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Vluchtelingenwerk

Connecting and empowering volunteers. Building a digital meeting platform

Gastvrij Netwerk and ORBIT vzw are two organizations that show many similarities in their way of working. Together with the King Baudouin Foundation, they support citizens and associations who are committed to helping refugees, as part of the larger network of Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen. Thanks to their efforts, volunteers can find each other, share their knowledge, and work side by side toward a more inclusive society.

The challenge

How to develop a knowledge network of citizen initiatives?

Together we are always stronger – and that applies to volunteers as well. This was also evident in a strategic analysis conducted by the organization 'De Nieuwe Buren', which helps refugees find a new home, in collaboration with ORBIT vzw. Associations and initiatives expressed a need for a network to exchange information and link housing supply and demand.

In 2021, we started a service design process together with ORBIT vzw and Gastvrij Netwerk to meet this need. The central question: is there a way for both organizations to directly connect citizen initiatives with each other?

We recommended a Hivebrite license, which was a good fit with the needs of the organizations and volunteers. At the same time, it was a durable and practical solution, allowing us to go live quickly with a limited budget.

Charlotte Dieltjens

Service Designer

The solution

Gaining speed with a ‘white label’ platform

During conversations, we identified the strategic interests of ORBIT vzw and Gastvrij Netwerk and assessed the needs of the volunteers. As a possible solution, the digital meeting platform “We Welcome” emerged. After a comprehensive analysis of the various options as well as existing solutions, we recommended a Hivebrite license. Hivebrite is a European community platform that was a good fit with the needs of the organizations and volunteers. At the same time, it was a durable and practical solution, allowing us to go live quickly with a limited budget.

A safe and accessible environment

It was crucial that volunteers could exchange information in a secure environment. Therefore, we worked with a closed platform, which could only be accessed by verified volunteers. Additionally, we strongly focused on connection, for example through a forum and the ability to add a profile photo or personal information.

The accessibility of the solution was also a main focus. As the target group did not have high digital skills, the platform had to be highly user-friendly. To avoid making the platform too complex, we opted for a “less is more” approach and disabled certain standard features.

The result

One step back, three steps forward

All parties involved were motivated to help volunteers – and people on the run – as well and as quickly as possible. By taking a step back in the initial phase and critically examining the existing concept, we succeeded in doing just that. By working with Hivebrite, we were able to launch a platform that supports volunteers to provide better and smoother assistance to refugees in just 3 months' time.

Our approach

From prototype to strategic intermediary step

To better substantiate the prototype of We Welcome, we started with a strategic intermediary step. We sought answers to some core questions (e.g. what is the primary focus of the platform: to inform or connect?) and developed detailed wireframes that we presented to the volunteers. Thanks to their feedback, we were able to better identify their needs, refine the concept further, and test everything against the original request of the client.

Technical analysis of existing platforms

Soon it became apparent that a license for a white-label platform could easily provide an answer to the volunteers' needs. Through a technical analysis, we compared existing platforms on a number of criteria: price, flexibility, support, similarities with the original concept, etc. Hivebrite emerged as the most efficient solution, offering more guidance in the implementation and maintenance of We Welcome. This way, we didn't have to develop everything from scratch and the volunteers could have their platform more quickly.

Services offered

  • Service design

Our impact

Measure, adjust, and support 

We measured the impact of We Welcome on two target groups: (1) volunteers who have already registered and (2) volunteers who have shown interest but have not yet registered. This allowed us to learn if we meet the stated needs and how we can still adjust the platform.

After analyzing the results, it was found that the platform met the expectations of the target audience, but not all volunteers easily found their way to the portal. Therefore, we developed an onboarding journey. In this journey, we demonstrate how volunteers can sign up for the platform and we provide information about the various opportunities it offers. Additionally, we provided training to the community managers to further encourage the development of the network and the interaction among volunteers. This way, Orbit vzw and Gastvrij Netwerk had all the necessary tools to continue working with their meeting platform.