What could a small software business and a youth development group offer each other? Peter Harris explains how Scouts ACT and CompuCraft Software Solutions formed an award-winning corporate partnership.

What could a small software business and a youth development group offer each other? Peter Harris explains how Scouts ACT and CompuCraft Software Solutions formed an award-winning corporate partnership.

A chance request seven years ago by Scouts ACT for help with developing a website sparked a partnership that has grown in unanticipated ways.

John Pollard, managing director of CompuCraft Software Solutions saw the request as an opportunity to do more than just help the community, and he and Allan Dean at Scouts ACT were soon planning workshops and exploring other ideas.

About the Partners

CompuCraft Software Solutions is a small Canberra-based software development business founded in 1981. Despite its size, its innovative developments have attracted some large and powerful clients such as the Australian Department of Defence.

Scouts ACT is a branch of the global scouting movement (100 years old in 2007!) which helps young people aged 6 to 26 to learn skills for life. There are 38 Scout Groups in the ACT with about 2000 members who engage in activities from camping and sailing to performance and gliding.

Scouts as Web Developers

The initial stage of the partnership called for Allan Dean to be trained in the use of ComWeb (CompuCraft’s web content management software), so he could work on the Scouts website. However, both parties saw beyond the excellent but limited benefits of this to more diverse possibilities.

Training in web authoring and development can often be expensive and inaccessible – especially for nonprofit organisations. So CompuCraft donated the use of their training facilities to all members of Scouts ACT – both youth and adults.

Over time, Scout Groups began to understand and utilise the great opportunity presented to them, and collectively they have completely changed their “electronic face” to the outside world.

Participants book into workshops through the Scout website and are soon busy creating their own websites for use as their major communications and information portal, complete with contact details, pictures of activities, a range of forms and other information that Scout Groups wish to share.

These Scout Group websites not only encapsulate the exciting weekly programs run for youth, they inspire other Scout Groups to facilitate communications and information dissemination, and develop their own record of achievements and contacts.

This has resulted in Scouts ACT creating an entirely new web presence to the point where it has grown from one web developer and one site seven years ago to nearly 1000 web managers and over 80 sites.

Along the way CompuCraft has also made many additional features available for trial and listened carefully to feedback. Adjustments and alterations were made which further enhanced the Comweb product and Scouts websites.

In December 2006 the main Scout website was re-launched, stimulating many positive comments from the public and existing members about the ease in which information about up-coming events, forms and other valuable information and contacts can be presented and accessed.

Another important aspect of the partnership is that it has produced a new recruitment mechanism for Scouts ACT as the website is generating more new membership enquiries.

CompuCraft Benefits

Partnerships must be sustainable and a one-sided arrangement can be both unfair and unstable.

Certainly CompuCraft was very happy with the ‘giving back’ aspect of the relationship. It appreciated the opportunity to invest resources and expertise to help develop young people now and into the future – and understands how important this contribution is.

But what else could Scouts ACT offer a business such as CompuCraft? Quite a bit as it turns out, and all of it very valuable.

Firstly, as the website grew, CompuCraft kept evolving its software, so its staff were continually learning and being challenged by Scouts’ needs and feedback.

Secondly, the Scouts website became a showcase ‘client’ for CompuCraft exhibiting the company’s state-of-the-art software and support services. This was especially important for CompuCraft because many of its clients have secure sites which cannot be accessed by the general www community.

Finally, Scouts have been beta testers for Comweb developments and successive releases. This provides valuable input and feedback to ensure customer relevance and reliability.

What Next?

Having worked together now for a number of years, can the partnership be maintained and should new possibilities be looked at? Most definitely yes! And with Scouts about to embark on its second century of youth development in Australia, both organisations believe the partnership will continue to grow.

Peter Harris OAM is the development officer for Scouts Australia ACT

The Scouts ACT/CompuCraft partnership recently won an Encouragement Award in the Small Business category of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships.

To view the Scouts ACT website go to: www.act.scouts.asn.au