Oxfam America’s storytelling platform based on Wagtail CMS

John Abdulla, Associate Director, Constituent Product at Oxfam America, will tell us the full story of Oxfam America’s digital transformation, including the selection and adoption of a new open source CMS (hint: it’s Wagtail), the role digital plays in achieving their important mission, and what else is on the horizon for John and the team.

The thinking behind the platform change

We needed a CMS that would allow us to communicate and engage more effectively in the US. We’re not selling a product, like any nonprofit that does mission-based or social justice work, we need to use technology to show you the impact you can make while providing a great experience. Companies like Amazon and Disney have paved the way for this. We expect great online experiences, and for nonprofits, they need to be great to cultivate long-term support.

A few years ago, we did a full redesign with Mezzanine CMS. It was built in Django, which we were familiar with, and we had an excellent developer who customized it to meet our unique needs. However, that developer left and Mezzanine became a nightmare that we couldn’t maintain.

Why Wagtail.

When we started testing Wagtail, it was still a fairly new CMS. We were using it for an immersive storytelling platform we had built. We liked its features and the depth it allowed when it came to long form content.

Historically, it’s always been a challenge for us to find a CMS that suited both our developers and editors and didn’t require a lot of support. But the more our editors used it, the more they loved it. It’s so easy to use – in two minutes we can update pages, move components, add and reorder videos, blocks of content. We feel it will prepare us well for the future. At the same time, because it’s open source, our developers can work on it and make improvements. It really is a CMS for the people.

Getting help

Initially, we didn’t expect to need much support, but due to staff turnover, we relied more on Torchbox in the early days, but now we can maintain the CMS without much support. However, we are a small team, so when we have some improvements or changes we want to make, we know we can turn to Torchbox to check out some ideas and get help implementing them.

The fact that Torchbox is the creator of Wagtail is a bonus because the technology is constantly improving in ways that we need and can use.

What’s next for Oxfam US?

We all hear about digital transformation, we may have already been transformed over the past year! But it’s all about people and how to help them use digital technology in the work they do. Everything in our lives can be improved by digital technology.

We will continue to grow, so it’s important to think about system improvements along with people and processes to allow us to scale and continue to get the value we can deliver to our users. 

We’re big fans of Wagtail and the work that Torchbox is doing, and we’re excited to be on this ever-evolving path.

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