Case Study: GirlGuiding

Building a more accessible future for Girlguiding's volunteers

Girlguiding was founded on a simple assertion: that girls can, and do, amazing things when given the chance. Now, over a hundred years later, Girlguiding's commitment to connecting girls from all walks of lives with opportunities to learn and grow remains unchanged.

Central to their vision is ensuring that they are as accessible as possible across all of their digital channels and real-life interactions. The charity was concerned that their current systems did not adequately support volunteers with disabilities. This is where Nomensa comes in.

As part of a wider programme of work geared at transforming the volunteers' experience, we embarked on a research and service design project that explored and assessed the inclusivity of the service. In late 2019, we set out to interrogate and understand the online and offline experiences of disabled volunteers.

Our research found that volunteers with access issues were often among the most passionate members of Girlguiding. Inaccessible services isolate and we wanted to ensure that this committed cohort was properly supported.

Beginning with understanding

Our project directly informed Girlguiding's new five year strategy that was launched in early 2020. They wanted to weave the insight gleaned from this Discovery into their future plans so that every decision would encompass the needs of every volunteer.

While they had a substantial amount of quantitive data from various surveys, they had little in the way of qualitative data, and even less research into disabilities, long term conditions and mental health. Girlguiding wanted us carry out first-hand research so they could dig deep into the needs, motivations and pain points of their volunteers.

We specifically focused on whether existing systems were flexing to meet the needs of volunteers with disabilities or access issues. We went on the hunt for existing gaps and barriers to their digital offering, and widened our scope to include all physical interactions, for instance, at their club houses or rallies.

We carried out a combination of contextual research and in-depth interviews to explore how, where and when volunteers carried out their different activities. This included what resources they drew on and how their conditions shaped these experiences.

Rewarding commitment

We visited volunteers in their meeting venues and interviewed them in their world. By observing them running their unit meetings, we gained a rich understanding of their experiences. We complemented this with in-depth remote interviews with a range of individuals with disabilities, long term conditions and mental health problems to build a full picture of the service.

The discovery project proved that disabled volunteers had a strong commitment to Girlguiding, despite the challenges and barriers that they face in their roles. The rewards they get from volunteering are a significant part of their life. It gave them real feeling of community and purpose, as well as helping with overall motivation beyond guiding. Some reported that Girlguiding was often a reason to keep going when things felt tough.

However, in spite of their deep emotional connection to the charity, we identified multiple situations in which disabled volunteers felt unsupported. In these scenarios, the impact is severe. It risks making the volunteer feel anxious, isolated or even tempted to give up guiding altogether. When accessibility isn’t championed, the very thing that they were expressively passionate about could also potentially impact their personal resilience.

A ‘day in the life’ of a volunteer

We plotted out the different touchpoints across Girlguiding services in a ‘week in the life’ experience map. This identified areas that need more attention and those that already work well. The aim was to provide a valuable, tangible asset to align internal understanding going forwards, and to visualise priorities.

We also pulled out key themes in a detailed report, which looked for patterns across and between different conditions. This map and report highlighted key painpoints and priorities, and directly informed their 2020 strategy and immediate actions for the new year.

For example, we identified a new way for them to categorise volunteer disabilities that would help them provide better support. By spotting opportunities, we helped Girlguiding to build around any mental health, physical, cognitive/learning, vision and hearing issues a volunteers faced, rather than adapting services after the fact to fit them in.

Building a more equal world for all of us

By fostering a solid understanding of the issues, experiences and feelings volunteers encounter in their roles, we were able to identify several areas and opportunities for improvement. Girlguiding are now empowered to begin bringing these insights to life and better support all of their disabled volunteers.

Our partnership bought the importance of accessibility to the forefront of the organisation’s ambitions. We’re delighted to watch their advocacy for equality continue to grow and awareness of access needs spread throughout Girlguiding.

Investing in accessibility delivers a fundamentally more robust and useable experience for all of your users. Whether your product or service is digital, physical or an intermingling of both, our accessibility services can transform your organisation through testing, training and consultancy.

To learn more about how you can cement accessibility into a programme of work, get in touch by emailing hello@nomensa.com or call us on +44 (0)117 929 7333.