Case Study: Building a stronger civil society network

Overview: Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond’s mission is...

Overview: Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond’s mission is to unite and support a diverse network of over 400 civil society organisations (CSOs) to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice. To scale the support for international development workers available on our platform, we were guided by the digital principle of reusing and improving to update our existing software and technology.

Background: Our mission is to connect diverse CSOs working on issues like poverty alleviation, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or inequality to influence government and institutions and improve their effectiveness of tackling global issues. We identified digital as an amplifier allowing us to foster engagement with organisations and individuals leading to four outcomes:

  • UK organisations working in international development and humanitarian assistance will be part of a strong and thriving network
  • CSOs have the capability to respond to changing humanitarian and development needs
  • Greater shared value will be achieved through collaboration between CSOs and with other development actors
  • Through their advocacy, CSOs will have contributed to global change.

Actions: Our platform is over ten years old and built on an open source Content Management System (CMS) so we decided first to evaluate if it was fit for future development by conducting an in-depth technical audit. Along with the recommendations for improving the efficiency and stability of the codebase, we also evaluated historic user research in the form of interviews, surveys and focus groups, website stats and analytics, annual membership survey, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data and usability heatmaps. This led us to:

  • Identify accessibility and mobile responsiveness issues
  • Define the priority areas of work for agile sprints
  • Decide on card sorting for Information Architecture (IA) restructure to design the solution with the user
  • Identify accessibility and mobile responsiveness issues
  • Build a substantial backlog of issues for an ongoing improvements programme
  • Follow the design for scale principle by investing in making the platform robust and financially sustainable in the long term.

Challenges: The nature of technical debt we’ve been uncovering often raises new issues. The complexity of the platform, especially its integration with the CRM, is challenging for managing the budget. While monitoring a range of website indicators on weekly and monthly basis, we selected a single metric – percent of all users who logged into the platform in the last 3 months – which has been slowly going down during the project. Among the many possible contributing factors, we’re taking a more integrated approach to monitoring our communication channels, data management and website’s usability to ensure we understand all aspects of CSOs’ interactions with Bond.

Results: This short project which lasted only 5 sprints laid stable foundations for the future growth of our member-led network. Even though it’s very early to evaluate the full scale of the impact, we’ve already recorded:

  • 50% improvement in average server response time
  • 40% improvement in average page load time
  • Consistent uptime around 99%
  • Increase in users and total pageviews
  • Sitewide typography updates have improved accessibility
  • Offering user-requested search functionality to working groups