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"Creative Accounting"

This workshop showed that even with more than 600 business processes identified for the system, design thinking can still unlock new innovations.

March 19, 2019

This is the first post in a series focusing on the second networking group of NetHope members participating in IDEA (Imagine, Design, Execute, Assess), a broad umbrella for digital transformation processes offered to NetHope members through The Center for the Digital Nonprofit. The first IDEA implementation pilot was based on Dream, Design, Deliver, a social impact accelerator developed with Microsoft.

By Jean-Louis Ecochard, The Center for the Digital Nonprofit

In most contexts, the words creative and accounting are a bad combination. However, for Winrock, their mixture produced wondrous results. For two days in Hanoi, it was indeed creativity that unlocked deep insight on financial processes, from awards to procurement.

More than twenty Winrock practitioners, from headquarter and field programs, came the world over to share a common understanding of the pains and gains they faced in the process of their ERP implementation. Through the great facilitation of Wipfli and the generous sponsorship of Microsoft, these brilliant Winrock leaders re-imagined aspects of their end-to-end financials system using design thinking. We listened to each other, riffing off one another’s ideas and co-creating. We had serious time and laughs, and good Vietnamese food, too.

The journey to this Dream session started a few months ago when Braulio Olivera, CIO of Winrock, applied to NetHope to be part of the second networking group of 10 nonprofits seeking to accelerate results through digital transformation through the coordination of NetHope’s Center for the Digital Nonprofit. Through his leadership, Winrock became the first organization to have a Dream session in 2019.

It took weeks of preparation, researching, and developing the personas and their five journeys: Budgeting and Forecasting; New Business, Cost and Pricing; Data Management and Volunteer Management; Financial Reporting; and Awards Management and Procurement. Coordinating these efforts, and the logistics of meeting in Vietnam in such a short time, required masterful project management and discipline. Winrock setup weekly status meetings, a detailed project management plan, and a Microsoft Teams’ site where participants could ask questions and obtain clarifications. Wipfli created large posters of journey maps and personas so that everyone could see them and physically collaborate over them with sticky note.


“Few organizations take the time to pause for a few days, reflect on the way they work, and innovate” said Mike Myers, Winrock CFO. All participants would recommend the workshop to another nonprofit.

Although focused on the topic of implementing a large system, little technology was used in the two-day event, relying instead on the engaged brains of smart people, their surprising improv talents and, as in most design thinking sessions, a sea of Post-its.

This workshop showed that even with more than 600 business processes identified for the system, design thinking can still unlock new innovations. “We are now looking at culture change and systemic change, so it is bigger and more impactful than I envisioned coming into it,” said Martha Saldinger, Winrock’s Director of Education and Empowerment.

See the dynamic end results by viewing Winrock's Dream Book

Read more about other Dream sessions:

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