Trussell Trust

Helping 1,000,000 people get emergency access to food

Challenge

The Trussell Trust wanted to enhance the data captured on their clients to support their More Than Food programme.

Solution

Following extensive research, we developed a system that analyses data, frees up time for volunteers and helps clients access food without delays.

Services

  • Digital Strategy
  • Agile Project Management
  • User Experience Research
  • User Experience Design
  • Web Application Development
  • Ruby on Rails Support

Project Overview

Providing emergency food to a million people a year

The Trussell Trust is a charity that coordinates the UK’s only nationwide network of foodbanks. In 2015 over one million people used Trussell Trust foodbanks.

Trussell Trust has more than 400 foodbanks and partners with over 28,000 care agencies, such as social services, job centres and schools.

Traditionally agencies would refer people to Trussell Trust by giving them a paper voucher, which can be exchanged at a foodbank for three days’ worth of food. Agencies would write a client's details on the voucher and this would later be manually entered into Trussell Trust’s system by a foodbank volunteer.

Trussell Trust wanted to enhance data on their clients in order to gather more detailed statistics and to support its campaigning activities as well as it’s More Than Food programme. Bit Zesty development team was already looking after Trussell Trust’s existing web application and we had a good working relationship with the charity, so they approached us for help.

User-led digital transformation

We began by carrying out research so we could better understand the environment and the user needs. We ran workshops with Trust employees and volunteers, and representatives from care agencies. We also visited foodbanks to observe and interview staff and the clients.

Although the aim of our user research had been to identify opportunities how best to gather enhanced data, it also uncovered various other pressing user needs. For example:

  • the process for signing up new partner agencies was manual and meant there was a delay before they could issue foodbank vouchers to clients
  • as each voucher was only valid for use at a few foodbanks, some clients were having to use foodbanks that were difficult for them to travel to

Our research showed us that there was a bigger opportunity to use digital to transform Trussell Trust’s operating model and to improve efficiency and customer experience.

Testing with users to improve designs

To make sure that the system was intuitive and easy to use, our UX team took prototypes to foodbanks and care agencies to test with real users. Overall the feedback was positive and as always, user testing provided additional valuable insights. For example, we found some discrepancies in the terminology used across the network. Also, some of the users with lower digital skills did not always scroll down the page. We took what we learned during user testing, and iterated our designs.

Enhancing data to support Trussell Trust’s mission

The new system enables to collect richer data which is helping Trussell Trust better understand the underlying causes of hunger in the UK. This enables Trussell Trust to generate live reports, analysis and data visualisation. Key insights can be easily identified to help them better serve their clients. For example, the system can be used to analyse demographic data, highlighting underserved and at-risk populations.

Crucially the enhanced data is supporting Trussell Trust’s campaigning activity that aim to engage government decision makers with the realities of poverty.

Transforming service delivery to clients

Trussell Trust’s digital transformation is improving the service it provides clients. The improved depth of data is helping foodbanks to provide more effective support to clients through key initiatives such as the More Than Food programme, which aims to increase awareness and to help break the cycle of poverty.

At the center of Trussell Trust’s digital transformation, is the ability for agencies to issue vouchers digitally. This means that the vouchers can be easily verified across the network and clients will now be able to redeem their vouchers at any of the participating charity’s foodbanks. To enable that, our development team built functionality which allows agencies to find the foodbanks closest to a client’s preferred location - the agencies can print the foodbanks’ details with the voucher, including maps, opening hours and bus routes.

Increasing operational efficiency

Trussell Trust’s upgraded system over time will result in improvements in efficiency. For example, our software development team built functionality that allows Trussell Trust staff to easily sign up new partner agencies in a few minutes. The former manual process could take days, which meant there was a delay before an agency could issue foodbank vouchers to clients. The transformed digital sign up process can be completed within minutes.

Also, foodbank volunteers spend a significant amount of time entering data from paper vouchers. Foodbanks that fully embrace the new digital voucher system, no longer have to do that as the data is now entered by agencies during the voucher issuing process. This frees up the volunteers, enabling them to spend more time directly helping clients.

Supporting the launch of the new system

Improving data quality and replacing the existing paper voucher system with a digital voucher system was at the core of the Trussell Trust’s digital transformation.

We were aware that this meant a significant change for Trussell Trust’s staff, 42,000 volunteers and 28,000 referral agencies.

We decided on a two stage rollout to ease foodbanks into the new system. We began by launching the updated user interface and some of the new functionality. Once users are comfortable with this, we will be launching the digital vouchers.

To help with the change management as well as to provide additional guidance to users with lower digital skills, we created training videos and manuals to support the launch of the improved system.

As any major system change can result in substantial support requests, once the system went live, our team was on standby and helping Trussell Trust with the first line of support enquiries. This not only helped us to iron out any initial issues but also gave us invaluable insights into other user needs.

This first major system change creates a strong foundation for the Trussell Trust’s future vision and their digital strategy. It will enable further developments to support Trussell Trust operation and campaigning activities and to provide additional improvements for all their users and clients.