Co-ordinating international development

logoWho are they?
CHILDREACH INTERNATIONAL.

Where are they?
Office in London supports network of projects overseas.

What do they do?
Run child-rights focused projects in developing countries.

How big are they?
20 UK staff.

What did they receive?
Huddle, plus Microsoft Windows & Exchange servers with CALs, MS Project and Office Professional Plus 2007.

The outcome?
Communication and project management internationally is much improved.

With just twenty employees in London, and a turnover of under one million pounds, Childreach International punches above its weight as an international development charity. But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. In fact, the organisation co-ordinates a network of independent charitable entities, each based in the region which it serves, managed and staffed by local people.

“We run projects in developing countries that are child-rights focused – for instance that will provide access to healthcare and education,” says Paul Campbell, Technology and Innovation Manager at the charity. “We aim to be quite reactive. We don’t turn up in an area and say ‘we’ll build you a school,’ for instance. What we do is to liaise with the local community to say ‘what do you need?’ – and then try to help make it happen.”

Childreach INTL image

‘Making it happen’ naturally involves a great deal of organisation and co-ordination, and one of the charity’s goals in the past year has been to communicate better. Huddle was therefore one of the first packages ordered when Childreach International came to CTX for donated software.

“We didn’t know Huddle existed until then,” says Paul. “Beforehand, we would do everything via email, with hundreds of attachments and CCs, and information organised on an ad hoc basis. But Huddle works really well for us,” he enthuses, explaining that the full potential of the software only became truly apparent once the international offices were included.

Childreach International also used CTX to gain much-needed upgrades for server software. “We were using Small Business Server 2003 which was starting to creak – we couldn’t scale it up as we expanded, and things were starting to get desperate by the time we opened in India.” Installations of Windows and Exchange servers, donated by Microsoft, have addressed this issue – leaving plenty of scope for further growth. At the same time, the charity was able to upgrade Microsoft Office across the organisation, and introduce Microsoft Project.

“We decided to move from ad hoc project management, and introduce a more formal process,” Paul explains. “A lot of employees had used Project in their previous jobs. I know other software is available, but there’s a lot to be said for going for the industry standard rather than rolling out something new – it’s a good use of our time.”

The CTX programme has been a lifeline for Childreach International in its quest to keep up to date with IT. “If you look at the cost of the commercial licenses, a significant proportion of our turnover would have gone on software,” says Paul. “In fact the costs are quite scary. We’d have got the bare minimum with no room for manoeuvre.”

“The restriction of one order per year for Microsoft software does make things difficult,” he admits, urging charities to plan carefully. “But the total limit available is very reasonable.”

“CTX expedited the process very well – there was a point following our reincorporation when we were desperate to get the software, but they were very helpful and very quick. I would definitely recommend CTX.”