The Excelian Graduate's Journey with DEBRA



Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important part of any company’s strategy and Excelian is no exception; we take our CSR initiatives very seriously and we get involved in many activities that produce a positive impact on our society.


A big part of the London office’s CSR activities focuses around DEBRA – chosen as Charity of the Year for the UK branch.

DEBRA helps people with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). EB is a condition where the individual has extremely sensitive skin that blisters at the slightest touch. DEBRA not only provides care and support for those affected by EB but also gives valuable advice to their families. DEBRA also spend a significant amount of time researching towards their ultimate goal to find a cure for EB.

Over the past 12 months, Excelian has been involved in many fund-raising activities to support DEBRA in its endeavours. This includes running marathons, family walks, bike rides, golf tournaments, baking cakes, gala events and even buying out the right to wear jeans every Friday! The total amount we have raised up to date is over £14,000; a fantastic achievement.

As part of the 2014 Graduate Academy we were assigned a project to help DEBRA reach a wider audience and increase EB awareness. Grouped into a team of 6, we began the project within our first week at Excelian. Our first interaction with DEBRA came when we were invited to their City Hall Conference.

 

Photo 1 DEBRA City Hall Conference.  From the left; Fitzroy Eccleston, Prashant Mashari, Gilbert Brincat and Anel Pretorius.

The conference provided us with direction for our project but also gave us a chance to meet people involved with DEBRA. Key to this conference was meeting Hayley Epps DEBRA’s PR and Communication Manager. She provided us with the details we used to create our project brief and the areas we should focus on.

After two months of research, brain-storming and meetings we finally felt ready to present our solutions to Libby May, Hayley Epps and John Parker, all representing DEBRA. The presentation took place on the 12th of May.

 

Photo 2 DEBRA Presentation at Excelian London HQ. From the left Hayley Epps (DEBRA PR Manager), Libby May (DEBRA Corporate Partnership Manager), Rocco Latterelli, Prashant Mashari, Fitzroy Eccleston, Kristina Jarosova and Gilbert Brincat.

Excelian being a technology consultancy it is no surprise that our presentation had a common theme which was to better harness todays technology in order to meet the project objectives.

 The key findings were:

  1. Suggesting improvements to the existing website. Items included building on the existing framework to increase accessibility and improve the User Experience/ Journey. Another area of focus was the accessibility of online donations.
  2. Introducing crowd-funding platforms as a new method of raising funds.  
  3. Using Social Media efficiently to extend reach. We recommended creating accounts on Instagram, LinkedIn and Google + Business and we detailed best how to utilize each of them. Having multiple platforms can be time consuming so we presented Hootsuite, a platform to manage different social media accounts.
  4. Promoting stories/ blogs on Upworthy, a website whose main aim is to promote social stories and discussions about critical matters which need attention from society.
  5. The last part of our proposal focused on an intranet for DEBRA. We presented Podio, an intranet platform which is extremely versatile and adaptable. Through our dialogue with Podio they agreed to supply DEBRA free of charge should they choose to implement it. Since DEBRA has a large amount of volunteers having an intranet would improve their communication and collaboration.
To summarise our presentation, the suggestions focussed on increasing EB awareness, DEBRA’s reach, collaboration and funding. All suggestions were received with plenty of enthusiasm from DEBRA. After the meeting a proposition was made to allow two graduates to visit the DEBRA head office in order to provide advice on our suggestions and I was fortunate enough to be chosen along with Gilbert Brincat to visit them for two days from the 10th of June.



Photo 3 Grads at DEBRA. From the left Hayley Epps, Gilbert Brincat, Prashant Mashari and Libby May.

Following from our presentation DEBRA had decided to renew their website. They had pitched their brief and received different proposals. Our task was to develop a scoring system for the proposals and review all of them whilst also providing feedback.

DEBRA also wanted to start using LinkedIn therefore we provided a tutorial on how to best use it. We explained that LinkedIn has a great ability to reach people through corporate relationships. As a test we posted an item at 11 am and by 1.30 pm it had been viewed by over 400 people which was a great proof of LinkedIn’s ‘ripple’ effect. We also provided their page with a banner and increased the visual appearance.

Lastly we provided an interactive demonstration of Podio to their HR manager. She detailed what DEBRA would like from an intranet platform. Based on this we began modifying our demo account of Podio by finding apps that were tailored towards resourcing and increasing file sharing. Podio was well received and its benefits were clearly demonstrated.

To summarize the whole experience the last four months have been extremely challenging and equally enjoyable. We undertook the project during our training period and it provided us with our first chance of managing a project from start to end. It also gave us the opportunity to work with key stakeholders to the business. All of us who were involved felt a great sense of achievement to see our ideas form into actions that will help make a difference. We provided a unique approach with technology at the core. We hope that our assistance serves DEBRA for the long term, assisting them with their ‘cure’ and ‘care’ initiatives and achieve their ultimate goal.

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