Here is what this month’s update is looking like from us at Tech4Good Community.
- We have an engineering team in place to ensure that our FOSSFwd programme is able to produce replicable solutions for many common system requirements of NPOs.
- Tech4Good Community’s platform OTTER and website have been merged. Our new website now functions as a resource hub for NPOs to learn about proprietary and free and open source software. Visit us here.
- FOSSFwd (FF)
We customise open source low-cost replicable solutions for NPOs through our FOSSFwd (Free and Open Source Software) program where students are provided with internships exposing them to the developmental sector. Through this our aim is to build a solid engineering ecosystem.
Interested NPOs can reach out to us here.
The student internship programme is underway, we have 1 intern and 30 fresh applicants in the pipeline for this programme.
Transform Schools were part of the Spotlight Series and have expressed interest to be a part of the FOSSFwd programme. They reached out to us with their requirements around HR and Finance Management, which were as follows:
- HR Management: personnel records, payroll management, benefits administration, attendance tracking, time sheets, performance evaluation
- Finance and Accounting: general ledger, accounts payable and receivable, budgeting, expense management, financial reporting, project performance tracking, invoicing, vendor management, resource planning, inventory management and procurement, compliance and governance
We are in the process of customising a workspace for them on ERPNext, they will confirm their participation once we have demonstrated the capabilities of the system to them.
5 Other FF Case Studies
Earth Focus is a non profit organisation dedicated to promoting environmental awareness and sustainability. With a mission to foster a global movement for a greener and healthier planet, Earth Focus envisions a future where human activities coexist harmoniously with nature.
The Earth Focus team shared with us a wishlist of the kind of data they would like to be able to collect and visualise… These included village details, farmer information, replacement of crops, tracing the number of bags distributed, costs, what was planted, the timeline of planting, market rates changes, identify which crop is affected seasonally, tracking farmer profits, uploading of photos of the crops, geotags of the sites they work in, addition of new field staff & volunteers to name a few.
Along with this they were looking to visualise and identify which plant requires treatment as an intimation from the data collected and overall reports on how the programme is being delivered on ground.
The Tech4Good Community team has completed training them on Kobo Toolbox - on creating the form, the available templates with a step by step walk through on the basics of using it along with understanding how to deploy the forms onto the mobile app. We have helped them create the form based on skip logic (similar to skip code but automatic and have added type form responses where the interviewer can type answers.
Next step is to ensure we help them take this to the field and then introduce, customise & train them to use Metabase for data visualisation.
2.Centre for Migration & Inclusive Development is a nonprofit advocating for and promoting the social inclusion of migrants and other socially disadvantaged populations in India. Their priorities include designing, piloting and implementing programmes for mainstreaming as well as improving the quality of life of migrants.
Our tech team conducted a thorough research and suggested ERPNext as the solution. ERPNext is an open-source tool which can be customised according to the requirements of CMID’s clinical workflow. It is also an affordable solution and uses a simple interface which does not require a tech team to handle the system from the backend. With this in mind, our team created a sample workspace in the existing healthcare system of ERPNext and presented it to the CMID team.
The T4GC team created a prototype with the patient workflow and added all the requested features by the CMID team to it. After this was presented, CMID team highlighted their additional requirements as below:
- Ability to track the day, date and time of the patient coming in along with the location they are coming from. In short, they should be able to track patient history.
- Ability to track the services taken by an individual who visited the clinic.
- Ability for drivers to track parkings and registrations when the vehicle is parked at a certain locality as a part of HR/Payroll and Stock Management System.
- They also requested to host their systems on an Indian server. AWS credit points were available to them and it can be used to cover the hosting charges.
- Requested for a unique ABHD ID and a drop down field to be added for each field.
Currently the T4GC team is working on embedding the additional drop-down options into the healthcare system and also drafting a plan for the technical architecture. We are also working closely with the CMID team to help them apply and get AWS credits for hosting of this solution.
3.Anahata United Efforts is an organisation whose mission is to expand new age career opportunities to the youth in our society. They expand the awareness of various career opportunities not just by career guidance counselling but by closely monitoring each student’s set of skills and providing them options with career paths.
They have faced challenges with their data visualisation tool, including frequent payments for bug fixes and a substantial number of initial bugs in the platform. This proved inefficient for a rapidly scaling nonprofit who already works with around 4000 students per district. This also provides inaccurate data for reporting.
Upon our visit to their office, they broke down their requirements in accordance to their priorities which did end up being reshuffled after review. Due to the rapid scaling of nonprofits, it can be hard for them to decide on a method to carry output. Depending on how rapid their growth rate is, their change in requirement would be equally ever changing. By using open source software like Metabase, BIRT and others, it can be considered that they are frequently updated by a community of developers and have a strong user base that contributes to bug identification and resolution. Besides this, the process of migrating students when they pass 8th Standard to 9th Standard is an arduous process with which they tend to spend a lot of time on.
Metabase is a highly intuitive digital tool that displays visual representations on the data you provide. Users save a lot of time making graphs for specific reasons, Metabase however allows the user to pose questions in the form of keywords. Being open sourced, Metabase has faster bug fixes as there are 50,000 other organisations using the tool.
Anahata United Efforts collects data of about 8.2 lakh students in India, hence one of the main concerns they had about using open source software like Metabase was security of data. However, Metabase, like most open source software, follows strict permission guidelines and data sandboxing. Metabase follows GDPR and CCPA guidelines in order to maintain transparency with its users. They allow users to have a thorough view of what Metabase has access to. United Efforts are to host Metabase on their local server. Metabase can also send updates to team members within the organisation using Slack Messenger which allows users within an organisation to function smoothly as it offers transparency and free flowing communication on changes made.
The Tech4Good Community puts its effort into ensuring that nonprofit organisations check off all the boxes in their requirements for a specific tool. Nonprofit organisations like Anahata United Efforts need intuitive tools to visualise their own data in accordance with all the data they collect. Metabase allows for the freedom of choosing what you want to display productively. Our team works around the clock to ensure delivery of demonstrations and implementations are up to the mark, which is why installing and adding these accounts on our servers to demonstrate examples in relation to the organisation, has proven useful to display how beneficial the tool can be for them.
This is the first organisation that we have worked with to implement Metabase. So far we’ve used sample data to demonstrate the features and customisable aspects to Metabase. During our learning period with the Metabase platform we encountered a problem with regards to environmental variables on their local server which in layman’s terms are code buttons embedded into Metabase to help it perform in accordance with an organisations requirement, rather than changing the code of Metabase, environmental variables are placed as part of the elaborate plan for the future of Metabase. After thorough deliberation, we have decided to use MySQL to import their datasets onto Metabase via Amazon RDS. Amazon RDS was used because we had some credits in our AWS account which we wanted to initiate as it gives us user friendly operations and various features to play with the API aspect, which would help with further developments on Metabase. Amazon RDS is a managed database service by AWS, providing a scalable and reliable platform for hosting relational databases, simplifying administration and offering features like backups and high availability.
Plustrust provides micro-incubation support for changemakers from resource poor communities, particularly from rural areas through our fellowship programs. Their vision is to create a world where all people – especially those from resource poor communities – have the opportunity to create an impact for themselves and others.
The first time we interacted with this fantastic organisation was at the Tech4Good Community Spotlight Series 2021 supported by EdelGive Foundation. Plustrust was one of the 100 NPOs who attended it.
From our Tech Maturity Assessment through this Spotlight, we found that 44% of nonprofits from this cohort used Microsoft Excel, Google Forms or Paper. Plustrust had been using Microsoft Excel and Google Forms and was making a move to a new MIS at that point in time.
Our next insightful interaction was on April 3rd 2023 at the Amazon Web Services HIVE event by Tech4Good Community hosted by AWS. Our team met with Lalitha Iyer, Managing Trustee and Priyanshi Sharma, Program Manager at Plustrust. We learnt about their interest in open source software and cloud hosting platforms as well as their organisation’s requirements.
A month later, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to present our FOSSFwd project to them as we saw the potential of using FOSS rather than their current system due to the problems being nullified.
On the 14th of May, 2023 the Tech4Good Community met with Lalitha from Plustrust on our first field visit with them. With a strong commitment to sustainable development and social progress, Plustrust works tirelessly to address pressing issues such as poverty, inequality and social injustice. To achieve this process, they’re in need of a better data management system to track and manage their women volunteer programs with which we recommended ERPNext.
We found that their requirement was for a data management tool and volunteer management system to track progress and success rates. They also require tracking aspects of various projects like tracking the selected participants in their Microinclubation project and what happens over the period of our engagement. Because of the number of varied objectives, they found it difficult to streamline this process on their existing software.
They also wanted an easy overview of how many are in the fellowship project and the ability to profile those who have completed the fellowship along with a seamless reporting system.
Plustrust highlighted the challenges faced by them on their existing system and how they would like to overcome them in the new system. The cost for using this platform is around 17k per annum including an approximate implementation charge of Rs.2000/- Below are a few other observed issues reported by them:
- Frequent server issues with the system
- Issues with demographics - Existing modules are not very precise and clear
- These modules are also not editable and would like to have it added to the ERPNext system
- They also want to generate MPR(Monthly Performance Report) directly from beneficiaries and update it instead of doing it manually which is their current system.
- Unable to edit the forms available and lot of these categories are very confusing
- Data sheet is not easy for them to analyse. Analysing their static and dynamic data is very difficult.
- Though MPR is filled, they are unable to see the details when clicked on the module.
- Programs and varieties of projects have increased and their system does not support their current requirements
- Requested for a monthly performance review system to track the performance of their current programs
We also found that they needed to track the CHE (one of their programmes), which has shown to be very data heavy as they need to track the women based on various aspects such as skill development, treatment of clients and number of active medical units at their disposal. The system they were using, didn’t have the capacity to create dashboards when it came to visualising these elements from their work.
ERPNext is an open-source Enterprise Resource Planning System which could double up as financial accounting, project management, human resources and inventory management systems. It is a powerful tool that could potentially allow them to manage their volunteers, track their activities, and measure their impact. Additionally, ERPNext is free and easily integratable with other systems.
“ERPNext has shown to be much easier to use from the demonstration by Santhosh and Ibtisam (from the Tech4Good Community product and engineering team respectively). I liked the ease with which one could develop many drop down menus. The data we require, there’s a static element and a dynamic element and doesn’t require changing after that. We need to ensure that the data is more accurately collected and our systems feedback loop isn’t up to par. ERPNext has shown to be much more intuitive and easy to use overall. ”- Lalitha Iyer, Managing Trustee, Plustrust
This is the second project the Tech4Good Community has done with regards to ERPNext, our engineering and core team went through an internal capacity building training on this specific tool. The team took 17 working days to create a brand new workspace and demonstrate the prototype to Priyanshi and Lalitha. Plustrust had shared a document detailing the demographics and details they would then have to graft and filter from their teams, anchors, fellows and the CHE projects.
Our team developed and demonstrated the prototype for Plustrusts new ERPNext workspace and encountered a few challenges with regards to creating a new workspace as well as how to change the DocType. A DocType is what ERPNext uses like folders, to organise data in accordance to needs and the type of information it holds. They’ve added customised drop down options and a new workspace as the pre existing workspace on the ERPNext health domain wasn’t enough. Tech4Good Community’s product and engineering team spent a total of 72 hours working on the prototype for Plustrust’s possible new workspace. While looking for hosting options for ERPNext, we suggested AWS as a possible solution. Plustrust has an FCRA certificate, which means they are eligible for AWS credits. They are in the process of registering on BigTech.
5.Way for Life is a registered, youth-driven NGO, based in Bengaluru, Karnataka, founded in the year 2017. The footsteps of their approaches to community development and environmental sustenance have been ideated and undertaken by the energetic body of youth volunteers who write their story through reshaping ours.
A Volunteer Management System came up as a priority item during our conversations, since they did not have any system in place to manage this. They were using excel sheets to track the data of over 10k - 15k students from various universities. They stressed the need for a system that would allow them to track the tasks assigned to these students as part of their ongoing volunteer engagement programmes-the idea behind which is to provide them with opportunities to gain hands-on experience in order to build a career within the nonprofit sector.
We received detailed notes from Way for Life on the extent of customisations required by them. This was based on the previous paid system they had in place which came packed with almost all the required features and functionality. Team T4GC has been in the process of researching the replicable components of this system and eliminating the redundancies as we customised an open source solution for them.
As things stand, the activities and tasks of volunteers are uploaded in Google Classroom but it is not the most effective method to track assignments given the volume of volunteers. They would ideally like for it to be simpler. We presented Moodle as an option to see if a learning management system (LMS) would meet their requirements but the unavailability of any active courses from their end, made us eliminate the suggestion.
We recommended ERPNext as a solution for their volunteer management system. It is a powerful tool that could potentially allow them to manage their volunteers, track their activities, and measure their impact. Additionally, ERPNext is free and easily integratable with other systems. This makes it an ideal solution for Way for Life.
In order for us to build a prototype, we had to request access to their registration forms including student registration forms. We appraised the existing data distribution & arrangement and are working out ways to embed these in one system, eradicating the need to switch between systems.
Way for Life also wants the reports to be visible to the students’ respective universities and the ability to track their volunteering hours & attendance. The option to track their assignments and a function to assess and review them is a priority requirement .
Team T4GC has requested for sample data to explore these solutions and build a prototype based on it for the volunteer management system and grant management system. We are in the process of customising & creating a new Workspace on ERPNext for them.
We are working with 15 other NPOs as part of our FF initiative. More on them in the next update.
As an extension of the sessions in the Spotlight Series, several organisations in the cohort had signed up for customised 1-1 mentorships on tools like Trello, Google Ads, Google Earth and Google Analytics in partnership with Atlassian & Google.
Google Ads: Public Health Foundation of India, Sarthak Foundation, Madurai Health and Leprosy Relief Centre, Transform Schools, YCDA - 5 NPOs are being mentored by Googlers as part of our Google4Good initiative on understanding their usage and to improve the efficiencies of their Google Ads account.
Google Analytics: 34 NPOs are currently in the process of getting mentored 1-1 by Googlers. They have two sessions per organisation: one to set up a new account/help migrate the NPOs to the newly updated Google Analytics - GA4 from the previous Universal Analytics accounts and a second session to understand the setting up of their organisational goals to analyse their website traffic.
Trello: CMID, Yuva Rural Association, National Institute of Women Child and Youth Development, Swmrt, SeSTA- 5 NPOs have been mapped to 1-1 mentorship with our partners at Atlassian to help with the set up and using the Trello project management software.