Collaborations That Serve the World's Most Vulnerable Children
Eglantyne Jebb believed that all children have the inalienable right to grow up in a safe environment with educational opportunities to help them get ahead in life. Based on that belief, in 1919 she founded Save the Children, which is dedicated to improving the lives of children around the world.
Today, Save the Children is one of the world’s leading children’s rights organisations, working in times of crisis and times of peace to reach the most deprived children globally. During 2019, the organization helped more than 144 million children obtain adequate nutrition, shelter, and education, including helping more than 325,000 children in the United States.
This dedication to helping ensure every child has a chance at a brighter future is exactly why I took a role at Save the Children Switzerland. While I am the director of fundraising and philanthropy today, it is a much different position than where I started my career. My career trajectory began in the fast-paced world of consumer goods marketing. Over time, I began to think about using my skills to help people who are most vulnerable and most marginalised. So a little over seven years ago, I quit my job as the head of marketing for a baby product brand and began looking for something that would improve the lives of others.
What I found was a burgeoning marketing department at Save the Children Switzerland. Initially, my role was to manage corporate partnerships and at the time, it was not an extensive program. Today, corporate partnerships are an important pillar for the organization because corporations can offer solutions that may otherwise be unavailable to us. Offering customer-tailored partnership models, our team grew rapidly building sustainable partnerships for children.
By 2016, traditional methods of communication were simply not adequate to reach all of our branches. We began to look for a solution that we could use to communicate more effectively.
Our Early Communications Model
Like most organizations, Save the Children Switzerland mostly relied on email and telephone conversations to supplement in-person interactions. By 2015, Save the Children Switzerland had also incorporated some of the more modern global communication tools, like Skype for Business.
While Skype for Business allowed for easy international conversations, it did not meet all of Save the Children Switzerland's communication needs. It was a very basic service that lacked a lot of the interactive functionality that was becoming common with other providers. Skype for Business only showed one speaker at a time, for example, and if you were holding a meeting with groups of people in many different locations, you couldn’t see everyone at once.
Skype for Business provided the bare minimum of what we needed to communicate, which was great when it first became available. So much of our work, however, relies on personal connections and meaningful collaborations with people and organizations across the globe. Instead of settling for what we had, we needed to find a collaborative solution that could provide more personalized communication. While we were in the middle of this reckoning, we were also about to embark on one of our most reliable corporate partnerships to date.
Building a Bridge
We got an opportunity to be a part of Cisco’s Be the Bridge Campaign, which encourages employees to support social issues that are important to themselves or their communities. Our first meeting with Cisco was eye opening. In trying to understand what was most important to each of our organizations, we very quickly identified a plethora of overlapping interests and similarities in our core businesses and communication needs.
Both Save the Children and Cisco are large multi-national organizations with staff based across the globe, meaning that we are engaged in a lot of international calls. From there, we quickly began to brainstorm ways we could go beyond merely employee fundraising. Could we find ways to further Cisco’s corporate social responsibility goals and help us be more efficient in how we communicate? Video conferencing with Cisco Webex was the most obvious solution that would help us connect all of our local offices.
The idea sparked our partnership, but it was just the beginning. Once we began to learn more about Webex, we saw other ways to incorporate the solution into our mission.
Giving Children a Voice
A few months after our first meeting with Cisco, a public conference on humanitarian work was held in Switzerland. Together with the conference host, a key partner of Save the Children Switzerland, we had launched a project in several different African countries to teach children about humanitarian principles. One session of this public conference was dedicated to that specific project. We came up with a beautiful idea: Instead of bringing children to Switzerland for the conference, we could give them a voice through Webex.
I traveled with a team to the refugee camp in Mahama, Rwanda. We interviewed children through Webex and recorded it to present at the conference. For the first time, we gave those children a voice remotely, letting them explain what humanitarian principles meant to them, how it improved their lives, and what they learned through our project.
It was very impactful for conference attendees, but the best part was seeing how excited the children were about this new technology. It was exhilarating for them to talk to somebody from Switzerland. Through Webex, the project let the children share their story with a much wider audience. It was easily one of the best experiences of my professional career.
The Partnership That Keeps on Giving
After the rousing success of the project, Cisco gave us a gift-in-kind donation of Webex licenses, screens, and cameras. This contribution was incredibly generous because for nonprofit organizations like Save the Children, it's really the only way to have the latest technology. We are financed by donations, and we always put those donations directly to improving the lives of children. This means that we can't finance the purchase of such high-quality equipment on our own.
With Webex, our video calls and conferences have become much livelier, and it helps to build a much better relationship with our teams all over the world. The Room Kits allow us to outfit meeting rooms with cameras that track movement, creating a much more personal experience; it almost feels like we are all in the room together. The Webex mobile app ensures that we are able to keep communicating from anywhere.
In 2020, we upgraded our installation by fully integrating Webex into our Microsoft Office environment. MS Teams might have been the obvious choice, but we love the convenience, ease, and reliability of Webex so much that we wanted to use it more, not less. Now we can book Webex meetings directly into our calendars, making it incredibly easy to connect. The ease of connections means that we have more meetings, but they’re also more streamlined. We get to the point faster, and we can spend more time making a difference in the lives of the world's most deprived children.
Increased Involvement and Participation
Webex is also very easy to use. Our team in the Suisse Romande, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, isn’t always able to make the trip to our offices in Zurich, but we don't want to exclude them from our meetings, either. Now, whenever we have a staff meeting, they can use Webex and join the call with the rest of the staff.
Our partnership with Cisco is about more than apps and equipment. Before the pandemic, our colleagues in other countries had the option to access a Cisco office and use Cisco's facilities to attend our Webex meetings.
This convenient and reliable connection is literal and figurative, and it’s hugely appreciated. Cisco believes they have the responsibility to ensure everyone has equitable access to opportunity. They’ve committed their technology to move this mission forward. For us at Save the Children, Cisco opened doors for us, and that removed a big barrier to our work.
A Perfect Alignment
One of the most important things that I’ve learned from working with Cisco and Webex is that a partnership only works if organizations are compatible, with similar goals. The partnership between Save the Children and Cisco has been a fruitful collaboration and an opportunity to share the work of Save the Children within Cisco’s global network of partners and employees.
Using our joint forces, we’ve spread the word about our partnership and let the Cisco community know that we're working together.
Webex connects people and facilitates digital exchanges on a global level, providing a sense of togetherness. Conversations have sparked creativity and innovation, and inspired an attitude of exploration. We now have the power to leverage Cisco competencies and technologies to improve the living conditions of the world’s most deprived children and families.