S.A.L.V.E. International (Support and Love via Education) is a small international development charity that works to reduce the number of children living on the streets in Uganda through care, counselling, education, and family resettlement.
Nicola Sansom talks to Janine Edwards at The FSI about their use of digital and how it offers their beneficiaries a chance to have their views heard.
Tell us how you are currently using digital to underpin organisational delivery and strategy
Our primary use of digital solutions is through our website and social media. We have a blogging rota in place, which is not only useful in ensuring that our various media platforms are kept up-to-date, but is also a good way of connecting staff members and encouraging communication within the team.
As an international charity, digital channels are the most feasible way of staying in touch with our team of staff/volunteers and supporters alike; the charity uses social media, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to share what is happening at the charity on a daily basis, and uses Google Analytics to monitor where our website is being accessed, and how often.
Give an example of a recent digital solution you've implemented?
S.A.L.V.E. also runs the ‘Inequality Question’ website (www.inequalityquestion.com). The website is a way for S.A.L.V.E.’s beneficiaries to have their views heard on important topics; each month, they pick a question related to inequality, which is then debated by respondents from all over the world.
What were the driving factors for change?
It was initially inspired by requests from local schools for a penpal-type scheme with the children that S.A.L.V.E. works with. However, due to the nature of our work, logistical issues made this very difficult to carry out. Most of S.A.L.V.E.’s beneficiaries lead quite unstable lives, and this in addition to the geographical distance involved makes implementing a penpal-type scheme very difficult.
Offering a digital solution is an easier and more flexible way to connect people, and also puts our beneficiaries in the driving seat, allowing them to set the topic of the debate.
What have been key challenges?
Funding has perhaps been the biggest challenge – the organisation had little, if any, money to invest in the scheme, and originally relied on volunteer support to set the website up.
It has been so successful since then (with people taking part from 42 countries so far and hundreds of people engaging with the question every month) that we are currently considering applying for funding in order to develop it further; this would possibly take the form of hiring a paid web developer rather than relying on pre-designed widgets, and possible advertising the scheme more widely.
However, finding sustained funding, or funding specifically for development purposes remains an issue, as does finding enough time to invest in the project and the right technological resources to operate it.
There is also an issue with continuity, in that organisations and individuals S.A.L.V.E. has formed partnerships with on the project tend to drift away in the long-term due to lack of sustained funding, time commitments, or staff changes.
How have you been able to resource these developments?
Mostly through volunteer support – the Inequality Question website was set up in-house, with help from one of our volunteers, who happens to have the right skills. Since then, it’s been kept going by staff; we haven’t had any external help.
What has been the impact on your beneficiaries?
A key issue that S.A.L.V.E. have identified in our work is that our beneficiaries often have little to no voice in the wider community.
The Inequality Question site empowers our beneficiaries, giving them a voice, and offering them a safe platform that can be used to engage with other people.
This case study has been produced as part of our Digital Leadership 101 series of training and advice for CEOs and trustees of small charities, funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and run in partnership with The FSI, NAVCA and London Plus.
Superhighways is currently seeking funding to offer further digital leadership and transformation advice to the sector. Please share your ideas, challenges or successes with us.