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Barnardo’s has cited an earlier migration to Google’s off-premise portfolio of productivity tools as being critical in its work to support vulnerable children across the UK during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The children’s charity began using the Google Cloud G Suite set of productivity tools several years ago, said Trevor Lawson, its transformation engagement lead, in a Google Cloud blog post, but its use of the technology has come into its own since the onset of the UK government’s work-from-home mandate in March 2020.
“G Suite allowed us to adapt quickly to Covid-19,” said Lawson. “Going forward, we can take what we’ve learned from this experience and keep making improvements to the way we work and collaborate. We’ll be able to make our resources go further and it will help us as we continue working towards our goal of building a better future for children and young people.”
The charity employs 8,000 staff in the UK who are responsible for providing more than 1,000 services to vulnerable children and local authorities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the help of external stakeholders.
“We’re like one really big team and our work involves many other people outside the organisation,” said Lawson.
The G Suite deployment came hot on the heels of an operational review of the charity in 2016 that centred on cutting costs through digital transformation initiatives that would support Barnardo’s in its work over the next 10 years.
That included migrating away from the legacy on-premise communication and collaboration tools its team had previously relied on to do their jobs and work with those outside the organisation.
As a third-sector organisation, Barnardo’s needed a replacement system that would be relatively low-cost and low-maintenance, and be interoperable with other third-party technologies that the charity needs to run its day-to-day operations.
“We didn’t want to throw large sums of money at our tech transformation,” said Lawson. “We wanted to evolve more slowly and ensure that we continue to focus on doing what we’re here for, which is helping children.”
The organisation settled on trialling the use of G Suite at its head office and among a smattering of its local teams, some of whom were also given Google Chromebooks to assess.
More recently, the Barnardo’s team has embraced remote working in response to the Covid-19 lockdown, prompting a spike in the use of the G Suite video-conferencing tool Google Meet specifically, said Lawson.
Read more about the use of cloud during Covid-19
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Pre-lockdown, the organisation held a “few hundred” video calls a months over Google Meet, but that number has since soared to 5,000 meetings a month.
“Lockdown was a critical time and we needed to communicate quickly and clearly,” said Lawson. “Google Meet lets us see each other and work together as a team. It’s been a great benefit.”
The charity’s team in Glasgow is using Google Meet to hold internal meetings, but also to offer remote support and assistance to the thousands of young people and children Barnardo’s is responsible for helping, so they can continue to benefit from face-to-face contact with its staff.
“They’ve been using Google Meet to play games with the children online, share dance routines, and even read stories to them,” said Lawson. “It’s so much better than what could have happened.
“Many of the children we work with are in really challenging conditions and it’s so important for our staff to maintain that connection with them through the pandemic.”
He added: “Just having the ability to see the kids you’ve been working with, or even other colleagues, and talking through the challenges – that’s been really important for the mental health of our staff.”
Another team in the southeast of England has made use of Google Meet to host a “youth forum” so that groups of young people can get together virtually to discuss issues affecting them.
“The ability to keep listening to children and young people in a group setting via Google Meet has been great,” said Lawson. “It’s vital that children have a voice in their future and build more positive outcomes.”