Case Study: Girlguiding

Developing a visionary learning platform for volunteers

In late 2019, Girlguiding approached us with a problem faced by many longstanding charities: improving the experience of their dedicated volunteers.

As a charity that relies on these hardworking volunteers, Girlguiding recognised that it needed to invest in their experience in order to improve retention and loyalty, and ultimately secure its future as an organisation.

The crowning jewel of this effort to improve volunteer experience would be a new learning and development platform. The charity wanted to create a tool that would reward its enthusiastic volunteers with chances for them to learn, grow and be recognised. This platform would do more than just offer training. It would champion personal development and encourage volunteers to embrace new challenges within not only their roles, but also professionally and personally. 

This project is one of many within a programme of work with Girlguiding. So far, we've earned our badges in user research, accessibility and design, when we helped Girlguiding to improve the digital and physical inclusivity of their volunteers’ experience. For this case study, however, we'll be focusing on their vision for their Volunteer Learning and Development Platform.

Transforming volunteer training 

Before we could advise Girlguiding on a technical solution for their learning and development platform, we conducted a 12-week Discovery to identify user needs and the charity's technical capacity.  We were committed to unearthing user-centred recommendations, but our approach always considers the strategic future of our clients as well. Our goal was to lead the organisation towards an end solution that could leverage ground breaking data, accessing ongoing insight about their volunteers, and enabling them to stay on the edge of innovation.

Girlguiding wanted to improve transparency, as well as recognition and development. This would be delivered through high-quality, rewarding, and impactful learning and training materials that met the needs of the volunteers. Additionally, it placed emphasis on delivering not only an improved experience of learning, but effective administration and consistent onboarding.

Our task can be summed up in four, core aims:

  • Support and encourage volunteers to progress in their personal development
  • Enable transparency around each volunteers' efforts and achievements so that they can receive appropriate recognition and rewards
  • Improve the experience of learning, take the strain away from admin and move to a more flexible volunteering experience
  • Provide evidence and analysis to support the goals and direction of Girlguiding’s 2020 strategy.

Understanding Girlguiding's strategic goals

A central aim of our research was to support and inform the creation of Girlguiding's 2020, five year strategy. Our amassed evidence and insight was also used to build a business case for securing funding for the wider implementation of the L&D platform.

One of the key areas flagged for improvement in Girlguiding’s 2020 strategy was volunteer experience and retention. In the original brief, they shared concerns about how some volunteers considered leaving as they were not sure of their next steps around personal development, or because they did not receive enough recognition.

So, we began by reviewing existing research and materials. Then, we visited a Girlguiding training event (and even collected a few badges ourselves), interviewed volunteers and ran stakeholder workshops. We used a collection of research method to inform the creation of concept ideas. These were rapidly tested with volunteers in a three-week sprint process.

Turning contextual research into journey maps

We complemented our suggestions with contextual research. For instance, we observed first-hand a First Aid Training Session to understand trainer interactions with the group, types of attendees and their engagement, their motivations for learning and reflections on the experience.

Meanwhile, our in-depth, one-to-one interviews with volunteers – from a broad variety of roles and time spent volunteering – uncovered a rich understanding of what they needed in a learning and development platform. We strengthened this knowledge with responses from almost 2000 volunteers from an online survey, providing quantitative and qualitative insight. 

Our chief output was our experience journey map. This was a crucial tool for supporting ongoing user centred decision making throughout implementation. We printed it on a giant, four metre banner and hung it up in their office, where it became a daily tool for user centred decision making.

It provided an accessible, visual summary of the needs, activities and tasks of volunteers across the entirety of their learning experience. And we mapped it against the existing pain points and opportunities for improvement. By highlighting cross channel touchpoints, we could provide guidance on how the learning and development service could work together as a whole.

Putting Girlguiding's culture at the heart of our methodology 

We pulled insights from across these discovery research activities and identified key themes around Girlguiding culture. We aligned our thinking with volunteers' motivations for learning, their life beyond guiding and what barriers might get in their way.

Existing skills were not always acknowledged, and volunteers were often asked to repeat training they had already carried out in their professional or personal lives. Volunteers were not sure what learning they should do next, or what goals they should aim for. There were also access issues; the timing and location of training meant it was difficult for many to attend, either due to their working hours or lack of transport.

To kick-off the prototyping phase of the project, we undertook a concept generation workshop with Girlguiding and Nomensa. We presented our findings and used 'how might we' statements to reframe problems as opportunities. We talked through our ideas and voted for our favourites to take forward, writing a list of priorities for the prototyping phase of the project.

Testing key user journeys

During the three-sprint design phase, we formulated concepts and prototyped key journeys to test them. Our aim was to experiment with different approaches and big ideas through quick iterations, put ideas in front of real volunteers to gather feedback and validate. So, we developed clickable prototypes for key journeys that was as true-to-life as possible. This gave our participants a comprehensive understanding of potential functionality during testing.

As with all of the research we’ve conducted into Girlguiding’s volunteers, we encountered some of the most passionate and committed individuals an organisation could hope for. And they were hungry and excited for a new and improved learning platform would mean for their role as volunteers. We captured their ideas for the platform in the final prototype, along with design principles and user stories.

Building a better future for girls everywhere

Being a part of Rainbows, Brownies, Guides or Rangers helps young girls to feel adventurous and brave in a world that doesn't always encourage them to be. Girlguiding empowers them to learn skills, find their voice, and make a positive difference in their community and beyond.

The volunteers helping these young girls to be the best they can be deserved a platform that would support their development in the same way. And, given that many Nomensans were once Girl Guides ourselves, we're extremely proud to have played a small role in helping Girlguiding to reward volunteers with exactly that. 

With digital experiences saturating our modern world and many of us increasingly time poor, Girlguiding recognised the need to adopt new ways of communicating and engaging their volunteers in order to remain a competitive option for their time commitment. Our programme of work with the organisation goes beyond just a digital transformation piece. It's geared at placing human experience at the centre of their business objectives and strategy setting, and delivers the most important kind of transformation: a cultural one. 

Use research to inform your strategy

Whatever your project, be it an intranet build, a new learning platform or a website redesign, beginning with user research is essential for long-term success. We’ve helped countless charities, government departments and organisations across the public sector to achieve an experience-first mindset.

Get in touch by emailing or calling +44 (0)117 929 7333 today to start the conversation.