NZ Navigator is an online tool for charitable organisations to assess their performance, get feedback against benchmarks and best-practice guidelines, and identify priorities to improve.
There are tens of thousands of community organisations in Aotearoa, most of whom receive funding in one way or another and all of whom are trying to make a positive impact in their community. NZ Navigator is a simple, easy-to-use online assessment tool focussed on building strong and effective organisations and communities. It provides a useful benchmark for future evaluations and lets organisations track their progress over time.
NZ Navigator enables users to assess the performance of their organisation by rating all the important areas of operation - direction, governance, leadership, people, administration, finance, communication, evaluation and relationships. It aims to capture as much data as possible regarding community organisations’ performance.
With that data we are able to provide reports with charts, scores, feedback and, most importantly, resources and action plans to assist users to develop their organisation. The tool is not directly linked to funding, but it can help organisations talk to funders and demonstrate the value of the work they are doing.
NZ Navigator is used by people from all across the country, with various levels of technical capability and with a lot of potential data to capture. It needed to be clear, easy-to-use and valuable.
A key part of the NZ Navigator project was around interface simplification and streamlining of questions. Similar projects had been tried before and failed - all were too complicated or time consuming to use.
We knew that we had to put users at the centre of this project and that this group of users would likely be people who are not very technically savvy. They were mostly volunteers and didn’t have much time to spend on non-core activities. We created personas and user goals to inform our design, and then tested with real people who would use the website. The testing not only helped improve the next iteration of design but also provided valuable feedback for the project stakeholders who heard direct feedback as to what users found useful or irrelevant.
Our usability focus means that many hundreds of organisations have now completed the review with minimal external support required and there is an active community of users who get value for their organisations.
NZ Navigator was developed by an innovative partnership of organisations collaborating to achieve their shared vision. In building NZ Navigator, Ackama collaborated with the Platform Trust, Association of Non-Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa (ANGOA), Social Development Partners, Bishop's Action Foundation and the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).
Because this project had multiple stakeholders, it was important that we worked together to come up with a simple and effective solution. With a non technical user group and a lot of information to gather, we stressed frequent, open, and low-jargon content. This meant we could highlight potential risks at the beginning of the challenge, and mitigate them with robust design, research and testing to ensure that we were building the right thing in the right way.
Partnered with Platform’s project management team, we learned from their deep understanding of delivering capability assessments into organisations. We gave attention to the experience and outcomes the tool was targeting and the complexity of information. We include nudges to encourage action planning, and considerations for tech-averse users to be included.
The involvement of the community sector brought a level of understanding and authenticity in developing the service. By speaking to people in the community sector from an early stage of development, we were able to respond to the needs of a diverse range of users. Many times, our assumptions were uncovered and needed to be revisited. Incorporating these lessons into the project greatly improved usability.
NZ Navigator was built in two phases over 18 months. The first phase allowed us to release the project to the community and prove it’s usability and usefulness. Once that had been established and the case for the product was proved, we were able to take user feedback to build improvements to the product and release a second version.
In the second phase of development we expanded the capabilities of the application to allow multiple respondents for an assessment. This brought exciting new use cases for the tool, allowing organisation and branch wide assessments, gathering data from full time employees and volunteers, and comparing internal perceptions of organisational performance.
We are hugely proud of the project, having delivered a product which works for our customers - DIA, the Platform Trust and their end users. 1,400 organisations used NZ Navigator in the first 18 months following its launch and we’ve heard anecdotal stories about how fun and easy the product is to use, especially compared to other products which have been trialed in the past.