Doing Good with Data: How the Data School & Connect2Help 211 Partnered to Make a Difference in the Community

First, I would like to thank Ann Hartman and the entire team at Connect2Help 211 for providing the Data School with a great, challenging project. Without projects like this, the Data School wouldn’t be nearly as effective. Thanks Ann!!

In July 2015, Connect2Help 211, an Indianapolis-based non-profit service that facilitates connections between people who need human services and those who provide them, reached out to the Tableau Zen Masters as part of a broader effort that the Zens participate in for the Tableau Foundation. Their goals and needs were simple:

Create an ETL process that extracts Refer data, transforms it, and loads it into a MYSQL database that can be connected to Tableau.

Craig Bloodworth and I immediately thought this would be a great project for the Data School. Not only would it be a great technical learning experience, but it would also be a great way for them to give back to the community. We planned the project for the second cohort of the Data School before the Christmas break, their third week of training. We had several meetings with the leadership team at Connect2Help 211 to discuss the project requirements. In this post, I’m going to detail the process and the outcomes for the project.

The week started with a great project kickoff in which the Connect2Help 211 team outlined their requirements, including review the database structure and what they were looking for as outputs. We deliberately planned the project for this specific week because it was also the week that we introduced the team to Alteryx. We knew that the team could use Alteryx to prepare, cleanse and analyse the data. Ultimately, the team wanted to create a workflow in Alteryx that Connect2Help 211 could use in the future.

After the project kickoff, the team went into planning mode and came up with nine projects for the week: one to create the ETL workflow and eight visualisations, which I will detail below.

Tuesday was spent working with Chris Love to begin connecting to the data with Alteryx and seeing what basic data preparation could be done. The data turned out to be much messier than the team anticipated, which set of alarm bells for them, but got me excited because I knew it would be a bigger challenge for them to overcome. By the end of the day Tuesday, the team had created something that they could connect to in Tableau.

Wednesday rolls along and the team is using Tableau to explore the data sets. I observed many of them creating groups in Tableau, editing aliases, creating calculated fields to clean up the data, etc. Yet no one was sharing their work with the others and none of this would be of use to the customer. I stopped the team and made them focus on the primary goals of the project: create a reusable ETL workflow whose output is a clean data set. With this in mind, the team regrouped and talked through all of the changes they were making to the data in Tableau and pushed these changes back into the Alteryx workflow. By the end of the day Thursday, they created this incredible workflow that results in a sparkly clean data set.

Alteryx Workflow

Alteryx Workflow

Yes, this looks amazingly complex, but it absolutely accomplished the goal of creating a reusable ETL workflow. Ben Moss took the lead in creating this workflow, so he kicked off the project presentations on Friday by talking the Connect2Help 211 team through what the team had to do and how Connect2Help 211 could use this going forward.

From there, the team went through the eight different visualisation that they created. Keep in mind, Connect2Help 211 wasn’t expecting any visualisations as part of the output, so to say they were excited with what the team created in just a week is a massive understatement. You can click on any of the images below to view the interactive versions on Tableau Public.

Benedetta started off the visualisation presentations. Her goals was to create an advertisement, an emotive piece to perhaps influence legislation, possibly in infographic format. The purpose of this design is to inform the public about the impact Connect2Help 211 is having on the community and the macro picture of the services provided. Here’s what she created:



If we had stopped here, the team at Connect2Help 211 would have been over the moon with what the team had done, but we had so much more to share.

Next up was Simona. Her goals was to create an explanatory dashboard that provides a general overview of the situation and explains what is going on as it stands. She created this dashboard that allows the management team to effectively plan staffing, understand who is calling and what they are calling about.




Rob created this view that shows the geographic trends by zip codes, e.g., seasonality/times of calls by area. This view helps the management team understand when and where they are receiving calls from so that they can effectively plan staffing for their call centers.




Jules create this KPI dashboard that allows the management team at Connect2Help 211 to monitor the performance of the services they are providing. This dashboard helps them understand whether they are meeting the needs of the community, which needs have gone unmet the most, and where those unmet needs are taking place.




Anuka focused on the needs that are being met vs. those that are not met and why over time. This dashboard allows Connect2Help 211 to dig deeper into whose needs are not being met, what needs are not being met, and why those are not being met. This view also allows you to see a geographical distribution of where the needs aren’t met.



The visualisation that Nai created followed a similar theme to Anuka except Nai’s allows you to drill into a specific location. The user can enter their zip code and obtain a snapshot of the unmet needs in their area over time.




Ben was back again, this time review the visualisation he created which allow you to find ways to offer help. This view allows the public to view the problems in their area so that they can best determine where their volunteer services are needed most.




Wrapping up the amazing presentations was Lorna with this case study that focused on the contact markers, which is one of the key attributes that Connect2Help 211 uses to monitor their services. Markers are keywords that are recorded for each phone call to 211 and help the management team understand the underlying situations for each call. This allows the management team to see the trends for each type of marker.



What an incredible week! When Craig and I first met with the Connect2Help 211 team they were understandably skeptical about what a team could accomplish in just a bit over four days. We asked them to trust us, and as you can see from the work the team created, they were really able to help Connect2Help 211 make a giant leap forward in their ETL processes and their visualisations.

Ann Hartman, Director of Strategic Data Analysis at Connect2Help 211, summed it up best:

We were absolutely blown away by your presentation today. This is proof that a small group of dedicated people working together can change an entire community. With the Tableau workbooks you created, we can show the community what is needed where, and how people can help in their communities.

You can watch the project presentations below. If you’d like to work on a project with the Data School, email me and let’s have a chat.

Andy Kriebel
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