UNICEF taps into the power of digital communities to help children and young people around the world

Published on July 25, 2019


UNICEF had to overcome the paradox of a global nonprofit organization: its effectiveness depends on both a worldwide reach and the ability to connect specialized groups of workers. Adding to the challenge, those groups comprise a myriad of cultures, languages, and situations that operate best with personal, supportive relationships. And given that half the organization focuses on emergencies, greater agility was also crucial.

UNICEF adopted Yammer in 2008. “Technology has always been an enabler for us,” says Storchi. “We were one of the first organizations to experiment with this type of consumer social-networking tool. Knowing that human networks have always been instrumental in saving children’s lives, we predicted that social networks would be critical to the future of UNICEF, supporting its global mandate for all children around the world by fostering knowledge exchange and building relationships.”


Yammer took off organically within the organization, but UNICEF needed a more intentional, disciplined structure to maximize the tool’s benefit. UNICEF wanted workers around the world to share their work and exchange ideas.


With so many online tools available, how could UNICEF teams get the most from each one, and what were the best practices? Working with Carrie Basham Marshall and the social strategy company Talk Social to Me, Storchi’s Communities team created a roadmap for an agile communication strategy. Not wanting to burden staff with onerous documentation, the team also created the BUILD program—a simple model for informal, purposeful communication and information sharing. “BUILD became a paradigm for our approach to building communities and collaborating,” explains Carolina Ramirez, Digital Communication Officer at UNICEF. The goal was, and remains, to bring simplicity, clarity, salience, and impact to online communities.

“Human networks have always been instrumental in saving children’s lives,” says Storchi. “We’re using Yammer to share the energy we all contribute to this fantastic mission, our evolving knowledge, and our growing collaboration transcends the old barriers of geography and time. It’s incredibly powerful.”

Paola Storchi (Knowledge Management Specialist, )


The BUILD model was a success. Employees can engage with each other on a personal level, and people who work in isolation can access up-to-date information and support. For Storchi, it’s about the quality of the communication just as much as it’s about convenience. “The immediacy we create with a platform like Yammer builds a lot of new energy and unleashes creativity,” she says. “There’s a recognition element, too, from features like Praise that revitalize and boost the motivation of our people.”

UNICEF is proud of the digital communication evolution. Yammer conversations are embedded in UNICEF’s Microsoft SharePoint site and on its intranet main page, displaying to all staff the latest Yammer feeds. “Yammer really allows the creativity, serendipity, and innovation from all over the globe to coalesce in one place,” Storchi says, “and it’s open communication.” With technology, UNICEF is facilitating the oldest form of communication—conversation between groups of people—and amplifying it to a global community.