Tech pilot aims to enhance contact for sponsored children

Plan International UK and CommonTime to develop solution that will make it easier for UK sponsors and those they sponsor around the world to keep in touch.

James Hayes | 8th Jun 18
View of mobile handset running pilot project by Plan International UK that aims to enhance communications between sponsored and their sponsored children around the world.

A project with the aim to transform digital communications between sponsored children and their UK sponsors has been launched by charity Plan International UK supported by technology partner CommonTime.

Funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery, the project will pilot several software solutions with the objective of enabling better communication between a Plan International UK sponsor and their sponsored child. This technology also has the potential to reduce the time it takes for messages to reach recipients, and reduce the cost to the charity of facilitating communication.

Plan International UK sponsors receive regular updates and photographs from their sponsored child, and keep in touch by sending letters back. Facilitating the exchange of letters, images and drawings enables sponsors to build a connection with their sponsored children, and learn about each other’s lives. However, the logistical challenges of content moderation, translation and physical transit mean that even emailed messages can take weeks to deliver.

The introduction of CommonTime’s technology aims to make it easier, faster and more engaging for sponsor and sponsored child, the charity said, by sending and receiving messages through their mobile device. It also means sponsors will be able to exchange photos and videos with their sponsored children.

The pilot will not affect the content moderation process required to keep sponsored children safeguarded (e.g., preventing them from accidentally revealing their exact location). The system will also include moderator features designed to speed the process and reduce overheads.

Plan International UK will receive a copy of each message before it is delivered to its recipient. Staff will have the option to approve or reject messages dependent on their content. Rejected messages are returned to the sender, with a description of the reasons for rejection and suggestions for modification for re-sending.

“Child sponsorship has been one of the most powerful and engaging ways to make a difference – sponsors find it rewarding to build a personal connection with their sponsored child, and receiving updates about how Plan International UK helps the community they live in,” said Alan Gosschalk, Director of Fundraising at Plan International UK. “Support from the People’s Postcode Lottery has enabled us to utilise technology that will make it cheaper and easier to build unique relationships around the world, and to communicate the impact of donations.”

“We’re delighted to be working with Plan International UK on a project that will have such a real-world impact,” said Ian Knight, CEO at CommonTime. “Finding new and engaging ways of communicating with supporters will be vital to the success of charities over the next decade. We hope the innovation will be received well enough for an international roll-out.”