For a nonprofit organization, creating innovative and sustainable digital solutions are the key to driving long term success and making a positive social impact. LeaveNoOneBehind (LNOB), a refugee aid nonprofit organization, partnered with Thoughtworks to develop a simple and innovative website solution to connect volunteers with support aid organizations. Together with LNOB, Thoughtworks delivered a pilot MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in just six weeks.
Effectively scaling support for volunteers during the crisis in the Ukraine
LNOB is a nonprofit based in Berlin, offerings a platform which enables refugee aid organizations to provide volunteer support to those who would otherwise be left behind in times of crisis. Immediately after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, LNOB started ukraine.lnob.net, a website where volunteers and support aid organizations can register themselves to assist refugees fleeing from the Ukraine. The goal is to effectively match volunteers with support aid organizations so that refugees from the Ukraine can receive aid quickly.
LNOB’s drive for acquiring support was a success. By the time Thoughtworks started to collaborate with them, over 11,000 volunteers and 104 support aid organizations had registered on their website, with this number increasing everyday. The challenge became matching the offers of volunteers to the needs of support aid organizations. Matching was a manual process, requiring a lot of time and effort. LNOB needed a solution which enabled them to make high quality connections quickly.
Finding the core problem to solve
For LNOB finding the right volunteer for any particular opportunity was a manual task, often requiring someone to search through hundreds of lines of volunteer data and assess their compatibility line by line. On average LNOB was successfully matching less than 2 volunteers to support organizations per week.
Through market research, Thoughtworks found a variety of existing nonprofit platforms that enabled volunteers and initiatives to find each other. To add to this, new Ukraine aid initiatives have been popping up every day since the war began.
As the team dug deeper they noticed many existing nonprofit platforms focused on enabling volunteers to find the right opportunities, rather than enabling opportunity providers to find the right volunteers.
LNOB had a vision: Initiatives could specify the type of support they needed and would be instantly connected to the right volunteers. Through analysis, collaborative ideation and experimentation, the Thoughtworks team designed and developed a lightweight tool which enabled initiative owners to search for particular volunteers, by language, location and types of support they needed, and contact them directly.
Initiatives could further improve the accuracy of their match by comparing other information about volunteers such as their license type, what kind of accommodation they could provide and when they registered.
Turn constraints into opportunities
The different initiatives have no clearly defined shape or form. Some are big, some are small, some are funded and some are not. Moreover people move a lot within initiatives (support aid organizations). In lieu of this Thoughtworks developed a three part research approach: A survey which was sent to over 200 volunteers and initiatives, rapidly testing a prototype of the tool over two days with subject matter experts within LNOB and a six week pilot phase with real initiative members.
As the numbers of displaced refugees increased so did the team’s feeling of responsibility. They all found a sense of purpose in building this tool and they were all inspired to go above and beyond to ensure its success, with many team members choosing to contribute further in their own time.
The experience that Thoughtworks brought to the table was critical in helping us respond at speed to the crisis in Ukraine. The best practices they brought with them were fundamental in helping us to design and build the foundation for a future platform which would enable us to connect volunteers to those in need. To be able to build this from scratch with the help and tools of Thoughtworks was exciting and inspiring for us all.
Agile is more than a software development methodology
In this project, being flexible and responsive to change was essential. The nature of a nonprofit, unlike a bigger organization, meant the team was capable of moving at speeds many of them weren't used to. Adjusting the ways of working and style of communication as they were delivering enabled them to handle changing requirements and priorities.
By the end of six weeks the team had a functioning and tested tool that solved a core problem for LNOB. Initiatives could now find volunteers that matched their needs within seconds and contact them directly. This would enable displaced Ukrainians to be provided with temporary accommodation, deal with authorities, organize visas and organize transport from A to B.
What the team managed to achieve in such a short time was truly remarkable but Thoughtworks has been bringing ideas to market, at speed, for decades. Much of the team’s success should be accredited to LNOB. As a group they were incredibly innovative, daring and outcome focused. Their trust, agility and decisiveness were in fact our biggest propellent.