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Case Study: Schools Without Borders

Using the Cloud for Collaboration

"When the McConnell Foundation connected Schools Without Borders with Anil and the Framework team, it represented the single most significant change within our organization's young trajectory. Continually struggling with rapid growth and committed to responsibly managing a leadership transition, we've failed time and time again to implement a simple and coherent information communication technology strategy for the stakeholders and global network we support. After less than two months, we've already experienced a fundamental and invaluable shift in how we work and think about communications and technology. Even in the last two weeks I've supported two other organizations to implement the online tools we're now equipped with. Bottom line is, Framework's approach to ‘Sharesies’ is the best way for our struggling sector to do more with less...it's a serious and much needed game-changer."

— Chris Kang, Co-founder, Schools Without Borders

Organization

Schools Without Borders (SWB) is an organization that supports a global network of grassroots educators and learning communities. We are a physical and virtual hub, social connecter and collective of human resources. Our mission is to support holistic learning opportunities for young people around the world. Our vision is to improve lives and communities through the power of education. Schools Without Borders strengthens skills, is always evolving, sustains a passion for learning, creates strong networks and ultimately contributes to society.

Challenge

Schools Without Borders has been at the forefront of creating a Youth Organizing Platform on a local and global scale, which has supported a large number of youth-led initiatives with administrative and programmatic supports. This resulted in rapid growth that was difficult to manage. SWB applied for over $1 million of funding to ensure that the supports it was providing to youth-led groups could be sustained and grown, but less than 25% of those funds were secured, leaving the organization with a near-impossible capacity issue. Along with finding a healthier solution for supporting youth organizing, SWB also needed to quickly find ways to do more with less. Some of the keys problems that needed to be addressed included access to resources and training, reporting, project management, as well as workflow and approvals.

Solution

Framework introduced SWB to a completely new way of thinking and working based on a more “Iterative” and “Rapid Prototyping” process that included a lot of white-boarding, reviewing and changing on the fly, constant rolling out of solutions and more value placed on getting information out and work done. Specifically, Framework helped SWB to deploy a set of low-cost, easy-to-use, scalable and cloud-based tools such as Weebly, Smartsheet, Box.net, Google Docs and Salesforce, which has fundamentally changed the way we work. Each of these software packages has allowed us to move our work towards the cloud in different ways.

Weebly has enabled SWB to easily create and manage external and internal websites (http://www.swb.ca, http://www.platform.swb.ca, http://www.ict.swb.ca) through a simple drag and drop interface; Box.net has provided the organization with a cloud-based server solution that is now the central online home for key files; Google Docs has been a key real-time collaboration tool and virtually replaced the use of Word & Excel while also eliminating the confusion of multiple versions and lost revisions; and Salesforce will become the dynamic stakeholder database and “end-point” for SWB’s extensive list of activities and help bring person-to-person relationships back the core of SWB’s work and values.

Next Steps

SWB continued working with Framework as well as Break Even, Exponent Partners and Salesforce Foundation to continue leveraging the possibilities that cloud-based Information & Communication Technology (ICT) tools provide. More specifically, SWB has focused on:

  1. Real-time reporting through its grants with the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Laidlaw Foundation.
  2. Launching an online and automated set of processes, workflows and approvals through Salesforce.
  3. Continuing to develop online resources for youth led organizations through the www.platform.swb.ca site and work closely with the Grassroots Youth Collaborative and ArtReach to eventually create one centralized home through the Grassroots Youth School.
  4. Articulating an ICT development arc (or continuum) so young people can easily access the incredible world of technology and more intentionally make the jump from basic cloud tools like Google Apps to more complex ones such as Smartsheet, eventually using the same tools that the world’s most successful companies and NGOs use, such as Salesforce.