April 24, 2019
Impact is brought about in many ways – sometimes it’s the delivery of a service, but it can also be through access to “things.” Impact can come from access to things like solar lanterns, medicine, or loaned farm equipment, all of which need to be tracked and managed – increasingly through technology. Here’s how World Bicycle Relief (WBR) uses barcode scanners to manage the distribution and maintenance of bicycles used to break down barriers to independence and livelihoods in emerging markets.
Thanks to World Bicycle Relief® for sharing its story of how they’re creating impact, with a system Vera Solutions designed and built and with the help of TaroWorks‘ mobile field services app. Read our webinar recap below, or watch the full webinar for more details.
WORLD BICYCLE RELIEF
World Bicycle Relief mobilizes people through the “Power of Bicycles” and envisions a world where distance is no longer a barrier to independence and livelihoods. WBR designs, builds and distributes rugged bicycles to students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in rural regions of developing countries, to better connect them to livelihoods, education and healthcare.
Their Buffalo Bicycles are simple, locally-assembled, durable bicycles that have been specifically designed for rural terrain and can carry up to 100kg on the rear carrier.
To date, WBR has distributed over 447,340 bicycles across their global program locations, some of which are sold (along with spare parts) through their social enterprise arm, and some of which are donated to targeted individuals through their philanthropic arm. Additionally, they have trained over 2,201 local bicycle mechanics.
In WBR’s philanthropic arm, the majority of bicycles are distributed to students through the Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP). Education is key to ending cycles of disease and poverty and BEEP focuses on keeping children in school by lessening the barrier of distance. Some children are walking up to 15km to get to school and these bicycles are not only getting them there on time, but also allowing them to do things outside of school that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
To track how they’re doing against their mission, WBR measures and evaluates these areas of impact:
THE NEED FOR MOBILE TECHNOLOGY
As WBR’s program grew in scope and their monitoring and evaluation needs evolved, they identified three main issues that led them to look for a digital system.
Buffalo Bicycles are manufactured in Taiwan, shipped to the countries of operation, assembled in the central warehouses and then head to schools for the “Bicycle Distribution Ceremonies”. After the bicycles left the warehouses, it was challenging to track the bicycles. The bicycles were manually allocated to students against a paper list, which was time consuming. There was also a gap in their ability to track between the warehouse and the bicycle recipients and they had limited information about the bicycles’ maintenance levels.
Access to Schools
In 2018, WBR worked with 169 schools in four countries. Paper worked up to a point, but as the program grew, it became increasingly difficult to monitor activities at all of the schools and receive data in a timely manner.
Improved data management
Ivy Kabombwe is WBR’s M&E Research Assistant in Lusaka, Zambia, and her role is to manage monitoring and evaluation data. The enormous amount of data that needed to be filed and entered became unbearable with paper. WBR had already been using Salesforce to manage its fundraising and finances, but they wanted to evolve their use of the database further by integrating monitoring and evaluation into the same system. This led WBR to seek help on Salesforce from Vera Solutions.
SYSTEM 1.0 – FROM THE VIEWPOINT OF A SALESFORCE IMPLEMENTER
Vera Solutions is a global social enterprise that’s driven to amplify the impact of the social sector through cloud and mobile technology. Vera helped World Bicycle Relief set up their Salesforce instance in 2015 to start basic monitoring and evaluation of bicycle beneficiaries. However, WBR still relied on lots of paper to get information from the field into the system. To remedy this, Vera Solutions built a custom page to upload data into the system, but this method proved to be increasingly time-consuming and challenging as WBR continued to scale.
Taking into account WBR’s growth and increase in data needs, Vera Solutions reassessed the systems and realized WBR needed a robust unique identifier system for tracking individuals and bicycles in addition to working offline, which is why TaroWorks’ barcode functionality became the obvious solution.
SYSTEM 2.0 – THE SYSTEM IN ACTION
With the new system in place, Ivy is able to use TaroWorks on a tablet for tracking data.
And she’s not the only one. There are two main types of TaroWorks mobile users in the field:
Tracking with TaroWorks
World Bicycle Relief is now able to track multiple indicators with offline data, including bicycle allocations to students, bicycle usage, repairs and maintenance, Bicycle Supervisory Committee activities, education outcomes (performance and attendance) and annual school profile indicators. Data logged by the Bicycle Supervisory Committees is sent directly to WBR’s Salesforce system, where they can monitor up-to-date records and reports.
Some analytics that Lawrence Banda, WBR’s Monitoring & Evaluation Technical Advisor, tracks:
USING BARCODE SCANNERS
One critical TaroWorks functionality for World Bicycle Relief’s operations is the use of barcode scanners. Using barcode scanning has simplified their processes, which means time savings, higher quality data and the elimination of manual errors.
World Bicycle Relief uses barcode scanners for two main purposes:
Bicycles are assigned to program participants during the Bicycle Distribution Ceremony by using the bicycle’s 15-digit serial number. The mobile user scans the barcode using a tablet or smart phone’s camera and that serial number is then linked to a beneficiary automatically. The distribution ceremonies are very busy, filled with lots of people and excitement so by introducing barcoding, it becomes fun for the Bicycle Supervisory Committees but it also allows them to move through the distribution process much faster.
During the pilot use of this mobile technology, 50 bicycles could be assigned to participants in 30 minutes, compared to more than two hours of logging 15-digit serial numbers manually.
Tracking bicycle maintenance[
WBR created a “bicycle service” job in TaroWorks, allowing field mechanics to retrieve a bicycle record by scanning the barcode. When they scan the bicycle code, they can see a list of all maintenance tickets and details about each request including the status of the ticket, when the service was identified and when the service was completed. This information serves as the basis for the reports that management monitors to make sure that students are able to use their bicycles.
BARCODE SCANNERS – LESSONS LEARNED & OTHER TIPS
Some tips that WBR has picked up from using the system at the school level include:
BENEFITS OF MOBILE & CLOUD TECHNOLOGY
MORE LEARNINGS & SCALING UP
WBR is really pleased with the Salesforce system and the benefits of TaroWorks thus far. They’re now thinking about how they can expand this further. Some of the changes they are considering:
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