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Power BI helps Improve Ocean Health!

As part of our Using Power BI for the Greater Good blog series, we talked with Ashleigh McGovern who develops strategy, raises money, and crafts communications for the Center for Oceans at Conservation International (CI). Among other things, she’s responsible for driving innovative solutions with CI's global teams, partners, and donors to improve ocean health.

Four years ago, Ashleigh, a trained musician, was using Excel to track her projects. One day, while looking her over her shoulder, husband Tony said, “We can use Microsoft’s Power Tools to lift you out of this heavy manual input and get you all that you need to communicate with leadership.” This was quite a breakthrough, because not only does Power BI help Ashleigh do her job easier and better, it also helps her do it much faster. Finally, she could answer questions immediately and not have to say, “let me get back to you on that.” This freed her up to actually do the work of conservation.

She uses Power BI to drive progress for two important initiatives at CI:

  1. Track and report on collective fundraising efforts for ocean conservation (financials /grants/ donor prospecting)

This first initiative seeks to effectively split fundraising activity across program and geography. Her Power BI dashboard and reports have gained interest from across the enterprise. For a non-profit with offices in 27 countries and a budget of over $150M, that’s a big deal!


  1. Prioritize and communicate large-scale investments for a new global impact project

For this second initiative, Power BI tracks, prioritizes, and communicates opportunities to conserve large areas of ocean to decision-makers and funders. What’s more, Ashleigh has lined up well-known GIS partners to make their already-available integrations within Power BI work better for ocean maps. (The project is still in its infancy – by design, the application she’s built is in alpha.)

What’s the aim of all these Power BI Ocean efforts?

CI takes a holistic, rather than compartmentalized, approach to management of a place. They seek to:

  • Safeguard the ocean places most important for people. “If we don’t change how we use and manage the oceans, we will lose food, jobs and quality of life for communities around the world,” Ashleigh explains.
  • Secure wild catch seafood from source to plate. “Fish is the last wild-caught food we consume as people.”
  • Fight Climate Change. “Nature is our first and last line of defense against climate change.” Mangroves, for example, absorb ten times more carbon than forests by area all while buffering communities from extreme weather and sea-level rise.

Ashleigh’s Power BI dashboards and reports have run flawlessly for four years now without any errors. CI is so impressed, they are replicating Ashleigh’s system institution-wide.

Thank you, Ashleigh, for finding a way to use Microsoft Power Tools to help save the planet!

Ashleigh McGovern is Senior Director of Development + Innovation at CI's Center for Oceans and Co-founder and Design Strategist at em·