Gives a voice to local communities and builds trust by receiving and responding to grievances in less time
Increase career growth for all global employees by providing visibility into new opportunities
Empowers employees, volunteers, and community members to make a greater impact
For many nonprofits, the impact they make is dependent on empowering their teams to maximize resources and building trust within the communities they serve. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a global wildlife conservation organization, is a prime example of making a massive impact on the world by investing in its employees and communities. WCS protects and conserves wildlife and wild places across 60 countries that are home to more than 50% of the world’s biodiversity and over 300 million of the world’s poorest people—with its global team of 4,000+ employees.
"Very few nonprofits think about how to help all employees do their jobs better or how to provide an empowering environment for people to work in,” explains Jonathan Palmer, Executive Director of Conservation Technology at WCS. “With finite time and budgets, it can be hard to help our teams feel happier and more empowered—even though they are arguably our most important resource."
Jonathan’s team at WCS works with over 100 partners, vendors, and providers to find and implement the best technology solutions to solve today’s biggest conservation challenges. When he noticed that mission-critical projects were at higher risk of missing deadlines because of increased demand and complexity, siloed information, and “traditional” communication and tasks management approaches not scaling, he set out to find a better way to collaborate across WCS.
His primary goal was to empower the people at WCS–the program managers, software developers, environmental scientists, zoologists, volunteers, and other stakeholders. So Jonathan set out to find a tool to improve communication and collaboration across organizational boundaries.
His team implemented Asana to drive seamless collaboration, build transparency and accountability, and track work and resources. With Asana, WCS teams work more effectively together and have enjoyed several additional benefits: employees have access to more career growth opportunities and have strengthened the trust of the communities they serve.
One WCS team, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (OWR) team in Ituri, with support from the EU-funded Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme (SWM), works with a group of international organizations to reduce food insecurity by developing sustainable solutions to food challenges with a focus on wildlife conservation, food security, and policy development. Some of their work is done in protected areas where WCS supports its government partners and others to run its programs across 15 countries, including the Makira Natural Park in Madagascar and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Although WCS strives to keep all its partners, hosts, and communities happy with its work, grievances inevitably arise. For example, an individual might wish to raise a concern about the treatment of the environment, their own rights, or an interaction they have. “Many members of the communities we serve can feel like WCS is responsible because we’re there protecting the wildlife,” explains Caroline Abid, SWM Programme Manager.
Because the SWM Programme relies on local support to implement solutions on the ground, community relationships are critical to the success of its programs. Resolving grievances in a timely and respectful manner is essential, so WCS uses Asana to process feedback from the communities they serve.
In the past, WCS used physical notebooks and spreadsheets to collect and manage grievances, which were then emailed to the appropriate staff member. As a result, addressing them could take weeks, putting their community members' trust at risk. For WCS, which relies on communities to host and support conservation sites, unhappy members could mean a site is in jeopardy.
“We weren’t responsive enough to our communities’ grievances, so we sought to improve the process with Asana to ensure we always respond,” says Caroline. Using Asana makes filing grievances simple for community members. They now share their issue with a WCS field worker, who then submits it via an Asana Form, which creates an Asana task in a dedicated project with all the information needed to address grievances quickly.
Asana provides one central place for grievances to be reviewed, eliminating the paper trail and time previously spent manually processing them. It also makes it easier to direct grievances to the right people within WCS to respond quickly, rather than being passed off through lengthy communication chains involving paper notes and emails. Once a task is assigned to the right person, they have all the information they need to action it because all necessary details are included in the submission. And if a grievance is sensitive, WCS can use privacy settings in Asana to limit visibility.
Since grievances are processed more quickly with Asana, local communities feel empowered to share issues as they arise, creating a virtuous cycle: communities stay bought into WCS’s conservation work and the organization continues to support the communities where sites are located. These results have helped WCS build trust; doing so is hugely valuable to the organization’s ability to deliver on its ambitious conservation goals.
By moving the WCS team away from email, Asana has helped break up team silos, increase visibility, and make information and opportunities across the organization accessible to more team members. It's created a new level of transparency because all tasks and projects are public within the team by default. Many opportunities for cross-functional collaboration have been created, which has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when WCS couldn’t have as many face-to-face interactions.
Using Asana has had what Jonathan calls a ‘flattening’ effect on the team. “Flattening our team is about maximizing the opportunity for things to be done most cost-effectively,” he explains. “The transparency Asana provides allows more junior, ambitious members of the teams to raise their hands for opportunities to learn, take on more responsibility, and expand their scope.” This is notable because historically, as a large organization, opportunities would often fall to those closer to headquarters—simply because of the availability of and access to information. With Asana, employees now have more project visibility and can contribute asynchronously regardless of their timezone. As a result, WCS has seen more diverse participation from its team members across the globe.
Asana helps the entire WCS team feel empowered to get involved and take on opportunities they otherwise might not have known about before. It also saves resources, including budget for wages, travel and training time, by making it possible to hire employees in different job markets so WCS can use its budgets efficiently to drive greater impact.
WCS does so much with limited resources, all of which are made possible by the people supporting the organization—its staff and community members. Using Asana, WCS has listened to and cared for its community members and empowered its employees across the globe with access to more opportunities. These welcome outcomes have helped further the organization’s progress towards its many impactful goals and made the backbone of its work—the people doing it—more bought in.
With improved robustness of its processes and newfound transparency, WCS continues to build trust internally and externally—a critical ingredient to protecting the areas, wildlife, and communities it serves.
Empower your entire organization to do their best work with Asana.