Sharing is caring

Creating an online knowledge and exchange forum for overseas development practitioners

Background
M4P is development sector shorthand for ‘Making markets work for the poor. It is a practical approach to reducing poverty guided by market principles. Sharing best practice is a fundamental tenet for M4P, yet there was no recognised global forum to facilitate this.

With funding from the UKAID, SDC and SIDA, Coffey International commissioned the development of an online global hub that would allow M4P agencies and practitioners to share and access news, best practice and resources. It was also intended to become the forum that encouraged debate throughout the sector.

Goals

Most communications activity was at a project level and created by practitioners during their downtime. To establish itself as ‘the global place to go’, the M4PHub needed to look altogether more professional.

With an professional audience, we needed to dial down the emotional charge and create an online space that provided an environment conducive to reading, learning, reflective thought and discussion.

Because of the amount of information that would hopefully be uploaded, it was imperative that the Hub was incredibly easy to navigate, with clear signposting for first time visitors as well as handy shortcuts for more experienced users.

With the majority of content being user generated we also identified the need for the design of the Hub to adopt a ‘project neutral’ position – the content had to be the star of the show.

“I was particularly impressed and grateful for their capacity to bridge the gap between the branding and imagery of our website with its technical functionality – a critical interface that neither I, nor the technical service providers, were as well-prepared for as Logic & Magic Inc.” Roger Oakeley / Hub Manager 2010-2012

Action

Field operatives for development agencies do heroic work – so we owed it to them to create a logo that would look cool on a T-shirt. We were inspired by the fact that M4P programs are rarely showy grand gestures but are usually active in the background. It takes a bit of effort to notice them at work.

To achieve our goals for the Hub and all the other collateral, we adopted some principles of rational modernism and added a twist of contemporary editorial design: a clean, apparent grid structure; a single sans serif typeface used at different weights and sizes to add pace and hierarchy to the information; and a combination of rules and bold colour to help readers navigate the pages.

Results

M4PHub rapidly became recognised throughout the M4P community. Our client paid us this complement, “Thanks to you, we have received numerous positive comments about the attractiveness of our logo, the intuitive navigation of the website and the distinctiveness of our cards.”

The Hub became a forum for high-level online debate around M4P. Buoyed by the success of the online service, 2011 saw M4PHub organise its first live conference. This event was oversubscribed and eventually saw over 170 senior personnel from leading donors, practitioners and research organisations come together over three intense days in Brighton, UK.