Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV) works with government agencies, external partners and community-led organisations to coordinate and provide the support and services needed to help people and businesses get back on their feet after a disaster event.
BRV was established in January 2020, after the 2019–20 Eastern Victorian bushfires. BRV is a Victorian Government agency dedicated to working directly with recovering communities to listen, help and deliver what they need.
Since its inception, BRV has done some incredible work to help Victorians to recover and rebuild. But it knew it could work even more effectively together as an organisation.
The growing climate crisis means Victorians can expect longer and hotter bushfire seasons, as well as other extreme weather events such as storms and flooding, to become more common. So BRV wanted to work fast to ensure that it is prepared to respond to future events.
Based on feedback from community, staff and partner agencies, BRV decided to embark on an ambitious digital transformation program to improve how it:
- enables people find and access support online
- coordinates and delivers recovery efforts
- collects, uses and shares recovery data
- communicates with communities and partners.
We worked with Bushfire Recovery Victoria on both the communication and data aspects of their digital transformation. On the communication side of things, Bushfire Recovery Victoria had already identified the following problem:
Teams across Bushfire Recovery Victoria and other government agencies are communicating about disaster recovery programs, supports and services differently, leading to inconsistent communications about the work Bushfire Recovery Victoria is doing to help communities to recover.
Our approach for this project was to focus on key areas in Bushfire Recovery Victoria’s external and internal communication toolkit, which they identified as being necessary to support them in creating consistent communications efficiently.
Portable assembled a team that included experience design, content strategy, design strategy and production specialists. For each area we worked on, we defined a specific problem statement, design challenge and delivery plan to make sure we were all aligned from the get go.
Given Bushfire Recovery Victoria is such a large and fast-moving organisation, we worked in an agile way with daily stand ups and weekly sprints, to ensure that we were as nimble and flexible as possible and could turn around 4 impactful pieces of work quickly.
Developing a content strategy
Our first focus was to help the Bushfire Recovery Victoria Communications team by creating a suite of content strategy tools that would support them in developing consistent and considered communication, both internally for staff and other partner agencies, and externally for recovering communities.
To achieve this, we facilitated a workshop with people from different parts of Bushfire Recovery Victoria, to gain a deeper understanding of who they were communicating with and their communication needs. From this workshop, we developed 5 content strategy tools:
- User personas that captured the needs, challenges, goals and common communication channels of key Bushfire Recovery Victoria audiences.
- Content principles and guidelines that outlined the key standards to follow when creating content and helped Bushfire Recovery Victoria to maintain a consistent and unified voice.
- Communication channel guide that provided comprehensive guidance on all of Bushfire Recovery Victoria’s communication channels, including their audiences, preferred content types, content goals and best practices for use.
- Recovery program guide that provided guidance for creating communication at different stages of a recovery program, such as funding, development and launch. This guide outlined best content formats, audiences needs and goals for each stage.
- Communication request form to standardise how people requested support or involvement from the Bushfire Recovery Victoria Communications team, and to help the Communications Director to better plan and resource their team.
Designing an online home for a recovery community of practice
Bushfire Recovery Victoria already had an intranet for staff to upload, share and find content. However, helping recovering communities is a joint effort by a wide range of people from Bushfire Recovery Victoria, other government agencies and beyond. Bushfire Recovery Victoria needed a central hub of information, documentation and data to share with anyone working on disaster recovery efforts throughout the state.
Tasked with designing an online home for this recovery community of practice, we interviewed key stakeholders at Bushfire Recovery Victoria. We spoke with people who lead different types of disaster recovery efforts and were responsible for key content to gain insight into their roles, their teams and the hurdles they face when it comes to communicating and sharing content about how they work.
Synthesis of these interviews allowed us to develop a list of stakeholder needs that informed the design of an online home for the new Recovery Community of Practice. This hub, to be built in SharePoint, would provide a one-stop-shop for Bushfire Recovery Victoria’s teams and the external stakeholders and partners they work with.
Supporting onboarding to the Recovery CRM
While we were working on this project, Bushfire Recovery Victoria’s digital transformation program was interrupted by the floods and storms in Victoria in June 2021. Many Bushfire Recovery Victoria teams pivoted to focus on much-needed recovery efforts in the impacted community.
We also changed our direction to help support these recovery efforts – the benefit of an agile approach meant we could easily pivot our focus. We prioritised working with the teams that managed Bushfire Recovery Victoria’s CRM and data tools, as they needed help to streamline the onboarding process of new Bushfire Recovery Victoria team members, who would further support recovery efforts.
Creating practical guides
We co-designed an approach with Bushfire Recovery Victoria to determine which kind of onboarding resources would be most impactful in the current recovery efforts. We landed on 3 practical guides:
- An in-depth CRM user guide with comprehensive step-by-step guidance on how to use key functions in the CRM.
- A Salesforce Marketing Cloud quick reference guide outlining the key capabilities of the Marketing Cloud and how they were beneficial to Bushfire Recovery Victoria.
- An actionable data and insights quick reference guide outlining the key capabilities of the new data tools Bushfire Recovery Victoria had recently launched with help of Portable, and how to access them.
These guides were used by Bushfire Recovery Victoria staff and partners within days of being completed. They provide an important source of truth for using the key tools at Bushfire Recovery Victoria that enable people to effectively coordinate, plan and manage disaster recovery efforts across Victoria.
Ongoing communication support
Alongside these defined problem areas, we also supported Bushfire Recovery Victoria in creating a series of communication materials, such as information sheets and FAQs documents, to help inform Bushfire Recovery Victoria staff, partner agencies and the community about the purpose and benefits of their digital transformation work.
Portable worked with Bushfire Recovery Victoria to create communication tools to help people across the organisation communicate more consistently and efficiently with communities, staff, government agencies and external partners working in disaster recovery.
This project repeatedly proved how fast-moving teams and an agile delivery methodology can help our clients respond quickly to emerging situations. Helping them to support communities impacted by natural disasters where time is in short supply and quick response times are critical.
The delivery team at Portable were aware of the importance of their work, and the impact that it would have on supporting disaster recovery efforts, particularly as Bushfire Recovery Victoria had to scale up for the Victorian flood and storm response in the middle of this engagement. Our content strategists, design strategist, experience designer and producer were unified in their passion for impactful work and creating transformative change for communities using design and technology.
Emily Pearce, Senior Content Strategist, Portable
“It was incredibly insightful to work with so many recovery experts. People who truly understand and are invested in the complex needs of recovering communities. Everyone at Bushfire Recovery Victoria already knew the value of accessible and clear communication. It was about creating content strategy tools that would help them to produce them consistently and efficiently in a fast-moving organisation.”
To make these improvements, BRV created a dedicated digital transformation team – and Portable formed part of this team.
Lauren Manning, Senior Producer
Emily Pearce, Senior Content Strategist
Peter Roper, Senior Content Strategist
Joanne Osbourne-Taylor, Lead Design Strategist
Cristiano Fantasia, Senior Experience Designer
Ashlee West, Lead Experience Designer
Simon Goodrich, Account Manager