Peacebuilding from home – a step by step guide to building peace from the comfort of your own home

A Butterfly Works Guide to Remote Working 

By Emily Claridge (https://www.linkedin.com/in/emily-claridge-996387188/)

To get in contact with Butterfly Works, email: info@butterflyworks.org, or visit their website.

Disclaimer: The content is not sponsored by any of the mentioned platforms, we just like them! 

Butterfly Works is a social design studio pioneering the use of co-creation and design thinking  in international development. Building on almost 20 years of experience in 25+ countries, we create education and communication solutions with social impact. 

Co-creation relies on the idea that none of us is as smart as all of us and that problems are best solved by those who experience it. The result is ownership over solutions that shape the future. Over the years, we have developed tools and techniques that can be adjusted to the context and used to tackle almost any social issue. As a facilitator of this process, we connect different people that have different skills, viewpoints and backgrounds. We release creativity, push to innovate and together come to solutions no one thought of at the start.

We have been using remote working tools for many years within our work, particularly in facilitating remote co-creation processes with hard-to-reach communities. We want to share our favourite platforms with you, both those that are tried and tested and our new favourites that we are just getting the hang of. We’ve learnt a few tips along the way, but would also love to hear how you work best remotely.  

Slack: An emoji says 1000 words 

Slack is the instant messaging platform that we use for all of our internal communication. Working with so many different projects at once and with Butterflies often around the globe, it is essential for us to be able to check in and quickly communicate on a topic. Whether it is a follow-up on a task or just a quick hello, we have learnt over time the importance of keeping communication efficient and accessible. Often you miss that human connection when working remotely, and Slack works well for us as a place for more casual interactions and check-ins, especially since we discovered you can upload custom emojis! 

Asana: Organisation is key 

Asana is where we organise our tasks, meetings and projects. This is the home of the actionable ‘to-dos’. Asana is described as the application designed ‘to help teams organise, track, and manage their work’. The best Asana quality for us at Butterfly Works is its versatility. We use Asana to outline agendas for meetings, project plans, travel calendars and more. If there is any piece of wisdom we can share, it is that you have to find a to-do system that works for you and stick with it. You might prefer to have your to-do lists in a notebook or in your phone memos; either way, it is important for the whole team to establish a common location/format and to stick with it; otherwise, you end up with 100 to-do lists and thousands of sticky notes dotted around! For most of us at Butterfly Works, Asana is where we keep all of our to-do lists, notes and deadlines. The best part: the little unicorn animation that flies across your screen when you check something off the list.

Miro: The virtual brainstorming room

Slack and Asana have been some of our tried and tested favourites over the years but our newest found love is Miro. When in the Amsterdam studio, we love having a team session or brainstorm where we can all come together, close our laptops and sticky note the day away! Since moving to working entirely remotely, we needed somewhere for this kind of activity, and Miro has come to the rescue. On this simple yet dynamic platform you can create beautiful collaborative boards full of sticky notes, bubbles, arrows, frames and so-on to help jog ideas and trigger creative thinking.

We will often have a video call open in one browser and be working on the same Miro board simultaneously. You can even turn on and off the option to see everyone else’s cursors roaming about. As our newest addition to the Butterfly Works tool repertoire, we are just finding out how best to use Miro, and also divisively finding out everyone’s sticky note colour of choice (mine is orange). The possibilities are endless: so our main reminder for you here is to have fun and play around! 

Video calls: One size doesn’t fit all

The big debate over which video call platform is best is everywhere right now. We have used Whereby, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Slack call, Microsoft Teams and more, all at various times at Butterfly Works. We recently tried to pinpoint which exactly is our favourite and best to use. The answer is that one size does not fit all. We held a remote workshop with international partners on gender learning to use the breakout rooms on Zoom last week, but we also had a morning yoga call on Whereby, and a drinks party on Google Hangouts! There are so many advantages and disadvantages of each. You don’t need to pick one holy grail platform and stick to it for life, just see what works best for you, and more importantly for those you are working with.  

Google drive: The home of suggestions

I don’t know where we would be without Google Drive! If there was ever a home for the collaborative document, it is here. We love our internal server where we keep archives of projects, completed documents and so on, but when it comes to working remotely and even more so now than ever, the effortless ability to work on a document at the same time and see what others are doing is essential. If you want to edit directly, you can do so, but also toggling modes to ‘suggesting’ is handy for when you are just proof reading or giving some feedback on a piece of work. The important thing we definitely learnt the hard way is to keep everything on the Drive organised! We know all too well what it is like when more and more files are being created and you never established a decent system in the beginning (my laptop desktop is testament to that), but now that our wonderful organisational wizard Rianne has created a  system on the Drive that mirrors that of our internal server layout (to keep everything easy and clear), Google Drive has become a Butterfly Works must-have. 

Working remotely is a massive learning curve for everyone, and we are learning more everyday what works best for us and those around the world we work with. The best thing you can do, and what we have learnt more than anything, is to keep it human and have fun. Remember to check in with others on how they’re doing; the round-the-coffee machine conversations you miss out on is essential to stay close to, even when working remotely. Play around with tools and platforms and find what works best for you – these applications are meant to make life easier, not keep you up at night with ‘tool anxiety’. And most importantly (well, not really, but don’t forget it) – work out what your favourite sticky note colour is! 

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