August 5th, 2020

Good Innovation and WWF: Pivoting from F2F to a virtual design sprint during Covid-19

As much as we tried to prepare ourselves for the impending Covid-19 lockdown, it came faster than we expected. For one project in particular with WWF, we had to abruptly pivot our approach as we were just about to kick-off, just after it was announced. We wanted to share with you ours and WWF’s reflections and learnings of starting a project day 1 of lockdown.

The objective of the WWF project was to enhance the supporter experience for their long-loved Adoptions product. We wanted to take a user-centric approach and talk to adopters directly to understand their needs and expectations and enhance the current journey to cater to them. However, our realities changed - not only did we need to adapt our approach to work online, but we also wanted to ensure that we got the same engagement with both the WWF team as well as the adopters.

We ‘sat down' with Caroline Appleton, Head of Fundraising Innovation, and Hannah Crawley, Senior Supporter Engagement Manager, to reflect on our recent project and the impact of sprinting online. There were definitely worries in the beginning, but as we continued forward, together we found our rhythm and realised outcomes that perhaps may have been even better than what we would have found face to face. 

Mary Wong  12:40 PM

Hiya - thank you both for taking the time to chat about our recent project.

It’s always great to catch up and reflect. We’re looking forward to hearing your perspective of what worked well and what could have been improved.


Katie Grierson  12:40 PM

Hey ladies - let’s get started!

We went into lockdown basically the day before we were supposed to kick-off the Adoptions project, what were your initial thoughts and feelings?


Caroline Appleton  12:41 PM

I was definitely apprehensive. This was always planned to be a face to face research project, so the idea of doing it all over Zoom was slightly concerning at first.


Mary Wong  12:42 PM

I must admit, we felt the same. We’ve worked virtually before, but not for an entire project and especially not for a sprint. We definitely wanted to make sure you felt comfortable with taking the approach online as well.


Caroline Appleton  12:43 PM

And you were definitely reassuring about how you would pivot the project to allow us to do this. There were so many unknowns at that time around all things 'lockdown' so it was amazing to have a virtual plan worked out so quickly.


Katie Grierson  12:45 PM

It was good to have the digital tools ready. It made it easier for us to swap from using the office space and walls to run our workshops and interviews to an entirely virtual version on Mural and Zoom.

Looking back, what parts of the project were you most worried about running virtually?


Hannah Crawley  12:45 PM

For me, I was interested as to how the interviews would go. Would we be able to build a rapport as quickly as we would have done in person to allow the supporter to feel confident to talk openly and honestly about our comms. Would they be able to interact with the stimulus as they needed to and would it flow ok?


Caroline Appleton  12:46 PM

Personally for me, I was most concerned about how easy it would be to engage with our supporters over zoom. and would we learn all we needed when we weren't face to face.

DITTO Hannah!


Mary Wong  12:47 PM

I remember having these conversations with you both at the beginning of the project. We didn’t want to lose that personal connection that we may have had more of if we were talking in person.

...also about whether we’d be able to recruit participants during lockdown.


Hannah Crawley  12:49 PM

Yes definitely, it felt like people were looking for a distraction during the lockdown period so I was hopeful it would mean we’d at least be able to recruit a good volume of supporters to help with our insight and also it would allow us to talk to a more geographically diverse group.

Although there was the slight worry of having to ask participants to use Zoom and would this put them off at all.


Caroline Appleton  12:49 PM

We have found it challenging / time consuming in the past to recruit onto research projects from our supporter base so that was a concern. Would people be able / feel comfortable with the technology?


Katie Grierson  12:50 PM

It's crazy really how Zoom has become so normal for everyone so quickly, I think the lockdown helped push people who wouldn't normally use video calls to do so more readily and openly, which as you say Hannah, allowed us to reach a wider selection of your audience


Caroline Appleton  12:51 PM

Yes definitely! When we all started lockdown, there were a huge proportion of people who had never used it. Now it feels like it's become a totally normal part of most people's lives.

That definitely helped us in terms of our recruitment. By the time we started recruiting participants, we were a good month into lockdown so most people had used Zoom or were definitely aware of it.


Mary Wong  12:52 PM

@Hannah Crawley, not to put you on the spot, but how was it for you specifically? Not only were we forced to work virtually, but you were also new to WWF, new to the project and new to GI.


Hannah Crawley  12:54 PM

Overall I was really grateful I'd started at this time as it meant I could be part of the project from the kick-off, and experience supporter's feedback first hand within the first few weeks of being at WWF, which is invaluable.

It was also a great way of consolidating my knowledge on the audiences and supporter journeys as I was constantly talking about it to/with others


Mary Wong  12:55 PM

That’s great to hear…I mean for us, it felt like you’ve been on the team for ages! You were able to answer any question we threw at you.


Hannah Crawley  12:56 PM

Aw that's kind of you to say - I did feel really welcomed by everyone, GI included, which always makes starting a new role easier.


Katie Grierson  12:57 PM

😊 It was great to have you involved! Was there anything that surprised you during the project? Either about the Adoptions product or working virtually?


Hannah Crawley  12:59 PM

Lots of things - but firstly it was around how brilliant the planning tools we utilised were. I’ve used lots of white board/ collaborative tools over the years and they haven’t worked as well as Mural has, it was great. It meant we had such a visual reference to come back to, including the complex journey mapping. Not only does it save on all the need for write ups and paper, it’s then accessible to other members of the wider project team and can be easily edited. Will definitely make more use of it as a tool moving forward.


Caroline Appleton  1:00 PM

I would second that. I'd not used Mural and it's definitely a tool we will look to utilise more at WWF. Whether that is when working remotely or when we're back into office working as well.


Mary Wong  1:01 PM

I completely agree about Mural — it’s added so much flexibility on how we can work as a team. We were able to build out a template to use for workshops of each week of the sprint and all add to it, collaborate and build on each other’s thoughts.

It also helped that the WWF team really jumped in and was really open to using new tech - both the core team and the wider working group during workshops.


Caroline Appleton  1:02 PM

We had feedback that the workshop GI ran at the beginning was one of the most productive workshops we've ever done. That obviously wasn't all down to Mural but it shows with the right set up and planning, a virtual workshop can be just as good (if not better) than face to face.


Mary Wong  1:03 PM

Thank you for the feedback @Caroline Appleton! A great workshop takes two — great facilitators AND engaged participants. I really felt everyone we worked with at WWF were 100% present and actively participating.


Hannah Crawley  1:03 PM

Totally agree, it was a nice surprise just how efficient and timely the research can be when managed virtually - we managed to fit a lot into each workshop as well as the interviews.


Katie Grierson  1:04 PM

Mural really helped us give structure to the Sprints and I must admit save time on write up too! 4 weeks on the walls would've been a lot of post-its notes!

I think Zoom helped with facilitation and productivity. Using the breakout groups, having strict timeframes and being able to 'force' people back to a wider group discussion can seem aggressive, but definitely helps keep us on time and moving forward.


Caroline Appleton  1:06 PM

I agree @Katie Grierson. I also think it helped some of the more introverted members of the team feel confident putting their ideas on post-its without having to stand up in front of the room to read them out.


Mary Wong  1:07 PM

I also want to bring back what you said @Hannah Crawley about being able to hear first hand from clients. It’s something we always encourage clients to do and they want to do it themselves, but it’s not always easy.

Having the interviews online let people be part of the research. It was incredible that in almost every interview, there was a WWF-er listening in. Everyone was really committed to being involved in the audience interviews throughout.


Hannah Crawley  1:08 PM

That was one of the major wins, more of our colleagues could be involved in attending the research interviews.


Caroline Appleton  1:08 PM

Yes @Mary Wong, the use of Zoom meant that we could have unlimited members of the team listen in to the interviews. If these had been held face to face in London for example, then we wouldn't have had that engagement as people wouldn't have given up the travel plus interview time so easily. Being on Zoom meant that team members could dip in and out of the interviews as they wished. Meaning colleagues from a huge range of departments were able to listen and engage with the research.


Katie Grierson  1:09 PM

How did you find that the audience interviews? Were they what you expected?

 For me personally, I found we were able to quite quickly build connections with people in their own homes.


Mary Wong  1:11 PM

There’s something about being in your own space that makes you feel more comfortable sharing


Hannah Crawley  1:11 PM

Yes, people definitely seemed more comfortable and it was great as they could bring their opinions to life more as they often had the comms they’d received to hand and could reference directly and show us on camera.


Katie Grierson  1:11 PM

I really enjoyed when the interviewee ran off to grab something they received from the Adoptions. They could hold it in their hands and talk about it.

It was also really helpful in our research when they pulled in another family member, partner or child to get the gift recipient perspective. Since we were typically interviewing the people who actually ‘purchased’ the Adoption, we were then able to actually get the perspective of the person who received it as a gift.


Caroline Appleton  1:12 PM

I completely agree. The amount of people who went off to find 'props' - be that children or animal toys - was great. And really insightful.


Mary Wong  1:12 PM

And with everything said and done….I’m pretty impressed that we didn’t have that many tech issues either!

Simply sharing screens and showing new designs really got people engaged and excited.


Hannah Crawley  1:13 PM

The use of the slides throughout to guide the conversation worked really well, and the visuals were great and prompted new ideas from the participants as well.


Caroline Appleton  1:14 PM

It almost made it easier when it was done on screen rather than real life. It meant you could adapt mid interview to flick through slides, move on, move back quickly and easily depending on the conversation.


Katie Grierson  1:15 PM

It did provide great flexibility - making quick live edits as we went was handy. Do you think that the team buy in was impacted by them taking part in interviews?


Caroline Appleton  1:17 PM

Yes, definitely! Opening up the option to listen in to the interviews to a wide range of teams and people led to more buy in across lots of teams. Being able to be a part of the research helped them get more on board with the recommendations coming out of the project.


Hannah Crawley  1:17 PM

We had so many follow up emails from colleagues who had attended the sessions and they were all really positive and looking forward to hearing the outputs.


Caroline Appleton  1:18 PM

Most teams don't actually come face to face (be that in real life, virtually or on the phone) with supporters in their day jobs. So it was an amazing opportunity to do this.


Mary Wong  1:18 PM

That’s great, it’s so important for people to understand where the ideas come from and that it’s based on audience insight.

We’ve talked a lot about the positive outcomes from moving F2F to virtual, but were there any setbacks or things you would have changed or done differently?


Caroline Appleton  1:20 PM

Actually a really hard question as it worked so well!


Hannah Crawley  1:22 PM

There wasn’t anything I would change due to the virtual setting, that worked brilliantly.

If I was really trying to think of something I'd say the participant recruitment, as it was pretty time heavy. Just from our end, having more resources and time set out would have been helpful.


Caroline Appleton  1:24 PM

I agree with that Hannah. Although I think that probably would have been the same however we ran the research. I'd agree we didn't leave ourselves enough time / resources to do the recruitment, so something we'd be mindful of if we did this type of project again.


Katie Grierson  1:26 PM

I know as a group, we reflected on the challenge of recruiting interviewees both from a time and resource perspective and a struggle to find earlier lapsed audiences especially when recruiting from existing supporters.

Plus, we had more reflections brought on from the current BLM movement that has made us as an organisation rethink how we perceive our audiences, develop personas and recruit participants to incorporate inclusion and diversity... Another learning for next time!


Caroline Appleton  1:29 PM

Yes definitely. This process helped us learn the importance of not only learning from those who self select to take part in research and therefore are reflective of your supporter base but also ensuring research is encouraging diversity and inclusion.


Mary Wong  1:29 PM

Thank you so much for your time and input…as a last question to cap it all off…how has your outlook changed since this project? Will this change how you conduct projects / work in the future?


Caroline Appleton  1:32 PM

Absolutely. I'd expect workplaces to all be different in the future, but this project has given us so much confidence in running projects virtually, how we can apply this to other projects we're managing. It has also shown us that building rapport with agencies and partners we work with doesn't always have to be face to face.

None of us have actually met in real life! But we've built a great working relationship all via virtual technology.


Hannah Crawley  1:34 PM

Yes, it gives me much more confidence for the future. Everyone, including supporters, engaged with the research. Now we've got a great list of actionable outputs which will help us shape the supporter journey moving forward


Mary Wong  1:34 PM

That’s great to hear! We’ve really enjoyed working together and appreciate how quickly you pivoted and embraced this new way of working with us. We definitely see value in working this way and will take learnings from this project for others. I don’t know when things will go back to normal, but working virtually can be (and if not more) very effective.


Caroline Appleton  1:35 PM

Not that we're not looking forward to a celebratory face to face meeting when allowed!


Mary Wong  1:35 PM

Well if we can’t do F2F, should we have a virtual post-celebration with some vino? 🍷


Caroline Appleton  1:35 PM

Sounds GREAT!


Hannah Crawley  1:35 PM

Yes 100% 💃🏻


Katie Grierson  1:36 PM

We're really pleased with the results and it's been a pleasure to work with you to achieve them. Thank you both for being so flexible, friendly and enthusiastic. I'm really excited to see the changes come to life - please do keep us posted. And YES to virtual vino 🎉


Mary Wong  1:36 PM

Fab - thank you both!


Caroline Appleton  1:37 PM

Thanks to you guys too and we'll definitely keep you posted on how we're implementing the recommendations.


Hannah Crawley  1:37 PM

Thank you too for all your support and effort, it's been a great project team to be part of ⭐️