Global non-profit War Child connects dispersed volunteers to better support children affected by war
The international non-profit has transformed knowledge management and internal communication with the introduction of centralized intranet for staff and volunteers.
Global non-profit War Child works with children in war zones across the world, striving to protect, educate and stand up for the rights of young people. The charity offers psycho-social support, empowers children to get back into education, equips them with skills for the future and advocates for their rights. After winning Interact’s non-profit intranet competition, they’ve successfully created their new intranet, Phileas, using Interact software.
Phileas has really helped to break down barriers in our organization. Our staff and volunteers feel much more connected to each other and our cause, with increased communication across different locations and between colleagues, who can share where they are and the work they’re doing.
Working towards a world where no child’s life is torn apart by war
“At War Child, it’s our job to protect children in conflict zones to make sure they get to a safe place, that the trauma they carry from seeing appalling incidences is dealt with and to ensure they get an education,” explains CEO Rob William.
“It’s really specialized work, often in very dangerous places. We rely heavily on communication to make sure our people are safe, wherever they’re going – and to keep in touch with each other, whatever happens.”
Since its foundation in 1993, War Child has experienced rapid growth and continues to expand in its bid to reach 260,000 children affected by war by 2019. Alongside money contributed by the United Nations, the organization raises a large portion of its funding from the British public through a variety of unique events and initiatives.
“We have a number of amazing musicians and performers who do concerts for us, which has historically included Sir Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Coldplay, U2, Bob Dylan and more,” says Rob.
“Ambassadors like Carey Mulligan do fundraising events for War Child, alongside amazing donors who run marathons and do incredible challenge events. We also have an in-house gaming team who help create gaming campaigns and events to raise funds.”
War Child UK has around 80 staff in its headquarters based in London. On-the-ground staff operate in locations including Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, creating a dispersed workforce of both paid and volunteer workers.
Dispersed staff, dispersed information
As a non-profit dedicated to its cause, War Child is under considerable pressure to operate with limited resources and restricted budgets to ensure the maximum amount of support reaches the children it serves.
However, the structure of War Child also presents a number of challenges: including language and cultural barriers, differing compliance or international law requirements and the management of crucial knowledge and documents. These not only create difficulties for those staff trying to perform their roles but also have a resulting impact on efficiency and productivity.
“Previously, all we had was a GoogleDocs site. It was really cluttered, nobody knew which file was the right version, what documents were up-to-date and people had different versions saved in different places,” explains Katherine Tedham, Planning and Internal Communications Officer.
“Our Digital Manager Dave called it ‘the place where forms go to die’. There wasn’t any way of connecting staff between country offices and no way for us to check they were all using the same resources. We soon realized we absolutely needed something new.”
A winning cause
“After a program retreat to Uganda in 2014, we realized staff were using different tools and approaches to do the same jobs in different offices. We knew then that we needed a solution to make us more efficient,” says Katherine.
“However, we are a small charity and couldn’t really justify the investment cost many providers were asking.”
The answer came in the form of Interact’s non-profit competition. War Child attended a conference hosted by Interact and identified that this was a solution that matched their needs; they then set to work creating a video entry for the competition. They were elected the lucky winners of an intranet and supporting strategy services.
“It was a great day for the whole organization. We have a good news bell in the office, which we normally ring when we get grants through – on that day, we rang the bell for Interact and Phileas.”
Planning and deploying
War Child’s win included strategy support from Interact in-house experts to help develop the structure and design of the new intranet.
“We held weekly calls with Interact to help us both really understand each other, what we were looking for from the intranet, and how it would work,” Katherine explains.
“Then we had Kelly, Interact’s Intranet Strategist, come in for two full day sessions to map out the structure of the site. We tested it on colleagues around the organization to ensure we’d got it right. We also worked closely with Interact on the design of the site: we wanted to continue the War Child theme, but differentiate from our website. We settled on a softer version of our iconic black, white and red.”
When selecting a name for the new intranet, War Child engaged staff to get early involvement and excitement about the project through a naming competition.
“Phileas was the suggestion from my colleague Helen. She loved the idea of Phileas Fogg, ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ – and as this intranet was going to be connecting all War Child colleagues across the globe, it seemed apt. We took a vote and this was the winner. For the logo, we took away his top hat and moustache and gave him a laptop: emphasizing the communication aspect that would mean we were connecting everybody.”
Due to the dispersed nature of War Child, the organization elected for a phased rollout across its different global offices.
“We started with London, where we had some big organizational training sessions for all colleagues. Colleagues already knew Phileas was coming and many had contributed content for the site,” explains Katherine.
“In our country offices, the roll out was slightly harder. We started doing one office every two months, holding a Skype sessions to deliver training in webinar form. Our training modules went through the background of the site, the structure of pages, how to fill out their profile, upload a profile picture and create a blog. It took almost a year to roll out Phileas to all the offices, which we completed in December 2016.”
A single source of truth, for everyone
One of the greatest benefits offered by Phileas is the Policy Library, which plays a crucial role in a sector that replies on compliance and understanding of best practice to protect both staff and the children they support.
“I’ve worked closely this year with Rob, our CEO, to develop a policy and compliance framework for War Child and used Phileas to display this in the form of a Policy Library,” explains Katherine.
“We divided the organization into seventeen different categories which now display on Phileas and under each one – let’s say for example, Child Safe Guarding – you can now find the policy, any training that’s needed for the policy, and any tools or resources you need to comply with that policy, such as a form to sign saying you’ve read it.
“The ability to have one single and central place for all our policies and documents has made a real difference and our staff can now be confident that they’re accessing the most up-to-date version that they need.”
Phileas is more than just a work and information tool, offering a range of features that have helped connect the non-profit’s dispersed staff across country lines.
“Phileas is now the place where all staff can go to not only find the resources they need for their day-to-day jobs, but to connect with colleagues in different offices and find out more about the people they work with,” says Katherine.
“Staff use it to share what they’re listening to, what podcasts they’re enjoying; they blog or put up posts about where they are and what they’ve been doing. We can use Phileas to share things first-hand, whether it’s about a fundraising event and how much we’ve raised or stories from the ground in the countries we work in.
“The Project Coordinator in Afghanistan in particular is brilliant at regularly publishing blogs, sharing photos and stories in an informal way that helps people connect to the work we do.”
The War Child team also uses gamification elements on Phileas to drive engagement and introduce a more fun feel to the platform.
“One of the favourite features is the Phileas Scoreboard. People are ranked on how much content they put on the intranet and how much they like and comment on other people’s content. It adds a really good competitive edge and encourages people to get involved on Phileas.
“Staff also really love the donuts feature. This is a rewards widget, which lets them give virtual ‘donuts’ to their colleagues to say thank you. It’s a really nice informal way to reach out to someone without sending them an email, and best of all, that recognition is on the intranet for everyone to see.”
To maximize accessibility and unite staff behind the work War Child do, being able to overcome the language barrier is crucial. The organization uses the Google Translate tool to ensure staff can read critical information, news, and blogs, no matter where they’re based.
Supporting staff on the ground
The nature of the work done by War Child means staff safety is of upmost importance, with many working in high-risk environments. Phileas is a critical communication channel for the organization to keep staff informed, particularly in times of crisis.
“With Phileas, I know if I need to tell my staff about something dangerous, I can put it on the intranet and they’ll get the message,” says Rob.
“For example, there is currently an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I need to know that staff are informed and confident about what to do in that circumstance. Now, we have guidance on Phileas which tells them how to stay safe if they’re working in a district with Ebola risk.”
Phileas is also serving as a vital tool to help staff share ideas and support each other across the different countries.
“If we’re learning good techniques in one country, Phileas empowers those staff to share what they’re doing with other countries and help us improve the quality of our work quicker. As an example, we create child-friendly spaces for children who are very young and not yet verbal. Staff can share ideas between countries about how to make those work for the children.
War Child and Interact: A long-term partnership
War Child is continuing to evolve and develop Phileas as their organization expands.
“Phileas is a constant work in progress. Some of the things we’re looking to implement in the near future are the teams module and the new improved mobile app. We’ll also be introducing the mandatory reads functionality for the policy library, further supporting our bid for better compliance,” says Katherine.
“Having been through the process of developing the intranet with Interact and rolling out Phileas, it’s definitely a product and an organization I would recommend.”
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