Bristol undergraduates launch new wing of 180 Degrees Consulting

22 April 2020 4 min. read
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Undergraduates from the University of Bristol have launched a pro-bono data-science consultancy service for charities and social enterprises. Operating under the global umbrella of the 180 Degrees network, the group supports third sector entities to optimise the delivery of key services and improve operational visibility.

The environment for non-profits and charities is increasingly difficult in the UK. Dwindling donations and a fall in state funding have pushed many such groups to the brink in recent years, while the UK’s largest third sector entities saw over £10 million added to their collective accounting bill over the last four years. That was before the sudden onset of the coronavirus saw donations further shrink in 2020.

In order to survive in these difficult times, many non-profits and charities are turning to the consulting sector for much needed advice. 180 Degrees Consulting is a student-run consulting firm positioned to meet this need, and without adding further financial strain on the third sector.

With operations in more than 30 countries and branches at over 80 leading universities, 180 Degrees is the world’s largest volunteer consultancy, and has forged partnerships with a number of firms – recently including Sia Partners in Belgium, and Q5 Partners in the UK – to mentor and coach students throughout their pro-bono consulting engagements.

Bristol undergraduates launch new wing of 180 Degrees network

Now, a new team of students based at the University of Bristol have joined the network to help reach more charities in the UK. Co-founded by Jack Elliott, Tom Steggall and Jake Ireland, the Data & Analytics team's services range from improving operational visibility through the building of custom dashboards, to optimising the delivery of key charity support services through the application of complex machine learning models.

In the first six months of operation, the group has already worked with clients including St Peter’s Hospice, Above & Beyond and Age UK Bristol, some of the South West’s most influential charities with a combined income of nearly £30 million. 180 Degrees' Bristol branch's corporate partners meanwhile consist of Tata Consultancy Services, Capgemini, Newton Europe and Accenture.

Speaking on the challenges facing UK charities, Steggall explained, “To be successful in today’s data-driven world, it is becoming increasingly important for organisations to harness the power of advanced analytics and data science techniques. With budgets stretched, often those operating in the third sector do not have the necessary time or resources to invest in this resulting in slower adoption of the rapid technological change seen elsewhere.”

Primarily the team works to enable charities and non-profits to leverage the power of data and maximise their social impact. Illustrating this, one project – completed in collaboration with the Centre for Thriving Places (formerly Happy City) – utilised a branch of machine learning to mine the text contained in tweets. The technique, which aims to computationally understand and extract meaning from human language, was applied in identifying tweet sentiment later grouping by location to calculate an overall wellness measure for a given local authority area. The team hopes this analysis will be used to inform future policy decisions.

More recently, meanwhile, the team has begun work on applying a technique known as Network Analysis to inform client Supporter Journeys, a framework widely utilised within the charity sector for tracking supporter engagement over time. The team believes by analysing the ‘donation paths’ of donors, the technique can provide their clients with profound insights into their supporter base helping to unlock value that would otherwise remain hidden.

Elliot stated, “Over the next few years we plan to grow our operation to deliver beneficial solutions to as many charities and non-profits as possible. Charities that may be interested in utilising the capabilities of machine learning and data analytics should please reach out to one of the team or contact the branch directly to discuss available services.”