infoDev Website Refresh

Finished at last! Just last week, we launched a refresh of www.infodev.org, the website for the Innovation & Entrepreneurship team of the World Bank Group.

The original website was badly in need of an update, as you can see from the screenshot below:

infoDev_WebsiteScreenshot_2.png

The homepage lacked a focal point and didn't clearly introduce the organization's mission. Additionally, the outdated layout, color palette, and typography didn't speak to infoDev's identity as an organization that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship in developing countries.

However, there were a couple of challenges in our way. The World Bank is undergoing a dramatic reorganization, and infoDev would likely rebrand or be absorbed into another unit within the World Bank in coming years.

Given this background, a $100,000 budget -- the price of a recent redesign for a similar team in the World Bank -- was neither feasible nor wise. Our work could not exceed the modest budget allotted to our web developers in India.

Facing these constraints, our small communications team stepped up by designing our own wireframes and style guide. We also brainstormed keywords and updated URLs, meta descriptions, and title tags as part of an effort to optimize search results.

The new homepage achieves our goals of directing visitors to important content, addressing commonly asked questions in our email account, and reflecting the World Bank's typography and color palette. Given our budget limitations, there are still a few kinks to work out, but the redesign is a strong step as the organization anticipates a comprehensive rebranding in the future.

Click below to view a case study of the redesign's objectives and before-and-after images.

The website launch marks the end of my contract with the World Bank team in Washington, D.C. Now, I'm looking forward to starting the User Experience Design Part-Time Course at General Assembly in San Francisco!

Building Our Team's Voice on Social Media

When I joined infoDev last summer, our social media presence was inconsistent at best. On our Twitter account, there might be a flurry of unfocused photos from panel discussions followed by a week of silence, and the occasional dispassionate appeal to read our latest press release or report.

I wasn't sure where to begin when I took over the reigns, but I knew I was passionate about the topic of entrepreneurship in emerging markets. I saw compelling graphics beginning to emerge from other World Bank accounts. And I remembered a rule of thumb from a marketing course: Only 20 percent of content should contain calls-to-action -- for example, advertising an event or publication -- while the remaining 80 percent should be fascinating, shareable content.

So I began to re-tweet the type of stories I liked to read: interviews with the founders of a new business accelerator for Nigerian women, Fast Company articles on diversity in tech, editorials about what's broken in the world of global development. Significantly, I aimed to amplify the voices of African and Caribbean entrepreneurs, rather than think tanks or multilateral institutions. Soon enough, engagement began to rise.

The final challenge was to boost the professionalism of our cover photos and graphics. With the Photoshop skills I gained at General Assembly, I've been working to inject some fun into our marketing assets, while maintaining a consistent style.

infoDev Twitter Account
infoDev Twitter Account
infoDev Facebook Cover Photo
infoDev Facebook Cover Photo
Crowdfunding in Emerging Markets Tweet
Crowdfunding in Emerging Markets Tweet
Ghana Climate Innovation Center Launch on Twitter
Ghana Climate Innovation Center Launch on Twitter
Ghana Climate Innovation Center Launch on Twitter
Ghana Climate Innovation Center Launch on Twitter
Connecting Green Tech Entrepreneurs on Twitter
Connecting Green Tech Entrepreneurs on Twitter

I'm still learning my way around design and branding, but it's an improvement from where we began! Now, I'm working to familiarize myself with the process of creating animated GIFs for Twitter -- it's a great way to share project results or data from our publications.

Building Skills & Rescuing Dogs

For the past couple of months, I've been helping to coordinate an online auction for City Dogs Rescue, from fundraising to design and marketing. Here are a few promotional graphics I created on Canva, with the help of spectacular photos from our volunteer adoption event photographers: CDRAuction_RebekahFeng

CDRAuction_HanneleLahti1

AuctionBannerAd

My skills aren't quite where I'd like, but I'm improving! Compared to my day job in a big bureaucracy, working with a small, volunteer-run non-profit organization has proven to be an excellent opportunity for honing my design and marketing skills.

Human-Centered Design for Leaders & Problem-Solvers

Click here to read the first post in my series on expanding my education through MOOCs.

In Hyderabad, India, a team of foreign engineers spent many months developing a clean water delivery system that was healthy, safe, and largely affordable. Yet many households did not use the service -- and continued to risk water-borne illnesses -- because the engineers were oblivious to a simple fact of life in Hyderabad: The service's mandatory water jugs could not be carried comfortably on the hip or head, as most local women preferred.

This was one of a dozen compelling case studies in IDEO's Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design. The course introduced how a human-centered approach to design (sometimes referred to as "design thinking") can be used to develop innovative and sustainable solutions for poverty reduction. Human-centered design is iterative, collaborative, measurable, empathetic, and focuses on the real needs of the target population -- rather than their needs as imagined by foreign consultants.

While taking this course, I also read Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock. As Senior Vice President of People Operations, Bock develops creative approaches for improving life at Google -- determining financial incentives for top performers, reducing food waste in cafeterias, and standardizing hiring interviews, for example. Each approach is piloted in small teams or offices, and the results are thoroughly measured through interviews with employees and applicable data. Many approaches fail, sometimes spectacularly, but those with the greatest impact on employee happiness and productivity are implemented throughout Google.

IDEO and Bock share a fundamentally similar outlook on leading and problem-solving, and after completing the course and book, I feel energized to approach my professional development with new insights. Here are a few:

  • Don't assume you know the solution. Design, test, measure, and repeat.
  • Expanding on that thought, I once believed that strong leaders were born with the right answers, and they could conjure up an innovative solution simply by brainstorming hard enough. Instead, strong leaders ask smart questions, are receptive to feedback, experiment (or in Silicon Valley's preferred terminology -- fail), and bounce back from mistakes with resilience and grace.
  • Creative people are highly observant. Creativity comes from noticing relationships between seemingly disparate topics, and from applying novel approaches to existing areas. For this reason, creativity often emerges from multidisciplinary people, such as a web designer with an understanding of social psychology.
  • Look to the margins -- a top-selling employee, or a family with healthy children despite living in extreme poverty -- to find the variables that determine positive outcomes.
  • To gain creative confidence, you must stop self-editing. (This is a tough one for me!) Everyone has terrible ideas, but if you remain silent out of fear of failing, you will never grow.

Next up, I'm taking the Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals course on Coursera. I'm also looking forward to a user experience course from UC San Diego, and will continue to explore the world of information-communication technology for disaster response.

Introduction to Marketing (Coursera)

Click here to read the first post in my series on building a business education through MOOCs.

I'm no stranger to marketing trends. I'm a voracious reader of Fast Company and the Harvard Business Review, and I closely follow the social media presence of innovative brands like Warby Parker and Everlane.

In my own job, I also use marketing principles -- overseeing design and branding for big conferences, crafting social media messages, and selling our success to donors.

However, I've never enrolled in a formal marketing class, and I've been hesitant to describe my skills with that term. Because honestly, the term "marketing" has been a little shrouded in mystery to me -- isn't it a field of slick "Mad Men"-types bent on selling me overpriced juice and yoga gear?

So, two big thumbs up for Wharton's four-week Introduction to Marketing on Coursera! It did a great job of outlining the basic concepts, and I've come to understand that I would greatly enjoy a career focused on marketing, especially for a socially responsible, "double bottom line"-style company.

The course was divided into four modules:

1. Branding: Marketing Strategy and Brand Positioning 2. Customer Centricity: The Limits of Product-Centric Thinking 3. Online-Offline Interaction & How to Find Lead Users and Facilitate Influence and Contagion 4. Branding:  Effective Brand Communications Strategies and Repositioning Strategies

While much of the material focused on product-based companies (rather than non-profits or development agencies), a few lessons struck me as universally applicable:

Messaging

Develop a mantra that defines your brand in 30 seconds or less. Simplify, inspire, and be consistent.

Typical Development Agency Message:

"We engage in ex-ante recovery planning and leverage and inform medium- to long-term recovery and reconstruction projects."

Better Development Agency Message:

"We help governments prepare for disasters before they strike so they can break the cycles of poverty and impaired development.”

I notice a tendency within the development world to use the most complicated terminology possible -- are we hiding behind jargon? Not confident in letting the results speak for themselves? Whatever the reason, it's time to think more like the private sector and develop clear, informative messages about the "products" we deliver -- poverty eradication and environmental sustainability.

(Of course, there are also non-profits that are all fluff and no substance. Messages must always be backed with data and results!)

Referrals and Brand Ambassadors

More and more, I see companies on Instagram partnering with local "brand ambassadors." And it works -- I'll see a stylish D.C. resident photograph a new coffee shop, and inevitably, I'll head there myself that week.

The connection to global development is more tenuous here. But it does make me re-think our social media approach. Is it worthwhile to tweet your latest publication at the hundreds of other development agencies that make up your followers list? Or should you instead target a few influential individuals -- respected politicians, journalists, or representatives of countries you serve -- who can share your success stories with different and larger audiences?

In other words, who are the most influential figures in your community? Can they generate referrals? And how do you make social media less like a lecture to an empty room and more like an engaged conversation? Sometimes I suspect the social media presence of D.C. think tanks and development agencies is exclusively made up of interns tweeting at each other...

Next Steps

Now that I have the theories, I plan to dive deeper into digital marketing analytics. Coursera will be offering several relevant courses in the next couple of months, starting with Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals.

A Business Education -- For Free

For the past ten or so months, I've worked as one of the World Bank Group's thousands of short-term consultants. All in all, it's been a great learning experience -- shaping the post-2015 development agenda, meeting bright and driven young people, availing myself of the plentiful croissants.

But there's one caveat: Short-term consultants (about 40 percent of the Bank's staff) are permitted to work no more than 150 days in a fiscal year. And that leaves me with a lot of time on my hands until July 1st.

So, I've decided to use the next several weeks to tackle a few goals.

Building Business Skills

I graduated from Johns Hopkins SAIS with a master's degree in international relations and economics, and I have nothing but positive things to say about the program. However, a traumatic management consulting-style interview taught me that I have a lot to learn about the theories and vocabulary of business.

Recently, I stumbled upon Laurie Pickard's blog, The No-Pay MBA. Pickard, an international development professional in Rwanda, is working her way through a massive online open course (MOOC) curriculum to gain the knowledge of an MBA -- for free.

Working at the World Bank, I've become increasingly interested in social entrepreneurship and project management. Following Pickard's lead, I've identified a few courses that will help me build those leadership and analytical skills:

April 1st to Mid-May

Mid-May to July 1st

I plan to give them all a try, and then pursue three of these four-week courses per month. I'll report back with lessons learned, as well as progress in other goals -- my Chinese could use a refresher, for one.

(Fortunately, I have strong support at home: My boyfriend had his own successful funemployment last fall!)