Oxfam’s communication transformation

Last year Facebook launched its Workplace communication tool, enabling co-workers around the world to stay connected and improve collaboration. Already, many organisations around the world have adopted the use of Workplace by Facebook, including international nonprofit Oxfam.

Okta‘s cloud-based identity management service was key in the collaboration between Workplace and Oxfam, enabling more than 4,700 volunteers and office workers to access the technology as well as multiple other applications.

In an interview with Jim Daniell, COO, Oxfam America, Information Age discovered what impact this technology has had.

How did the relationship between Okta and Oxfam come about?

We began using Okta to link to Box, so it was a natural progression for us to use it to link Oxfam with Workplace by Facebook. Okta provides easy integration, which meant Oxfam employees could use the same username and password they use every day to connect to Workplace.

Okta also provides the tools we need to automatically provision Workplace accounts based on our employee’s profile.

How has Workplace by Facebook and Okta’s technology transformed Oxfam’s operations? What are the real world applications of the technology for Oxfam?

There are 19 Oxfam offices located around the world. Each has its own set of collaboration tools, intranets, file shares, and preferred cloud tools –understandably, this creates a complicated technology ecosystem.

For example, if you’re sitting in Mozambique and you’re an expert in your field, the chances are your peers are not going to be in the same location as you. We needed to find a better way for our users to interact and share knowledge with one another.

>See also: How digital technology is transforming internal communication

Until recently, this meant our different teams were unable to share basic information efficiently when trying to respond to any emergency. With the Nepal earthquake of 2015 the response was greatly improved.

Previously, they were left to use email, which can make online collaboration quite difficult. When you’re busy responding to an emergency, the last thing you want is to be unable to find important files or pass on information quickly.

To combat these collaboration hurdles, we looked to create a unified stack to connect all Oxfam employees worldwide. We started with Box’s file sharing capabilities at the bottom of the stack.

Over time, this grew to an intranet for our business’ day-to-day archives. We found that, on top of the file sharing and intranet, our employees wanted a social space for work, separate from their personal social accounts, which is where Workplace sits in our stack.

All of these technologies are integrated with Okta to allow us to keep track of identities across all the different tools.

With our users scattered all over the world, for us technology is a way to tear down barriers between groups within our organisation. Oxfam uses Workplace to allow dispersed employees to connect with each other.

Prior to Workplace, we had to physically fly employees around the world for them to share their best practices.

Workplace offers a ‘digital closeness’, which allows users to feel as if they are just at the end of a digital corridor. Our employees are in their familiar Facebook environment but connecting with their colleagues instead of their social friends.

How has the adoption process been, have people been able to take to the new technology straight away or does it require training and buy-in from employees?

It really boils down to familiarity with the Facebook application.

1.7 billion people worldwide already use the platform socially. Not having to train employees how to use a new tool is one of the main reasons for choosing Workplace. The easier it is to use a tool, the faster users will adopt it.

For any organisation that uses multiple business applications, the main challenge is how to link them efficiently.

>See also: Top 5 collaboration and communication predictions for 2017

Password management is a pain point for many organisations. To combat this, we turned to Okta. We already had over 6,500 users connecting to Box via Okta, so with them we were able to automatically provision all of the Box users with Facebook accounts in the first phase of our roll out of Workplace.

How do you see this partnership growing in the future? What other innovations are in the pipeline?

Internally, we are looking to continue rolling out the platform to our workforce. Our aim is to add an additional 1,500 internal users and up to 25,000 volunteers over the next 12 months.

The more people that are using the platform, the more we can ensure they are collaborating amongst each other to fulfil Oxfam’s mission and help people worldwide.

Using technology to impact the lives of people around the world ties into our work at NetHope, an organisation of NGOs committed to improving IT connectivity among humanitarian organisations in developing countries and areas impacted by disaster.

Through our work with the organisation, we are looking to act as a catalyst for productive collaboration, innovation, and problem-solving to reimagine how technology can improve our world.

>See also: Facebook’s Workplace platform: a sign of the changing workspace

Additionally, NetHope, along with Team Rubicon and the IRC, have formed a coalition called ImpactCloud.

Okta is part of this alliance, which links them and other top tech vendors – including Box, Salesforce, DocuSign, Splunk, Tableau and Twilio – with 40+ global NGOs that seek to improve collaboration and cross cloud innovation to enable humanitarian impact.

We all share the belief that through combining our resources and technology, we are able to help emergency responders accelerate cloud adoption and innovation to make a difference in saving people’s lives.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...