Environmental organization Earth Hour may have just eight people on its official staff, but it relies heavily on hundreds of volunteers to organize community initiatives around the globe.
Started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, Earth Hour encourages people to turn out their lights for one hour in a coordinated stand against the negative impact of climate change. Last year, the campaign — run in partnership with the — reached more than 2 billion people in 152 countries. "We wanted to show the skeptics that people care about this, even if it was only an hour," said Andy Ridley, CEO and co-founder of Earth Hour.
How does an eight-person staff reach 2 billion people? With plenty of volunteers. A year ago, the organization moved away from the wiki software and email methods it has been using to share documents, campaign updates, and best practices, picking the Yammer enterprise social network platform to organize its communications instead.
The impact of this shift has been profound, helping eliminate redundant or repetitive questions, and allowing volunteers to share information across the globe far more quickly and efficiently. The platform works by allowing members to post messages, which can be answered by anyone. There can easily be up to 300 new messages posted on an average day.
"When someone has a challenge, there is a reasonably good chance that someone can find the answer," Ridley said.
Culturally speaking, Ridley said it was relatively simple to get people to adopt the new platform. It has also reinforced the spirit of collaboration that is necessary to coordinate global events. "If everything is out in the open, it tends to change the way you communicate," he said.