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Contributed by

Citizens Advice Manchester logo


Citizens Advice Manchester is one of the 280 independent charities that make up Citizens Advice’s national network in England & Wales.

The charity offers free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to Manchester’s 550,000 inhabitants on a range of issues. Although people can make contact online or in person, most queries arrive by telephone, with the charity’s team of ten advisors handling an average of 6,000 calls a month.

Citizens Advice network’s tech team created a dashboard that captures data in order to offer more detailed information on inbound calls, predict call surges, and support phone workers during periods of increased demand. Consequently, the team were able to help thousands more people who were calling in for help.

Recipe status

This recipe has been in use since July 2019.

We are not sharing this recipe as the perfect solution to a problem, but we believe Citizens Advice Manchester’s learnings could be very useful to other organisations.

Users and needs served

  • As a member of staff, I need to improve data literacy and confidence across teams
  • As a member of staff, I want to use data to more effectively understand the needs of our service users

Software and tools used

Google Data Studio

Google Data Studio is a data visualisation tool that allows you to create dashboards to present data in a visually engaging way.


Google Data Studio is free to use.

Google for Nonprofits is available at discounted charity rates through the [Charity Digital Exchange] (


Google Data Studio is free to use, which is helpful for smaller charities on a budget.

Google Data Studio is easy to use and free resources are available to help you get to grips with the software.

Google Data Studio is capable of processing large amounts of data very quickly.

Google Sheets

Google Sheets is a free online tool that allows you to create spreadsheets.

Google for Nonprofits is available at discounted charity rates through the [Charity Digital Exchange] (


Google Sheets is free to use.


Google Sheets is free to use, which is helpful for smaller charities on a budget.

Google Sheets is easy to use and free resources are available to help you get to grips with the software.

Google Sheets enables charities to work collaboratively in real-time across a live document.

Big Query

BigQuery is a fully managed, serverless data warehouse that enables scalable analysis over petabytes of data.


Pricing for BigQuery varies but you can find out more about plans here.


BigQuery is a powerful tool for analysing big data.

The platform is affordable considering the powerful analytics it is capable of performing.

You will probably need third party support or possibly an in-house specialist when using this tool.

Recipe steps

1. Baseline where you are

Work out where you are as a charity in terms of your data literacy.

You can assess this with Data Orchard’s Data Maturity Index to work out what stage you’re at with your current use of data.

2. Conversations with stakeholders

Speak to leadership teams and stakeholders about where you currently stand with data and how you could transition to be more clever in collecting data to deliver better services.

Provide insight as to how data can improve your services and create a better understanding of users. You can also look at where there is lots of data but it is not in a good format. This highlights gaps within your services and provides a starting point for where to implement data collection.

3. Find tools

Choose the tools that your staff will be most comfortable with and that make sense for your organisation. If you’re already using tools provided by Google, this recipe will function as an extension of your existing work. Similarly, Office 365 offers Power BI, so this could be handy if you already use this software.

Consider how the tools suit your level of data maturity so that you don’t overwhelm your organisation with something that may be too advanced for your current level. You can then consider updating software as you progress in your data literacy.

4. Create a dashboard

Using Google BigQuery and Google Data Studio, create a dashboard to ensure that data visualisations can be provided when reporting to other team members.

5. Train staff

For the Google tools mentioned, you can access learning materials and webinars on how to use the software.

Courses can also be provided on big data and data insights, helping more of your team to be comfortable with data.

6. Continue implementing data in your work

When you find that the work you’ve implemented in one team or section of your organisation has improved, you can start scaling this up to different areas so that your organisation gradually becomes more efficient and data literate.

Provide proof of success to sponsors to fund the continuation of your work in other areas.

Look into additional and more complex tools as you begin to feel more comfortable.


Democratise data within the company and ensure that other teams feel more comfortable in using it and understanding it. Once one team demonstrates the positives of data in service delivery, more teams may come forward to get training and software for their own departments.


Some charities may feel uncomfortable about these tools and see them as monitoring performance. Be open with the use of data and have a collective and collaborative approach to data as opposed to a top-down philosophy.

Be wary of data bias – having only one member of the team to collect and report data can lead to biased presentation of data supporting an agenda as opposed to showing gaps and issues in your charity’s work.

Points of contact

For further information about this recipe, you can contact:

Stuart Pearson, Chief Digital Officer


Many thanks to Citizens Advice Manchester for contributing this recipe.


This recipe is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

That means you are free to copy, redistribute, and build on the text of this recipe, but only for non-commercial purposes (if you want to use it for commercial purposes, get in touch with us at [email protected]). You must give credit to both Catalyst and Citizens Advice Manchester and link back to this page. If you build on this recipe then you must share your version under this same licence.

Recipe published on April 26th, 2021. Last updated August 6th, 2021