Civic House Uses OKRs to Measure the Impact

September 2020


Buenos Aires, Argentina





About Civic House: Technology and civic innovation for nonprofits

Based in Latin America, Civic House is an international nonprofit organization that boosts the impact of social technology and civic innovation initiatives, projects, and organizations. 

Comprised of several non-profits including Donar Online, Argentina, Kubadili, Wingu, Fonselp, and Ada, Civic House acts as an overarching community that connects them all. Each affiliated organization is autonomous with its own initiatives and purpose, but they all remain aligned through Civic House with the mission to impact tech innovation in Latin America. 

Adopting OKRs as a standardized practice

Co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit, Mario Roset, was looking for a way to organize the different nonprofit groups under a single umbrella, offering direction that aligns with top-line strategy and maximizes impact. 

Traditionally, the nonprofit sector faces unique challenges when compared to organizations with for-profit models. Instability can be a common hurdle in nonprofit environments due to shifting government administrations, funding sources, and priorities. Yet, the simplicity of the OKR framework can serve as a constructive roadmap for for-profit and nonprofit organizations alike. After being introduced to the OKR methodology, Roset found that the framework could help create a level of prioritization, compelling everyone on the team to take ownership and communicate progress. 

“OKRs have given the Civic House teams the power to make decisions and provide clarity around goals, vision, and mission,” says Roset. “They have allowed us to transform our intent to action for positive change.” 

Empowering OKR communication through software

After using OKRs for a few quarters and managing goals within a spreadsheet, Roset quickly realized that the OKRs themselves were making an impact, but that the method they used to track them was holding the team back. Because they couldn’t easily collaborate and edit goals in spreadsheets, a routine around OKR updates was never established, and tracking OKR progress became cumbersome. 

Koan was referred by a local OKR consultant, so Roset began testing Koan to manage the OKRs of the nonprofits, Donar Online, a digital platform to manage donations and fundraising. 

Roset notes, “There was something special when we started working with Koan. Overall, the tool has really helped to shape our organization’s culture. Koan keeps us on a regular cadence, and it has become a part of our weekly way of working.”

Since Civic House is made up of 7 nonprofits, when something works effectively for one team, it is shared across the community. After Donar Online used Koan for a few OKR cycles, Roset added other teams to Koan to provide visibility into all of the different organizations’ OKRs.  

Gaining confidence and improving team meetings

OKRs create a healthy back and forth conversation on progress and learnings, which gives teams the opportunity to make better decisions. With each individual at Civic House and subsequent nonprofits taking the time to reflect weekly, the quality of their meetings has improved as well.

After quarterly planning, the team will usually perform monthly reviews of OKR progress and pause to check on metric performance. During these meetings, Roset will use Presentation Mode to help present current confidence scores and frame the discussion.

“Presentation Mode improves the visibility of our goals and offers a way to present the latest information on each team’s OKRs in a high-level, streamlined way,” says Roset. “It keeps the most important information front and center, and helps to facilitate a dialogue around our top-level goals.”

Using software to track confidence scores has also helped Roset to make better decisions. He is able to view all OKRs in the table view, and then filter and sort by confidence score, which helps to identify any issues on goal progress. Bringing these red flags to the forefront and discussing goals on a regular basis enables everyone to keep moving forward and work towards the same outcomes. 

“The Koan Confidence is my favorite feature,” says Roset. “The ability to view and filter insights by teams or confidence score allows me to track progress the way I want.” 

Engaging with OKRs as a remote team

While Civic House is familiar with working in a distributed way, the team has an office in Buenos Aires and is used to working together in person. When COVID-19 hit, the teams began working 100% remotely and they immediately realized that they needed to use Koan with more intensity than before. Since the pandemic began, Roset has found that his team has increased their usage of Koan.

“We used to be able to grab a coffee and chat, but using Koan Reflections has helped us communicate and keep the discussion around goals at the forefront. Particularly the integration with Slack has changed how we interact with Koan,” notes Roset. “The weekly reminders to complete our Reflections have improved our communication and provided visibility across teammates.”

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