How to best engage and train volunteers in using new tools
HOW WAS THE CHALLENGE AFFECTING THEM AND/OR THE PEOPLE THEY WERE HELPING:
Volunteers are often forced to juggle multiple apps to coordinate refugee response.
Important information gets lost, communication becomes too complicated and chaos is created.
NAME OF ORGANIZATION:
TYPE OF ORGANIZATION:
DESCRIBE THE TEAM:
Remote team spread across the world (Greece, USA, Kuala Lumpur) coordinating aid availability and deliveries in Greece.
MarhaCar requests a list of needs from camps across Greece so they can match them with aid available in warehouses and arrange deliveries by MarhaCar drivers.
LOCATION OF ACTIVITY:
Lesvos & Northern Greece
DESCRIBE THE SOLUTION (what actions did they take, resources they used):
The team used familiar tech platforms and simple rules to make sure everyone could easily and quickly access their services.
The success of their system is based on two simple rules:
- Use tech tools that people are already using
- Use a simple, repeatable format that people can easily learn and apply.
MC used WhatsApp as its main way to communicate with camps and warehouses.
- Most volunteers in Lesvos were already using it
- It’s an app that is easy to install on any smartphone.
- Avoiding FB which requires clicking & searching
Results? Easier to use meant being used more.
- By not creating its own app or tech platform, MC kept the app switching to a minimum and had very little to teach to users.
We all know that one of the risks of chat apps is that it gets noisy, very quickly.
- MC separated the Requests from Camps channel from the Responses from Warehouses channel.
Result? Less notifications.
- Mc used a set format to collect or send out requests.
Result? The channels also had an increasingly neat appearance.
- Camp requesting (or warehouse supplying)
- AMOUNT, Item needed.
The discussion was kept to a minimum, with coordinators only notifying the channels when their shifts ended or when there is an important piece of info to relay.
Through repetition, clearly explaining the rules, kind requests and always keeping the tone professional, MC got people to adopt the language and format they practiced, making communication even more efficient.
In a place as chaotic as Lesvos in the winter of 2015-16, MC was an organised, streamlined hub of info and solutions.
IMPACT IN NUMBERS (How many people benefiting from this solution? How many deliveries did they make? How many classes? How many meals cooked?):
- 300+ deliveries in a year
- Hundreds of volunteers used the platform or benefited from swift deliveries
- Thousands of refugees benefited from having the right items in the right place
- Improved quality of aid stocked in camps
- Less aid wasted sitting in warehouses
- Camps increasingly took stock to request items in advance
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
- Wifi availability (lack of wifi in certain places created a lot of issues)
- Use of smartphone:
- not everyone had one and MC had to provide some smartphones to people that were key users of the service
- Think about being accessible over the phone too on a low cost line
- Getting everyone on board:
- Reach out to all the key players of the project and make sure to get them situated on your new tool. Make note of their problems and fix them!
- Keeping track of when volunteers change:
- Whoever is in charge of a warehouse this week, might not be next week! Make sure to check in and add the new volunteers.
- Direct contact with those that created issues:
- If people are creating problems take the discussion out of the platform. It’s interrupting the actual use of a tool that is there to help. Address it with them, be kind. Once solved and once action has been taken, get back into the platform and issue a short statement.
WHY IS IT A SMART AID?
EFFICIENCY: make the complicated process of finding aid items that match the needs quick and easy.
TECH: use low tech tools open to all to make the process easier and more direct.