. That makes sense. So Green America has produced some really amazing programs and initiatives around climate, food, finance, labor, social justice, and green living. And so we talked about the Zero Exposure Campaign that you’re working on. But can you share with us a Green America accomplishment in your 12 years there that’s really blown you away?

PAT 13:33

A campaign we did last year on the recycling front and the consumption front dealt with campaigning against CVS on a Skip the Slip campaign. I don’t know if you’re familiar, but CVS used to have these five to six-foot-long receipts that you would get every time you’d shop there. That we worked with them to start their digital receipt campaign and to lessen the amount of paper that they’re using. And that was a great campaign called Skip the Slip, that we did last year. Another current campaign that we have going on right now is called the Climate Victory Gardens, modeled after the World War II Victory Gardens that we had. Except now we’re in a phase where the enemy is climate change. And we can have anyone who has a sustainable garden, no matter the size, can join our Climate Victory Gardens. And those are mapped throughout the country and you can actually go and visit other people’s Climate Victory Gardens that they have available.

JENNY 14:26

Very cool. I feel like when I think about Green America and all of your cause areas, there’s some really creative ideas. How do these ideas come about?

PAT 14:36

That’s driven by our staff and by our programs team and what’s going on and what they see and where they think that Green America can make the most impact. With a mission as broad as ours, often the question does not come down, what can we do? But it has to be, what should we focus on? And so the more creative ideas you have, the more you have to choose from of what to focus on.

JENNY 15:03

Great. That’s really interesting to hear. Awesome. Okay. So I want to go back to the Alteryx Tech for Good program, which is what we’ve been talking about. So Green America is one of the nonprofit organizations that we partner with through our Tech for Good program, which is our commitment to providing free or discounted Alteryx designer licenses to any nonprofit that is working to bring positive change to their communities, the planet, and those issues that align with our corporate values. So can you tell us about how the Alteryx Tech for Good program has enabled your work?

PAT 15:40

Absolutely. So we had a very complicated system for our renewal process where we had data from several different sources coming in for our monthly renewal system that then had to be manually taken and manipulated and changed and processed out to several sheets for several different staff to react on. What the designer platform enabled us to do is to do all that data transformation in one place with one centralized workflow to where we can basically take all those input sources, put them into the product, have our workflow pre-design that’s again, a monthly task that is repeated every month and saves our staff countless hours every month to be able to have the automated systems to be able to process this.

JENNY 16:26

That’s amazing. I feel like when I hear stories about what nonprofits have been able to do using our product, it’s really inspiring because you know that you don’t have to be stuck in Excel every month doing the same repetitive process over and over. So it really is transformative.

PAT 16:44

Yes. Absolutely. And it frees up our staff to take those hours that they would be doing on that task and have them go to more programmatic work that we do.

JENNY 16:54

Awesome. I will just drop a plug here that any nonprofit organization that’s interested in joining our Tech for Good program, please go to our website and apply. And we’ll drop a link in our show notes to do that. Just to close the loop on Tech for Good, what advice would you have for any other nonprofits who would benefit from the Tech for Good program?

PAT 17:17

Whether you think you deal in big data or not, data analysis will help you meet your organizational goals. Get your feet wet. Step in, I guess would be the best advice I could give.

JENNY 17:30

Definitely. Simple but true. I feel like especially smaller organizations are hesitant to change the way things have always been done, but you need to take that first step to see how much easier things could be by using data and technology to help you.

PAT 17:46

Absolutely. The efficiencies that can be gained are incredible.

JENNY 17:50

So I wanted to move on-- I wanted to move back to the topic of sustainability. So we are recording this podcast in honor of Earth Month, which is the entire month of April. Here at Alteryx, we’re running a whole month of global programming for our employees around the world to get them involved in volunteering, giving back to the communities, and learning more about sustainability practices and behaviors they can do at home to help fight climate change. Can you tell us about what makes you optimistic about the fight against climate change?

PAT 18:23

What makes me optimistic about the fight against climate change? Good question. So one of the things that I look out at the world today and I see the younger generation that’s coming up has a grasp around the issue of climate change that’s never been seen before. And they not only seem knowledgeable, but willing to make the sacrifices to reach those goals. And this generation that’s coming up is extremely inspiring, especially on the climate change issues.

JENNY 18:53

Absolutely. That makes me really hopeful too. I see a lot of young climate advocates and activists out there really just making sure that their voice is heard and spreading the word to others because sustainability is all about making sure that we create a sustainable future for ourselves and our future generations so it really impacts them. [music] So I’m glad to see that they’re taking a stance and really trying to make a change in their generation.

MADDIE 19:22

Thanks for listening. To learn more about the Alteryx Tech for Good program, check out our show notes at community.alteryx.com/podcast. And be sure to spread the word to nonprofits you love in your community. Jennifer and team would be happy to chat with them. Also, don’t forget that our Inspire conference is coming up this May in Denver, Colorado, and I would love to meet you in person. Links to register and check out the event will be on our show notes or you can go straight to alteryx.com/inspire. Catch you next time.

 

 

 


This episode was produced by Maddie Johannsen (@MaddieJ). Special thanks to @andyuttley for the theme music track, and @mikecusic for our album artwork.