Kirsty Marrins: Workplace for Good is driving social impact in the charity sector

But digital platforms will work successfully only if charities take the time and effort to invest in setting them up

Kirsty Marrins
Kirsty Marrins

Earlier this month I attended Workplace for Good’s first birthday in London to hear about its success over the past year and how it is helping charities drive connection and collaboration, in turn driving social impact.

Facebook introduced the internal communications platform Workplace back in 2016, and I covered it in this very publication as a tool that was improving charities’ internal communications. Workplace for Good is the free version of this for charities, non-profits and educational organisations, which was launched in June 2018.

At the event Beth Murray, who leads the global Workplace for Good programme, said: "At Workplace, we want to do all that we can to drive social impact. But the fact is that charities are the experts on social change and are best placed to go into the world’s most challenging social situations and directly change lives.

"The best way we can support this is by making our platform available for free."

The platform was launched a year ago on the premise that Workplace was a good product that makes organisations stronger and that, by making it accessible to charities, good things would happen.

"One year later, we’re humbled that hundreds of thousands of charity workers around the world trust us to connect their organisations, drive teamwork and build a strong internal culture," Murray said. More than eight in 10 (87 per cent) of those charity workers, she added, had told them Workplace was an important tool in achieving their social mission.

So how are charities using the platform and what difference is it making internally? For John Townsend, head of internal communications at Unicef UK, it’s a valuable and visual way to share information across the organisation, and keep colleagues engaged and connected.

"Our people need to be able to work in an agile and flexible way, whether they are working in schools and hospitals in the UK, staying in touch from home or travelling to one of the 190 countries and territories where we work to help children in danger," he said.

"Workplace gives everyone the opportunity to share images and videos of their projects in a personal and authentic way that simply wasn’t possible before. We’ve seen posts on topics and situations ranging from live videos from refugee camps, fundraising galas and sporting events, to amazing personal stories on mental health and inclusivity.

"All of which makes our aim to encourage employee voice, break down silos and inspire colleagues about the direct work we are doing to help children that much easier."

The beauty of Workplace lies in the ease with which everyone, no matter what their role, can see what their colleagues are doing in terms of delivering services, communicating from the field or simply presenting at conferences. It helps them feel connected and brings the work of the charity to life.

For the social business Catch22 Workplace is more than just a communications tool. Eleanor Riley, head of external affairs at the charity, explained that it does so much more than just conquer the logistical difficulties of communicating across services.

"Every day, Catch22’s 1,000 people work across the country in some of the most challenging professions," she said.

"We’re on the front line in prisons, teaching children who’ve been excluded from mainstream schools, supporting victims of crime, helping families with children on the edge of care. Workplace lets us see and celebrate our impact every day."

In my opinion, one of Workplace’s biggest strengths is its familiarity. Most staff already have a personal Facebook profile, so the barrier to setting up an organisational one and using it for work is low.

"It far exceeds the engagement we had with a traditional, expensive intranet platform," Riley said. "Our team were saved countless days of training too: the familiar Facebook interface meant that, once we launched, everyone could just get stuck in."

As well as bringing people together across teams and departments, it’s a fantastic resource for comms teams. As Sally Clark, head of marketing and communications at the London Early Years Foundation, explained: "We've been using Workplace since April 2017 and find it incredibly useful for sharing ideas and being inspired. As a social enterprise with 38 nurseries across London, Workplace helps us to feel connected."

The nursery staff share posts and photos showing what the children at their nursery are learning that day or week, which helps generate ideas and inspiration across nurseries within the foundation. It’s a great way for staff in the marketing team to let colleagues know about campaigns they are working on and how they can get involved, Clark says.

"It's also the ideal place for us to see what the nurseries are up to, which can help us with our social media content as well as potential PR opportunities."

One great example of this was when nursery manager Gemma Morris posted in Workplace that they had set up a food bank at the nursery to help parents who were going without food so that their children could eat.

"We then organised for Gemma to speak to the press and got lots of press coverage, which generated donations to the food bank," Clark says.

"This also helped increase awareness of the fact that LEYF is a social enterprise, which allows us to offer the same high-quality nursery experience to families across the city regardless of their background or circumstances."

It's apparent that Workplace for Good is a key tool in helping charities improve their internal communications, which can then drive social impact.

However, it works successfully only if charities take the time and effort to invest in setting it up strategically, have a content strategy for internal comms and remember that it’s about the people, not the technology.

Kirsty Marrins is a digital communications consultant

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