Oxfam

Delivering aid faster than ever

PROBLEM

Oxfam was struggling to deliver aid quickly because it would take eight to 12 weeks to set up functioning offices in new locations. It was also challenging to manage content governance and respond to new regulations like GDPR because of fragmented legacy systems.

 

SOLUTION

Employees, volunteers and partners instantly manage aid delivery on Box when they arrive at a new location. Consistent security and compliance policies have been applied across content centralized on Box.

 

OUTCOME

Oxfam has improved the speed of delivering aid because it can get new programs up and running quickly. It has reduced exposure to compliance and security risks and responds more quickly to evolving regulations.

Nearly one out of every three people in the world lives in poverty. And the richest eight people in the world are collectively wealthier than the poorest 3.8 billion people combined. It’s facts like these that motivate Michael Duggan, the CIO of Oxfam International, to push for change every day. But to make the most impact on poverty possible, digital transformation is critical. 

Oxfam has been around for over 70 years. In that time, the Oxfam mission has transformed to focus not only on direct delivery of aid, but also on tackling the root cause of injustice and poverty: inequality. With employees based in over 90 countries and with 19 separate affiliates under its umbrella, Oxfam campaigns for social justice, works to change laws and practices that keep people trapped in poverty, creates programs to help people assert their rights and is a first responder on the ground during times of crisis. 

Oxfam + Box

Over the years, Oxfam has acquired many legacy technology systems. Michael Duggan is leading the organization forward from its legacy state toward digital transformation and describes his role as “leveraging technology to deliver impact.” He wants Oxfam to be an effective organization that delivers the best possible return for supporters and donors, and that ultimately delivers the most impact possible to the people that Oxfam helps.

 

Committing to digital innovation

To maximize its impact in the digital age, Duggan realized that Oxfam needed to start making digital investments at scale, and he knew this would require a collaborative effort across the entire organization. So a key part of the Oxfam digital transformation strategy has been to bring Oxfam's 19 different affiliates together. “We come from very different backgrounds, different histories, but also different technology stacks," he says. "We've leveraged [the] cloud to join us together and be a more effective organization.” For example, Oxfam not only uses Box but also Okta for single-sign on and Workplace by Facebook to connect staffers that use different email systems. 

Similarly, Oxfam folds best-of-breed cloud services into many of its legacy systems to elevate their utility and usability. This approach also makes compliance, data protection and privacy requirements easier to meet. Duggan is keenly aware that the nonprofit landscape is littered with “failed technology implementations," which then result in wasted donor money and less impact for those in need. Duggan emphasizes that the sector should be building tools around digital impact with top cloud providers rather than proprietary back-office systems. Cloud solutions like Box have propelled Oxfam into and through its digital transformation journey. 

 

Technology to respond to evolving regulations

With 19 affiliates, 10,000 employees and tens of thousands of volunteers and external trustees, Oxfam knows it needs to carefully manage and secure the information of supporters and program participants. “We are a rights-based organization, so this is significant,” Duggan says. The organization needs to be prepared for any audit and compliance requirements, and also ensure that staff and volunteers at Oxfam have the tools they need to protect sensitive content. Using the right technology solutions is critical for this. 

“The advent of GDPR created challenges for many organizations, especially those who collect and manage large sets of unstructured data,” Duggan says. Oxfam began using Box Governance to help with tagging content and utilizing search capabilities to become well-positioned to comply this and other regulations.

 

“Leveraging these types of tools to address our compliance needs will dramatically reduce the overhead of the compliance requirements, while also allowing us to be able to deliver effectively and quickly on any of the data rights requests that we are asked for.” 

Michael Duggan, CIO, Oxfam International

 

Driving impact through operational efficiency

Oxfam is a category-one responder to humanitarian crises, which means it is one of a small number of global humanitarian agencies that can respond at scale to very large humanitarian disasters, such as the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami in September 2018. It used to take teams eight to 12 weeks to get a fully functioning office up and running. Oxfam's data sat on file servers that were only accessible if you were physically in the office where it was stored. Now this information is available instantly on any device globally. “I have 41 terabytes of Oxfam documentation on my phone stored in Box — and that’s data being gathered from over 90 countries," Duggan says.

“There is literally nowhere that an Oxfam staffer cannot get access to that information, as long as we can deliver Internet," Duggan says. "And we're very good at delivering Internet.” When responders arrive at their respective airports ready for deployment, they have access to the latest documentation they will need immediately, including briefing materials, partner information and protocols. They can also access information offline with Box Drive if they're in an area with poor connectivity. This has transformed Oxfam's ability to scale quickly and become a more efficient. “Box has been a game-changer," Duggan says.

  

“When the earthquake/tsunami response began in Palu, Sulawesi, my team was able to instantly set up a dedicated Workplace group and a dedicated Box folder to streamline communications and keep track of constantly changing environments and requests.” 

Jack, Oxfam Australia

Oxfam

Apart from speed of access, another benefit of Box is how easy it is for employees to use. Dianna Langley, Digital Workplace Manager for Oxfam, says that teams are able to understand the structure, use files safely and securely and set up folders without needing IT to provision them. Processes on Box have essentially become turnkey. “It doesn’t matter where the disaster happens — our solution [for content management] is now location-agnostic, global and cloud. And this is exactly what you need in an emergency situation — predictability and ease of use.”

Going forward, Duggan is eager to utilize Box Skills to better manage the tremendous amount of video and imagery the organization stores. For example, if someone wants to know if Oxfam has photos of an individual, or whether someone specific appears in an Oxfam video, he will look to leverage a solution like Box Skills to achieve this request more quickly and efficiently. 

 

“We’ve certainly demonstrated that cloud works in the most austere environments in which we operate, and this has dramatically accelerated our ability to deliver impact.” 

 Michael Duggan, CIO, Oxfam International

Collaboration with humanitarian partners 

Another way that Oxfam is increasing the impact of its work is through better collaboration with other humanitarian organizations. Whether the focus is how to promote human rights, manage technical support for development programming or share timely country and disaster information, Oxfam uses Box to rapidly share and co-create. 

“The boundaries are porous when you’re engaging in a disaster, and you must work together,” Langley says. She finds that Box gives her options for sharing folders and information with the other NGOs working side by side with Oxfam in the field. Oxfam can quickly share information with partners while maintaining the ability to be prescriptive around access levels.  

Apart from setting up in new locations more quickly, Oxfam has also been able to leave areas to respond to other critical situations much more quickly than before. Because it can share information easily and securely with other organizations that want to carry on this important work, the transition time for Oxfam leaving and a partner stepping in is expedited. 

 

“Box is enabling us to create a shared space with our partners to increase impact through knowledge exchange.” 

 Michael Duggan, CIO, Oxfam International

 

Remembering the human element in technology

While there is huge promise with technology and the efficiencies it can bring, Oxfam emphasizes that we can’t lose sight of the human component. For example, in migrant and refugee camps, Oxfam doesn’t require individuals to identify themselves. While there is technology available to digitally identify those Oxfam serves, the organization wants to be mindful that individuals may be too scared to share their identities after fleeing war or personal conflicts. While technology can provide efficiencies, Duggan emphasizes that it's important to understand the implications so organizations don't apply technology solutions blindly and undermine the very people they are trying to serve. 

Oxfam

Oxfam also emphasizes that digital transformation isn't just about shifting infrastructure out of the organization, it's actually shifting workloads. As the impacts of AI and big data grow, Duggan feels passionately that the opportunities these technologies present also bring significant responsibility for his organization and the partners Oxfam will work with. “Oxfam is only interested in working with companies like Box that have demonstrated that they are thinking about the ethical implications of technology — we need to know that we can have an open and honest conversation about the impact, and how we can leverage opportunities in an ethical and human way.” 

In fact, Duggan predicts that companies that win in the technology space will be the ones that maintain trust — not only with the organizations that consume the technology, but also with consumers, supporters and program participants. 

 

“No matter how wonderful your technology is, no matter how it could potentially transform the effectiveness of a program or the level of impact — it doesn't matter if it's not done in a way that respects all the individuals involved and most of all those with the least power.” 

 Michael Duggan, CIO, Oxfam International

 

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