“Fire fighters help people: they’re not typically the people who ask for help. As a charity, we recognised that there was a lot more that we could do in the preventative, proactive space - and that we could make a real difference at scale by taking the right digital approach.”
“We’re now much less tied to our locations - technology has aided our internal abilities, and we’ve become a much more cohesive organisation. We’re thinking digitally, finding new ways to engage with our staff and beneficiaries, and exploring all possibilities. Digital Wonderlab’s team has been hugely approachable, open and transparent throughout our strategic digital transformation process - we’ve had great confidence in their judgement and knowledge.”
The brand story
A people centred organisation creating a supportive community by defining their digital strategy helping their beneficiaries
The Fire Fighters Charity offers life-long specialist support, tailored made for individual members of the UK’s fire services community, ultimately empowering its 300,000 beneficiaries to achieve mental, physical and social wellbeing in their lives..
Working in a challenging, specialist space providing confidential personalised services for fire and rescue service personnel and their dependents, the organisation had reached a point where it needed to find new and effective ways to deliver its services and build a sense of community through digital channels.
The Fire Fighters Charity (FFC) embarked on a journey of discovery in its renewed strategic approach to digital maturity over the longer term with Digital Wonderlab: one that would unlock exciting and fresh opportunities to engage with beneficiaries, offering timely, proactive support - how they needed it, when they needed it.
Shifting the emphasis for the Fire Service Community
Those who work for the UK's fire and rescue services have always faced significant challenges to their personal wellbeing, often working in environments that require high levels of physical strength and mental resilience. This has become increasingly evident to wider society in recent times with high profile incidents like Grenfell Tower fire demonstrating the need to support firefighters, past and present, as well as their families, with their mental health and wellbeing.
Having supported the fire services community for almost 80 years, The Fire Fighters Charity has a long history of rising to meet challenges facing the beneficiaries. However, recent years have demonstrated that, whilst it is adept at providing reactive support to those in need, it is missing the opportunity to prevent issues from surfacing by providing proactive support to the whole fire services community.
The clear opportunity was to provide accessible, proactive and preventative support to all, extending the Charity’s reach beyond the face-to-face services it would continue to deliver through its three centres and in communities across the UK.
This would require the delivery and provision of advice and information to a broad and geographically dispersed beneficiary base. Accessible to all, available 24-7, covering a diverse spectrum of topics and offering advice that is relevant to each and every member of its target audience,
Accomplishing this would transform the Charity from a reactive provider of support services for those in need, to a proactive provider of transformative health and wellbeing advice, helping the entire fire services community to live healthier.
The Challenge and Approach
Strategically defining the charity's digital aims
The Fire Fighters charity wished to increase its mental health support provision, expand access to information and advice, develop enhanced physical and rehabilitation programmes and, at the centre of it all, build and strengthen connected communities - both physically and virtually.
Yet FFC faced several organisational challenges, which it hoped the right digital options could help overcome.
“We wanted to be much more flexible and proactive in the way that our service was offered - through digital consultations, working with third parties or collaborating with other organisations - and make it much easier for our beneficiaries to receive our support in ways that work for them. Above all else, we needed to create a community once again.”
Martin Smith, (Fire Fighters Charity)
The charity’s services were increasingly in demand, and a fresh approach was needed to continue to support an ever-growing number of beneficiaries and families throughout their personal and working lives.
They needed to digitally transform and, in turn, bring about a shift change in its service offering: Through investment in innovative digital technologies, it was aiming to:
- Develop community-based initiatives
- Disseminate research-led, proactive health and wellbeing content and resources
- Bring close partnerships working with fire and rescue services and other organisations who compliment their work
- Drive major campaigns to raise awareness of who they are, what they do and how they help
A highly focused and purposefully thought-led approach in our digital first world was needed to meet the charity’s strategic objectives to inform and prevent issues for its beneficiaries, by increasing knowledge around health and wellbeing issues within the fire service community and building an engaged and active online community.
Digital Wonderlab undertook a full strategic digital review, focusing on The Fire Fighters Charity’s people, culture, process, data, and systems and defining the internal skills necessary to move towards digital maturity - and the essential steps to achieve this. Fully understanding the organisation’s technology use and needs was essential: it allowed us to define the current landscape, explore TFFC’s digital vision and bring alignment to the charity’s long-term digital and strategic objectives.
The Solution and Result
Defining the digital programme working alongside the team
The focus was centred around defining the digital programme working alongside the team; building a prioritized and outcome-focused strategic roadmap and the supporting governance and skills to achieve it. An essential element of the plan was the ongoing programme assurance and sound boarding to drive focus, highlighting thematic strategic issues and support resolution as everything progressed.
From the outset, the aim was to cultivate a project mindset in the organisation – with tailored training sessions, all delivered virtually to the Executive and Senior Leadership Team, focusing on the core skills required to lead projects and the key tools needed to support. This was followed by coaching and support to embed the skills within the organisation. Many of the team come from a clinical background and are not traditionally project managers - a new set of skills were needed.
With crucial conversations around digital transformation taking place, maximising the use of Salesforce with the move to digital consultations through App based recovery support, and the charity’s adoption of VoIP software and Microsoft Teams proved invaluable, giving the organisation the tech ability and flexibility to continue to deliver its essential services to beneficiaries.
The forward looking digital systems have now successfully removed previous barriers to connection for FFC’s beneficiaries, allowing the charity to offer an even more valuable and supportive service, thanks to tech-enabled pre-assessment discussions blended with virtual face-to-face consultations which allow more people to be reached earlier in their journey, with research led health and wellbeing content and support.
The Fire Fighters Charity is now in possession of a clear digital maturity framework to help achieve its long-term strategic goals; the right internal processes, IT systems and governance frameworks are in place to ensure that FFC is ready and able to meet future challenges within the digital and agile working space.
Digital Wonderlab’s strategic digital and governance support for The Fire Fighters Charity has allowed the organisation to successfully align its business goals, develop a coherent change plan and, most importantly, has begun to drive better, user centred services to those that matter most.
The tailored project approach Digital Wonderlab defined with the FFC has begun to build out a transformational skillset and appetite for change which has allowed the management team to apply their need and enthusiasm for change with a focused, supportive, “start well-finish well” mentality, working across teams and structures which previously did not collaborate. Nearing the end of the first year of the strategic plan, there has been a sizeable shift in skillset which has resulted in some great projects getting over the line and a real excitement and belief in what they can achieve.
Building an optimum environment for digital expansion, appropriate infrastructure and hardware is enabling digital expectations to be met while enhancing the charity’s digital tools, including its web presence and internal and external systems. We’ve also explored tech’s capabilities to support the existing service provision, including digital rehabilitation and welfare services.
The Fire Fighters Charity has now adopted a digital-first service that is underpinned by firm foundations and continues its shift towards delivering a proactive support offering. Working collaboratively, we are helping the charity on its exciting journey to digital maturity, and the realisation of its vision to become a truly integrated, digital-focused organisation: one that uses technology to directly support and inform the past, present and the future of the UK’s fire family to live fuller and healthier lives.
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