Delivery in day(s): 4
Community Development CommDev INF Case Study An
Community Development (CommDev)
INF80043 Case Study
An Overview of CommDev
The Community Development Foundation (known as CommDev) is a tier-2 not-for-profit (NFP)
organisation. CommDev's vision and mission are all about promoting a regional society where every
child gets a chance to have a fair go in life and for them to grow as a young adult with dignity and
adequate skills to enrich themselves and their community. As a charity organisation, CommDev is
focused on community development in marginalised areas in developing and/or 3rd world countries.
Its main operation is focused mainly in the Pacific and Asian region. Although CommDev has a
presence in all major cities in Australia, Pacific, and Asian countries to coordinate fund-raising
campaigns and community development activities (CDA), CommDev offices in some of the Pacific and
Asian countries are mainly established to arrange, monitor, and maintain its community development
activities in those countries.
Despite being classified as a tier-2 charity organisation, CommDev has a significant fund turnover of
roughly AUD73 million per annum. The organisation is also on a health growth trajectory in the past 5
years despite the state of the economy. This has enabled CommDev to improve and extend its CDA.
One of its more prominent CDA is child education and sponsorship where certain arrangements are
made with a local school so the community's children could study while their cost of education,
including associated study costs for uniforms, books, breakfast, etc. are being subsidised by
In certain remote communities, it is not unheard of where CommDev programmes include
encouraging the local communities to work together with CommDev to build key facilities such as
schools, clean water wells, sanitary facilities, and clinics. Two years ago, CommDev successfully
launched a new Sustainable Community Partnerships Programme (SCPP) which aims to encourage
under-developed community to work together in a co-op model to produce certain products (i.e.,
crafts, natural produce) and sell the products, as a co-op, to a regional market. This is aimed at
increasing the bargaining power of the community (instead of individuals of the community selling a
product at a much lower quantity) as well as having some "quality control" over the products.
It is important to note that CommDev philosophy is to provide support while encourage the
community to "stand on its own feet". CommDev insists their model is one of cooperation between
CommDev, its network of partners and donors, the wider communities and the marginalised
communities to enable the under-privilege communities to establish a better way of living based on
its own ideas, culture and resolve.
The SCPP is a unique programme which shares a lot of similarities in terms of relationships with
CommDev partners (both local, regional, and international) in CommDev's other initiatives. There is
an ongoing communication between CommDev and its partners covering not only key processes
pertinent to assistance/aid distribution (i.e., purchasing of materials, logistics, maintenance), but in
the case of SCPP also covers the processes and activities that coordinate the buying and selling of
SCPP-sponsored products produced by the local communities. Some of the SCPP products are
exported, distributed, and sold globally via the network of CommDev partners.
In this regard, CommDev's role is limited only to the initial negotiation of terms and conditions of the
relationships and to coordinate and facilitate the transaction between SCPP communities and the
partners. To ensure the benefits will go back to the SCPP communities, CommDev also relies on the
partners to periodically report the sale of SCPP products (a percentage of the sales proceed will go
back to the SCPP communities in the region to improve basic facilities and to fund education of the
children/young adult in the communities).
Several Challenges: Operational, Tactical, Strategic
Obviously with the growth experienced by CommDev, especially the SCPP, the number of reports and
the intensity of the reports that need to be processed and monitored have increased quite
substantially. Processing these reports (and other information provided by CommDev partners) in an
effective and timely manner is really important for CommDev. It has an implication to cost of
operations as well as implication to the subsequent processing of the funds generated from the sales
of SCPP products (which naturally is going to be a big help to CommDev initiatives).
As CommDev operations span in multiple countries, it is subject to the law and regulation of the
countries in which it is operating in. However, at the same time, it has to comply with Australian law
at all times as its headquarter is registered in Australia. This is particularly challenging in situations
where CommDev's staff operating in the host country is required to divulge information to the
authority of the host country that may be deemed as inappropriate under Australian law (i.e., privacy
In such situation, in-country CommDev senior employees (i.e., senior staff members who are residing
in, and monitoring the programmes, in the country of operation), normally given a lot of autonomy to
make operational and tactical decision, need to quickly ascertain whether to comply or lodge an
exception to the relevant government agencies of the host country. In some of the cases,
communication and consultation with the headquarter in Australia is required due to the delicate
nature of the circumstances.
In its current operations, CommDev officers operating in different countries are normally equipped
with a set of mobile communication devices. This includes a number of short-range communication
devices that they would distribute to some of the local staff working on certain projects, a "smart"
phone, a satellite phone (for those going to remote areas), and a laptop. Staff is required to report to
the local and/or regional office periodically to provide updates on the CDA, the communities, the
team, and themselves (CommDev's charter also includes an emphasis to the duty of care to its
employees and people working for its projects).
In the past (and increasingly so now), staff had been allowed to bring their own devices to key
operational areas for reasons that had been long gone in the corporate memory (although one staff
recall that it might have been a "cost consideration", i.e., staff brings in his/her own device = less
financial commitment from the organisation to buy/provide a device for the staff member). Often
staff brings his/her own phones and/or laptops, citing "familiarity to the device" as the main reason
and CommDev programme coordinator would allow it. In a lot of cases where staff is allowed to bring
his/her own devices operational issues may appear. Some of the issues are in the form of
compatibility, different document/file formats (sometime staff working with different types of
applications forgot to save the files in the appropriate format prior to distribute it to other staff and/or
local/regional office/headquarter), support for devices, etc..
In a few cases, malicious codes were introduced to the system mostly affecting local/regional
operations although notably last year the system at the headquarter in Melbourne was affected by
this issue. Allegedly the problematic code/program was brought in by a privately owned laptop whose
owner (i.e., one of the project officers) just came back from an overseas assignment. Suffice to say, at
the moment, - for better or worse - the issue of the use of personal devices at work is a somewhat
unregulated issue within the organisation.
The Competitive Environment
It is also crucial to understand the competitive environment surrounding the NFP and/or charity
environment. A lot of people do not realise the competition for funding among the NFP and charity
organisations are truly intense. The economic slow-down, the potential of trade-wars, inflation,
uncertainties regarding the interest rates, high commodities prices, increasingly high cost of living,
and job-market uncertainties contribute to the concerns of the public which may/will influence their
decision regarding donating money to any charity.
According to the CEO, The reputation of the NFP/charity organisation, how they disburse the fund,
the cause they support, the area of operation, and numerous other reasons also play significant and
influential roles in "convincing" donors/potential contributors to help funding a certain cause/CDA..
Accountability and transparency of funds seems to be really high on potential contributors/donors list
of "things that matters". They want to know how much in a dollar they have contributed actually being
used to support the cause they have chosen instead of going to the cost of administering certain
community programmes (i.e., administrative cost, processing fee). This is somewhat a dilemma for
CommDev, to enable a great degree of accountability and transparency (i.e., to break down individual
components of where a certain percentage of the dollar go in a certain programme) is challenging and
potentially could be costly.
It is to the fact that support/aid disbursement come from a pool of resources. The pool of resources
may be in the form of the collective money multiple donors have contributed and also in the form of
other non-cash resources (i.e., boxes of pencils provided by multiple vendors). However, CommDev
recognises the importance of providing greater accountability and transparency of its use of the
resources provided by donors. In a highly competitive environment, the capability to assure the
donors regarding the credibility of the organisation in managing the funds is crucial in growing further
in this environment.
The Social Media and the Web
In trying to expand its target market (i.e., potential donors), CommDev has also been active in
marketing activities. Recognising the power of social media, CommDev has aggressively pursued a
web-marketing strategy. Numerous appeals have been launched through its website. A concentrated
effort to target specific users of social media or social networking sites (i.e., facebook, google+, twitter)
through a web-ad agency has also been launched. It is sufficed to say that CommDev profile in the
cyber-media/social-media (i.e., the "new media") and in the conventional media has increased
dramatically in the past 2 years and the management is keen on increasing its exposure to the social
media environment this year and the next.
In terms of the provision of the web-related infrastructure, CommDev is being assisted by 2
companies; a web-marketing company and a web-development/hosting company. While the web-
marketing company provides at-cost service, the web-development/hosting company provides its
service at 0-cost to CommDev. Despite their low-cost or no-cost contribution, their services so far have
been excellent. Particularly the web-hosting company that has a greater involvement in not only
hosting and developing the website for CommDev, but also manage the payment gateways and
donors/customers data they captured through CommDev web-platform.
CommDev receives donations from the public through multiple means. At times when it launches a
"knock-on-doors" appeal, it will send out volunteers to talk to householders, members of the public
in public places, schools, etc. to solicit cash donations from the public. In most cases, the potential
donor will utilises the phone to talk to one of CommDev rep to pledge and donate money using their
credit card (credit card transaction contributed to just over 80% of CommDevs funding last year).
With the web initiative, CommDev also now has the capability to allow web-based transaction and has
a plan to enable micro-donation through social networking sites.
The Corporate System
Internally, CommDev runs a corporate system called MicroForce. MicroForce is a custom-made system
designed and implemented circa the year 2000. Although it has been a robust system, it has been
increasingly difficult to maintain in the past 5 years. Due to the growth of operations, there had been
"patches" and "extension" of MicroForce. These extensions are not integrated with MicroForce, but
do have the ability to feed information and draw information/data from the main database of
In developing the extensions, CommDev worked with multiple software vendors who provided free
service or "at cost" basis to the organisation. A lot of these vendors are start-ups companies, and one
of the reason for them to provide their service for free is to build credibility (although some do have
a genuine altruistic motive behind them). Even so, a number of business and project initiatives have
to be postponed due to the inability of MicroForce to cope with the projected demands of
operationalising the proposed initiatives.
It is to the point where the Board is aware of the issues stemming from MicroForce. The CEO is aware
of the MicroForce issue and the management, on the insistence of the CEO, has commissioned the IT
Manager to explore the possibility of replacing MicroForce with another corporate system more
suitable for the future growth of the organisation.
The Potential of Feral Systems
In the mean time, CommDevs Human Resource team (comprising 1 manager and 2 HR specialists),
decided not to wait for proper functionality to be provided as part of MicroForce. They are seriously
considering going cloud. The HR manager has recently attended a presentation regarding Software as
a Service (SaaS) in the HR area, and was quite impressed at the benefits that could be gained by using
cloud-based/SaaS HR platform. She has initiated a discussion with Workday, a US based SaaS provider.
Ultimately, Her intention was to get funding from the CFO and use the fund to purchase the service
from one of the SaaS Human Resource Management Systems provider.
According to one of her contact in the HR profession, Workdays Human Capital Management is a
good solution for her contacts company. There was a discussion about the data centre and the server
being located in the US as the list of Australian clienteles is not big enough to justify an infrastructure
presence here, but she doesnt really care about that. All she wants is better functionalities for her
Data, Data Backup, and Data Infrastructure
The management of CommDev is well aware of the importance of its data, and it believes CommDev
has a good data backup strategy. The backup of the corporate data (which is vast as it comprises
operational data from multiple countries, transactional data from partners - i.e., SCPP sales data -,
transactional data from donors, donors list, donors information, project data/information) is done
monthly. The data backup service is provided "pro bono" by a small company (CommDev has recently
moved its data backup to this company as the previous company starting to charge fees for its service)
located in the Dandenong Range. Although it is a start-up company, but its directors promise
"excellent and reliable service to secure all corporate data and information" and "provide cost
effective solutions to corporate data backup and restoration". The company has an immaculate office
in a beautiful part of the Range, it has an impressive looking data backup infrastructure as per the
information provided in their web page, and it has leased a significant bandwidth from an ISP so it can
perform an off-site backup.
One aspect of IS/IT that everyone in the company is really proud of is the recent (4 months in operation
now) establishment of CommDev data centre. The data centre, located in the east wing of its
headquarter, is going to be extensively used to support and drive multiple aspects of the organisation's
various operations and programme. It has a continuous redundant backup facility, linked to the
outside with high-speed broadband connections, high-speed high-capacity, integrated voice-video-
data telecommunication facility, and RAID storage technology with removable HDD.
-- End of the CommDev Case Study --