ServiceNow has worked with a range of charities in the past. When an employee introduced us to a South African charity and explained the difficulties it faced—especially during the coronavirus pandemic—we couldn’t help but take notice.
In the province of Limpopo in rural South Africa, 140,000 people live in townships where they experience poor conditions, unclean water, and food insecurity. Malnutrition and diseases run rampant, leaving many sick and with limited options for healthcare.
When 5-year-old Zweli Khoza became ill, his family took him from their township to the Ndlovu Medical Centre run by Hugo Tempelman, CEO of Ndlovu Care Group. Supported by Dutch charity Tjommie, Tempelman ensured Zweli got the care he needed.
Tjommie, meaning “friend” in Afrikaans, aims to provide at-risk children in South African townships with the basic necessities:
Like many charities, however, Tjommie lacked suitable data and systems, which made it difficult to deliver care where it was needed most. The charity also struggled to find the most effective use of funds to help the maximum number of people.
Making a real impact
ServiceNow wanted to help. “In Tjommie, we saw the chance to get involved in something beyond the Netherlands, something really long-term, and something that speaks to our core corporate social values of food security, digital literacy, diversity, inclusivity, and belonging,” explains Hendrik-Jan de Jong, senior executive architect at ServiceNow and a member of the Culture Council in the company’s Amsterdam office.
ServiceNow’s involvement started with a donation of 20,000 euros to Tjommie’s food garden program, aimed at helping townships become more self-sufficient and less reliant on foreign aid. That initial involvement quickly turned into something much bigger.
“While donations are helpful in the short term, by offering Tjommie the same workflow solutions ServiceNow provides to its other customers, we realized we could increase long-term efficiency in the organization and have a much greater impact,” explains Edwin Van Den Heuvel, a former manager of solution consulting at ServiceNow.
“It might seem unusual to connect charities with efficiency and workflow,” he continues. “But, through no fault of their own, charities often spend the money they raise in ways that don’t directly help those in need. Maybe admin and management costs are excessive, or maybe inaccurate information causes charities to organize the wrong kind of support. We realized that with the Now Platform®, we’re in a unique position to help.”
A hackathon for the greater good
With a Now at Work hackathon rapidly approaching, Van Den Heuvel saw a unique opportunity to repurpose the event for an entirely new cause.
ServiceNow hackathons typically see tech teams go head-to-head showcasing their software skills to solve real business problems. The Tjommie Hackathon, however, provided an opportunity for teams to compete to solve a problem entirely for social good.
Ten teams were briefed on a simple mission: Identify how ServiceNow software can optimize Tjommie’s workflows and ensure the South African townships receive what they need in terms of supplies, food, and education.
The winning team stood out with a two-part, cutting-edge plan. The first part provides a quick-view status of initiatives on a reporting dashboard. For the second part, an offline system enables field workers to clearly see what needs to be done, update checklists, and upload data automatically whenever Wi-Fi is available.
This solution will enable Tjommie to disperse funds accurately, track where resources are going, help traveling doctors know which families to visit, and check on local social programs—all while on the go.
The start of a two-way partnership
Plans are already underway to implement this new solution in South Africa when the pandemic eases. But ServiceNow won’t be doing it alone.
Van Den Heuvel explains, “We had a follow-up conversation with all the participants after the hackathon to see if they’d be willing to collaborate on other solutions for Tjommie in the future. And everyone agreed—without exception.”
With a much bigger team of internal and external collaborators on board, ServiceNow aims to deliver a holistic working solution to Tjommie in the coming year. As part of that, we’ll train field workers on the ground in South Africa to be ServiceNow consultants and project leads to ensure the project becomes self-sustaining as quickly as possible.
That will make all the difference, according to CEO Tempelman. “What we’re looking at with ServiceNow is a two-way partnership. ServiceNow offers us not just money, but skills and expertise. That allows these children and their communities here in South Africa to thrive, but also to pass on their own skills and knowledge,” he says.
de Jong also sees huge value in this exchange. “There’s so much we at ServiceNow can learn from Ndlovu, Tjommie, and the people they support. It’s no exaggeration to say that, through this partnership, we’re looking to learn as much as we teach. And we’re hoping that this knowledge exchange will continue long into the future.”
With any luck, this knowledge exchange could have an impact far beyond its initial scope. Tempelman believes Tjommie and Ndlovu’s partnership with ServiceNow has the potential to inspire and help many other charities face their own unique challenges, in South Africa and elsewhere.
The result will be more support for children like Zweli. Under the supervised care of Ndlovu and one of Tjommie’s nutrition centers, he’s reached a healthy weight, is attending kindergarten, and has a bright future.
For Tjommie and Ndlovu Care Group, ServiceNow’s upcoming workflow solution will be crucial in giving at-risk children a promising outlook. Efficient processes and better resource management mean the charity’s funds can be optimized, improving disbursement of resources and making sure those most in need get the help they need faster.
The benefits are long-term too. With the opportunity to build skills and know-how by training through the ServiceNow program, South African townships impacted by the program can not only be self-reliant, but also help others in need.
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