UNICEF online communities harness the power of connecting everyone to achieve results for children

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: Yammer Blog articles.


Did you know that UNICEF achieved a phenomenal increase in online engagement and knowledge sharing in Yammer—more than 500 per cent from January 2016 to March 2018? Our network grew from 1,000 participating members per month to more than 5,600 per month during that time -  representing more than 46% of all UNICEF staff. There wasn’t a magic overnight change, but rather a slow and steady effort that facilitated this growth.


This adoption milestone represents a shift in the way our teams are communicating across the globe. Well-managed online communities have become a valid, productive method for performing work at UNICEF, helping to drive faster and better results for children.

UNICEF 1.pngGrowth took time, but with steady and consistent community strategy and management, we achieved significant growth and nearly half of our organization using Yammer.


As Forbes online magazine described it when profiling UNICEF in early 2019, “People who share work-related interests or passions not only learn from one another but also empower one another to perform better. The exchange of diverse ideas fosters trust among employees and encourages them to think and create in new ways.”


Ours is an exciting story about continuous learning and evolving our network for a purpose, with quality and simplicity.


How We Got Started


UNICEF’s journey to become a networked organization started in 2008 with a very early instance of Yammer. Initially, the quality and use of communities at UNICEF varied.

In 2016, a revitalization initiative was set in motion that empowered communities and their leaders, resulting in a surge in participation. Part of our strategy was bringing in support from a variety of external, private sector perspectives. Our extended team included corporate social strategist Carrie Young from Talk Social to Me, social network analyst Patti Anklam, and community manager Sue Gemmell. Under the internal leadership of UNICEF’s Paola Storchi, the reactivation clarified the community’s purpose and value: acting on shared knowledge. We have used two main strategies: first, gathering evidence to demonstrate communities’ far-reaching potential, and second, developing a simplified model and way of talking about communities, called BUILD, to help communities realize their promise. As a result, communities on Yammer have become one of the most effective means to unblock and accelerate the flow of “living” knowledge, across locations and organizational hierarchies.


UNICEF  2.pngBUILD became UNICEF’s proprietary method of creating and growing communities, focusing on the Dialogue for Yammer while reinforcing other components required to create traction such as “marketing” the network with an online “billboard” (such as an intranet story) and a document library on SharePoint.


Gathering Evidence


The BUILD team conducted three annual global surveys and interviewed hundreds of community members at UNICEF. The findings informed a series of case studies and revealed why people join online communities at UNICEF. People come to Yammer primarily for the purpose of learning. More than 67 per cent reported that communities enhance knowledge exchange across UNICEF, and create a more connected organization. Seventy per cent of respondents valued being part of a community with a clear purpose and relevance. Users want content to be work-related and high-quality. We shared the results with all of UNICEF.



Unicef 3.png3 year of staff surveys were critical to internal success. They helped us understand the “why” for our staff joining communities, helping us develop a better internal language when recruiting more members.


Through participation in communities, UNICEF staff are reporting better quality of knowledge, greater collaboration and more productive working relationships, more innovation, time-saving gathering information on work products from other countries and regions, and development of important relationships with colleagues and partners whom they would not otherwise have met.

The immediacy of communication fosters rapid knowledge transfer as well as contextual dialogue about answers to common problems. For example, more than 1,000 WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) practitioners and partners collaborate online, 24/7, regardless of distance or time zone, to share questions and lessons across sectors to achieve access to water and sanitation for all children.


How We Created the Change

The BUILD team distilled eight steps to harness the power of ‘living’ knowledge at UNICEF to explain the process that revitalized the UNICEF Yammer network. These are:

  1. Community cleanup and curation. We directed users into more collaborative spaces, archived 114 inactive groups, and merged/archived an additional 100 with similar focus.
  2. Rebrand with simplicity. We created the BUILD model – a new lexicon to describe collaboration focusing on people first and technology second – Yammer was promoted as the space for vibrant dialogue.
  3. Empower community managers with training and support. We offered personalized support and one-on-one consultations through interactive webinars, 90-day plans and face-to-face workshops with key use cases that already existed.
  4. Drive engagement with data. We built three annual global surveys and conducted hundreds of interviews to capture as much data as possible. The resulting answers helped us to support the users and re-ignite the conversation around the business of the community. They also became the qualitative evidence needed to convince others to participate.
  5. Enable anyone at UNICEF to find practical guidance and best practices on online communities—We created the BUILD Playbook to scale community management coaching at UNICEF and with partners.
  6. Growth measurement. To promote knowledge sharing and group growth, we built a streamlined process for measuring Yammer groups. We embraced SWOOP behavioral analytics to promote and measure cross-team collaboration, and drive cultural transformation.
  7. Elevate the quality of conversations. To help facilitate this, we created newsletters, compelling decks and reports to help leadership and partners understand our work in a context that was familiar to them.
  8. Elevate “Community Management” as a discipline. Community management was not a well-known discipline, and the BUILD team worked to document the results of collaboration for children and recognize excellence of Community Management with leaders and partners.

All these steps helped our program to thrive. The BUILD model has been officially recognized as innovative and successful by many established digital work communities.  Which one of the eight steps resonates best with you? If you’d like to connect with the BUILD team and learn more, we’re always happy to help. Contact Paola or Carrie with your questions!


Additional Resources:





An innovator and collaborator, Paola turns new ideas into action and builds networks across diverse groups and cultures. A natural connector, communicator and team-builder, she leads online communities at UNICEF. With 15+ years of broad international experience, and a strong aesthetic sensibility, including ongoing practice in Japanese fine arts. A native of Rome — Italy—she works at UNICEF New York.



CY Headshot Clean 2017.jpg


Carrie Basham Young   is the CEO and Principal of Talk Social to Me, a boutique consulting firm specializing in employee community engagement strategies. With more than a decade in the realm of internal collaboration and communication, Carrie offers practical community lessons and experiences from hundreds of F100 and mid-market organizations. Find Talk Social to Me on the web at www.talksocialtome.com.


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