Case Study: AmeriCorps VISTA Using Wiggio to Collaborate

Storified by Shannon Lehotsky · Fri, Oct 26 2012 08:36:24


My name is Kimberly Martin and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at Habitat for Humanity International.  My AmeriCorps service project is to help Habitat develop a national program to serve military members, veterans and their families with homeownership, volunteer and employment opportunities.  To provide management, oversight and governance of the program’s development, we formed three different groups:  a task force and two advisory committees.  We use Wiggio to communicate with and share information among members of the three groups.

We started using Wiggio in August 2011, about two months after we set up our task force.  When we first formed the task force, we quickly learned the volume of emails, documents, Facebook updates and other communications were filling up our in-boxes and driving us crazy.  We considered using the organization’s enterprise software for data repository and email/communications, but the system is very structured and institutionalized.   It could not offer a quick fix to our communication troubles.  An AmeriCorps member on our task force was familiar with Wiggio from her graduate studies.  She suggested we introduce Wiggio to the team on a trial basis.  We set up a Wiggio group for the task force and within one day, we were organized!  Because it’s easy to learn and simple to use, Wiggio quickly became the “software of choice” for our team.
We formed two advisory committees for the project once the working group was in high gear. One advisory group is made up of senior managers who are typically computer-savvy and adapt well to change.  Another advisory group consists of VIPs from external organizations and government agencies.  The VIP group tends to have a lower comfort level with technology, and their schedules are too busy to allow time to learn new things.

Despite the disparity in our advisory committees, we set up Wiggio groups for them.  Some members needed a lot of hand-holding to get over the fear of “scary” new computer applications.  Others took to Wiggio without a second thought.

With five months’ experience behind us, one of our favorite features of Wiggio is the data repository.  We can store documents, links to articles, videos and other media, which is easily shared within each group.  Our younger members like the “Comments” feature of Wiggio – it makes them feel like they are using Facebook and chatting with friends, but they are really working.  Our older members like the options Wiggio offers them.  They can choose to pay attention to Wiggio posts, uploads, invites, etc. or they can just ignore everything.  If we had stuck with the old-fashioned “email everything to everyone” approach, our members would be flooded with information.  Our group norms allow, at most, one Wiggio email update daily.  In many cases, our members do not send any update notifications unless they post something that requires critical attention.   We leave it up to the members to check Wiggio as often as they like.

Wiggio provides a great deal of value for the money (because it’s free!).  Our groups could not be as productive as they are using Wiggio if we solely relied on email to communicate.  There are huge cost savings for our organization because of the free email / data storage, as well as improved productivity from high-performing teams.  The benefits of direct communication (vs. blast emails) and information underload (vs. overload) are wonderful for our sanity and mental health.  Also, our project receives an intangible value by introducing an innovative product to what tends to be a conservative organization.

As an AmeriCorps member, I will continue to use Wiggio for similar pilot/development projects because typical enterprise software products are not nimble enough to support a virtual team structure that includes members inside and outside the organization.  I will also encourage all AmeriCorps members to introduce Wiggio to their organizations.  The improved productivity is a wonderful deliverable that you can leave with your organization at the end of the service year.
Thank you for a great product!
Kimberly Martin
Veterans Initiative – AmeriCorps VISTA
Government Relations and Advocacy