As the war in Ukraine continues with no end in sight, humanitarian aid is more essential than ever. And while there is no doubt that the recent flood of donations to help Ukrainians is a wonderful thing, great care must also be taken to ensure that the influx of support is well-coordinated, effective, and directed to the right places.
In other words, we can’t just donate money and supplies: we need skilled volunteers and effective aid management. Outside help is especially essential, since for many Ukrainians their top priority is simply to survive from day to day, and they may not have the energy and time to coordinate everything on the ground.
Swiss Help Ukraine: Making a Difference
One newly-formed NPO trying to make a difference in this regard is Swiss Help Ukraine, founded by a Ukrainian-born supply chain specialist Karyna Gaidarzhy together with Celso Cattaneo. Given the grave situation in Eastern Europe, they were quick to attract corporate sponsorship. But as a small team staffed entirely with volunteers, they then faced a bigger challenge: coordinating their time and newly found resources in a way that would make a fast, effective and measurable positive impact on those that needed it most.
Naturally, their first step was to develop a framework and guidelines to streamline future operations, especially in terms of communication with multiple corporate partners. As a time-consuming yet vital part of their operations, this was considered to be one of the major priorities, and something that they would definitely need outside help with.
Getting Help from Migros Bank
With assistance from Copalana, Swiss Help Ukraine found that outside help with Migros Bank, who already ran an existing program called Volunteer Days, in which their employees would get time off to work with designated NPOs. Together, Migros Bank and Swiss Help Ukraine organised a “hackathon” – an all-day, team-based brainstorming and rapid prototyping session – attended by skilled Migros Bank employees as part of the Volunteer Days program.
This hackathon was, in Celso’s words, “a huge success.” As Celso explains, they went in to the event without a set target for what they wanted to achieve. “In principle, we approached the hackathon very openly, since the final solution or goal of the hack day was not specified,” he said. But rather than create a chaotic environment, this allowed every employee and volunteer to add exactly the ideas and skills that they were best at. “We discussed the possibilities with Migros Bank on Hack Day so that everyone could contribute their strengths.”
Eight Migros Bank employees, including Patrick Wolf, the head of Human Resources, participated in the hackathon. Even aside from helping the people of Ukraine, being part of an activity like this was richly rewarding for everyone involved. Skills-based volunteering like this, says Patrick, offers “extensive further training in social skills”, as well as “a different and memorably heart-warming experience.” It was also a natural fit for Migros Bank, a company that aims to “put people at the center of everything it does.”
By the end of the day, the group had achieved even more than they had hoped. Celso explains:
One of our biggest pain points was maintaining relationships with our corporate donors within the professional network. The LinkedIn page was created for this and a first post was posted on the same day. The reactions were enormous. Our contribution was able to reach over 10,000 people - simply incredible. As a second pain point, a group could take care of the organization of relief supplies. From this we have now been able to organize new rescue materials from fire brigades, which are already on their way to the Ukraine.
One of the major benefits of a volunteering event like this is that not only can the success can be replicated, but by holding more hackathons with different groups of volunteers, NPOs like Swiss Help Ukraine get invaluable access to several varied skillsets capable of solving diverse problems. The corporate world truly does contain a rich mix of minds and skills, and their help gives NPOs so much more power to change the world. As Patrick puts it: “It is totally impressive how Karina and Celso - and ultimately all of us - together with them can help the people in Ukraine.”
Everyone here at Copalana would like to thank Migros Bank and its generous employees for their time, effort, and skills – only with their help could this volunteer hackathon be the resounding success that it was. And of course, we’d like to thank Swiss Help Ukraine for all of the vital work they are doing to help those in need, and wish them every success in the future.