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Incorporating digital for a better future

It is human to dream of a better future for children.

May 6, 2019

Above: Staff from SOS Children's Villages gathered recently to dream of a better future for children and youth through a NetHope IDEA Dream Session.

This post is one 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 IDEA Dream Sessions are based on Dream, Design, Deliver, a social impact accelerator developed with Microsoft.

By Jean-Louis Echochard, The Center for the Digital Nonprofit, NetHope

It is human to dream of a better future for children. In modern times, that better future includes how digital technology is seamlessly incorporated into their lives. Imagining the reality of this future for children in need is what SOS Children’s Villages set out to work on during an IDEA Dream Session in April.

At SOS Children’s Villages, one of the biggest childcare organizations in the world, digital tools have been integrated in program, fundraising, administration, communication, and other operations. Now, in the mid-term review of “Strategy 2030,” which defines the goals SOS Children’s Villages wants to reach by the year 2030, the organization has decided to further explore how digital technologies can better support its programs.

Two questions emerged as essential challenges to shaping SOS’s digital future:

  • How can we better support the learning and training needs of SOS core care co-workers and caregivers so we can ensure they have the right set of skills and knowledge, improving the care provided to children with non-adequate parental care?
  • How might Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) be re-imagined and made more participatory, collecting accurate information that would prevent children from being placed in the wrong situation?

For two days, a worldwide team of SOS leaders ambitiously employed design thinking methods to bring forth solutions to these two strategic questions. Nested in between the beautiful Tyrolean mountains, the workshop was facilitated by Fjord and Accenture Development Partnerships and sponsored by Microsoft.

As a first for our IDEA Dream Sessions, SOS invited two former SOS young people to join the group and bring their super-reality connected ideas. Their inputs grounded teams in the reality of mission benefits and provided invaluable insights throughout the workshop. We highly recommend bringing this level of utmost authenticity in future IDEA Dream Sessions.

As the CEO of SOS Children’s Villages International, Norbert Meder mentioned in the introduction speech: “As an organization that directly works with and cares for children and young people, we are committed to doing everything we can to continuously improve our impact. This includes dealing with digital threats and taking advantage of digital opportunities.”

Through the IDEA process, for business transformation to effectively take place, it’s essential to have the engagement of executive leadership at the onset. Meder demonstrated his commitment by taking time to join the SOS Dream team and concluded:

“I am pleased to be here with you to work on our dreams to make this world a better place. This workshop is an important next step in realizing our Strategy 2030, our contribution to achieve the (United Nations) Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one behind.”

During Dream workshops the process of design thinking starts with empathizing with the personas that are key stakeholders to reframe the challenges, develop inspirational insights, create ideas and concepts, and demonstrate prototypes. All of it is done using various techniques, many described in NetHope’s intro to Social Sector Design Thinking.

After analyzing the real situations of Alika, a Family Strengthening Care Giver; Joseph, a social worker from Tanzania who supports families from the Family Strengthening programs in a remote community; Chatura, an educational field worker supporting care givers so they can better care for their children; and Purnima, a SOS mother caring for eight children in rural Sri Lanka, four Dreams-Solutions where identified:


“SOS Influencers,” was conceived as a solution to crowdsource content creation in alternative care for sharing between peers and to be used in Bots assisting core care co-workers and caregivers in pedagogical needs. SOS is based in 135 different countries, so why not establish an expert network of co-workers and care giver in alternative care and encourage them to become content creators of the topics which are most needed? In addition, establishing a reward and ranking system could motivate the creation of content, based on the number of views/likes/shares of each content produced, creating a  2.0 solution needs-based content on alternative care.

“Auntie Annie” emerged as an AI-driven voice assistant to support mothers in developing their parental skills and supporting their individual training and development needs to provide better care to the children. Through a dialogue with this Digital Care Assistant, caregivers will be able to ask concrete information, connect with other peers with the same interests and needs, and support them to have the right set of skills and knowledge. The questions will be analyzed statistically to determine highest interests, needs, and gaps, and the critical questions will be routed immediately to a co-worker.

Safari” came out as an app focused on allowing program participants to directly access and update their family information, giving insights into progress on their family goals, and allowing caregivers to plan their own tasks and actions towards achieving goals that were agreed with SOS in a family development plan. Through this app, caregivers would be empowered to manage and update their family’s progress, and would save time in meeting with SOS staff. With the included “MeetMe” functionality, they can ask for meetings with SOS staff and book slots directly to save time and ensure visits when necessary and appropriate.

Dream books have been posted for the following organizations:
Compassion International


The “Family Adviser” was designed to help SOS staff to better organize their daily tasks in working with program participants in the community. Through graphical depiction of data, the family adviser enables to see at one glimpse urgent tasks or appointments, link to family information stored in the system, and include, for example,  where data is still missing. Through a link to geographical information, the social worker can easily plan his/her day, and plan when and where to visit families in their home.

More details about these solutions will be shared in the forthcoming SOS Dream Book.

The future belongs to the children of the world, and the future of SOS started on its 70th anniversary by dreaming innovative and scalable solutions to live up to SOS’s care promise for children in the digital era.

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