June 1, 2015

A platform that’s changing the world

How using Salesforce has led to unprecedented growth in international education.

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Pencils of Promise is a data-driven organization. Of course, with meticulous data collection comes great analysis — since PoP works in three continents, technology has become an integral part in allowing us to collect and utilize the knowledge we’ve gained from our data into creating tangible results for students in the classroom.

PoP uses numerous technological innovations; from e-readers, to tablets, to WiFi sticks, technology has had an unparalleled significance on the effectiveness of our work. It’s difficult to choose just one piece of technology that’s created the most impact for our organization, but arguably Salesforce, a platform that allows everyone on our team real-time access to the same data, is the piece of technology most central to PoP in terms of scaling our work and growing as an organization.

Specifically, within Salesforce we’ve created an Impact app that allows us to see information from our schools in real time, straight from the ground.

We can intervene as soon as we see that a student’s attendance is dropping or if a school build is on hold — this technology allows us to assess and prepare for anything that comes up in the field.

Everyone on our team has access to that information, thus we’re able to communicate what’s going on — at all times — across four different countries within one shared platform. We’re much more connected to each other and to the work that we do, and we can grow exponentially because of the lack of delay in communication. Further, Salesforce provides our entire team with the capability to visualize what’s happening with all of the data that we collect; we can create graphs, reports and other dynamic content to share and analyze our impact.

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As we know too well, it’s not just the physical structure of a new school that indicates success or sustainability. Along with school builds, we provide teacher support for our schools, which includes training, materials, lesson plans and teaching methodologies. To ensure our teachers are achieving positive results in the classroom and that students are actually learning and progressing, we measure the success of these schools through extensive learning and evaluation; we have a Learning & Evaluation (L&E) team on the ground in each country to test and track the progress of our students.

Undoubtedly, technology like Salesforce plays an enormous part in the effectiveness of our M&E teams. For example, we’re currently using a test collection software called Tangerine. The software allows PoP technicians to take tablets into the field to administer literacy and numeracy tests to students, return to the office and sync that information straight to Salesforce — here in New York, we receive the information that day. We can then analyze it immediately, as well as share it on our website to demonstrate our impact and remain transparent to our donors.

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Ultimately, technology allows us to automate a lot of our processes so that across countries, everyone can stay up-to-date with what needs to happen and when it needs to happen. This allows us to spend less time on the day-to-day menial tasks and focus more on our impact and effectiveness.

PoP collects an incredible amount of data across geographies, and we’ve used technology to centralize our work and better reinforce an education system for the children we impact.

Right now, we’re not just interested in creating infrastructure but additionally in changing what a learning experience can be for a child anywhere in the world. For students, introducing technology into the classroom will allow them to have access to more educational materials, which ultimately has an immeasurable impact on their learning process. In the communities that we work in, most classrooms contain few, if any, engaging books — without books, students don’t read. One e-reader provides a student with 100 books in both English and the local language. Bringing technology into our schools allows us to level the playing field by providing students with the most basic classroom needs.

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Using tools like Salesforce, we can then constantly evaluate the outcomes and ROI of our programs, which includes the innovations and technology we bring into the classroom, like e-readers. In turn, we’re consciously investing in what’s going to have the greatest impact on education outcomes, allowing us to become a leader amongst the innovative global nonprofits working toward sustainable social change.

Olivia Wittels

Senior Marketing Coordinator