Name: Raul CaceresTitle: General manager – data and technologyCompany: Canteen AustraliaCommenced role: 2019Reporting line: CEOMember of the executive team: YesTechnology Function: 13 staff, 3 direct reports
Over the past four years as general manager – data and technology, Raul Caceres has led a transformative journey at Canteen Australia.
“We have introduced several technological innovations that have significantly impacted our organisation’s operations,” he tells CIO Australia.
“The innovations we have introduced have been driven by our desire to create value for non-profit organisations using data and digital technologies.”
The organisation’s beneficiary-centric approach challenges the traditional mindset of focusing solely on cost-saving initiatives or improving descriptive analytics, Caceres says.
“Instead, we focus on finding ways to make a direct impact on the lives of the people and communities we serve.”
Digital service delivery community
An innovation Caceres is proud to highlight is Canteen Connect – a digital service delivery community which supports young people impacted by cancer. The service was transformed to include people from other organisations supporting young people impacted by cancer.
“We created a platform that resembles a house with multiple doors, where young people can enter through a frontend for the organisation they are receiving support from, but then meet in the same living room and support each other,” says Caceres.
This was a significant technological undertaking which required Canteen Australia to re-architect the application to deploy frontends across multiple countries, including web, iOS and Android versions. At the same it needed to manage the data infrastructure and architecture to comply with regulations in different countries including Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which required adhering to GDPR rules.
The application was also improved by implementing natural language processing to enhance safety by flagging posts that need to be reviewed by users and moderators before publication.
“Furthermore, we explored the use of graph and sentiment analysis to understand community performance better and provide tools to clinicians, says Caceres.
“Our team worked tirelessly to ensure that Canteen Connect was user-friendly, engaging, and accessible to young people. We wanted to create a space where they can connect with others going through similar experiences, regardless of their geographical location or the organisation they belong to.”
Safe and supportive space
The success of Canteen Connect has been outstanding, with young people expressing their gratitude for having a safe and supportive space to connect with others, says Caceres.
“This innovative digital platform has transformed how we deliver our services and enabled us to reach young people from other countries going through similar cancer experiences, providing them with better peer support and helping them find common ground with others in similar situations,” he says.
“We went above and beyond to rearchitect a technological solution that could accommodate other organisations that also wanted to provide similar support to their young people but lacked the budget or technical capability to develop and maintain such an application.”
Canteen Australia has also been able increase its impact by monetising the platform in a way which aligned with the size of organisations wanting to join.
“The success of Canteen Connect has paved the way for us to develop a SaaS version that can be used by other organisations supporting communities with different issues than cancer,” says Caceres.
“This expansion will allow us to provide a unique value proposition to other non-profit organisations, enabling them to improve their service delivery and enhance the support they provide to their
Machine learning models
Meanwhile, Canteen Australia has also employed machine learning to improve several functions across the organisation.
Machine learning models were implemented to support fundraising, which has helped reduce attrition by 3 to 10 per cent, while increasing average gift values and providing accurate predictions for future planning with less than half a per cent margin of error.
Machine learning has also been deployed for service delivery to identify situations where young people share personally identifiable details, while sentiment analysis has made additional tools available for clinicians to better support young people based on their expressed needs.
In addition, the use of graph analysis has helped the organisation understand the behaviour of its peer-to-peer support groups, which has impacted program design and delivery.
And, using an API-first approach has reduced the time clinicians spend on data entry, as the client information is already in the systems they use.
Combined these initiatives have improved Canteen Australia’s fundraising efforts, service delivery, and support for smaller charities, says Caceres.
“Our fundraising efforts have been enhanced by implementing predictive modelling for regular giving income, machine learning to reduce attrition, and using machine learning models to improve donor targeting.”
In addition to these initiatives, Canteen Australia identified an opportunity to support smaller cancer charities by providing them with low-cost strategic advice and practical expertise on digital technologies, data science, data engineering, and general data and technical support.
Multidisciplinary working groups
To develop these innovations, Canteen Australia implemented multidisciplinary working groups and digital design sessions with young people to gather insights and help the design process.
“We also democratised access to data and provided support to people through the process of discovering insights gained from this new information,” says Caceres.
“What is unique about this approach is the way in which we are working to change the paradigm of what non-profits are capable of achieving with data and digital technologies, which is not very common in Australia.”
Overall, these innovations have delivered significant value to Canteen Australia, allowing it to make a more direct impact on the people and communities it serves.
Louis van Wyk