Online platform powered by Zendesk provides critical aid to Ukrainian refugees

Published April 20, 2022

United for Ukraine, a new online resource portal powered by Zendesk, helps individuals and families fleeing Ukraine find shelter, job opportunities, psychological support, legal aid, and other critical resources by connecting them with accurate and timely information, and a network of trained professionals.

United for Ukraine is the latest resource to be supported by Signpost, a global humanitarian technology program operating in 18 countries that helps refugees find resources to meet their urgent needs. Signpost platforms house user-friendly content that can be accessed and shared via familiar digital and social channels in the languages spoken by its users.

The Signpost project is a testament to the power of multicultural civil society coming together with the nonprofit and private sector, using technology and a global network of volunteers and partners, to help people survive a crisis and reclaim a sense of control over their lives. Signpost projects have connected millions of people to life-saving information during the Covid-19 pandemic, and when fleeing their home countries due to war, persecution or political unrest.

How Zendesk helps
Signpost was initially built on disparate systems that struggled to communicate effectively, making rapid scaling impossible. In 2020, the IRC and its Signpost partners turned to Zendesk to see if Zendesk tools could improve Signpost’s services the way it had improved the IRC’s Welcome Center intake and follow-up processes. The first Signpost platform built on Zendesk launched in Colombia later that year.

Signpost uses the Zendesk Support Suite, a seamless integration with the organization's Contentful CMS tool, and has access to the Unlimited Multibrand add-on. These solutions allow Signpost projects to easily populate service articles and render service locations on Signpost’s Service Map so refugees can access the critical information. In addition to facilitating the creation of knowledge articles and the rendering of service maps, Zendesk allows each project’s team to communicate with clients through a number of different channels in order to answer important questions.

Because information within a Signpost platform is distributed across multiple social channels, the Zendesk Suite for customer service is essential to corralling tickets in one place. Signpost admins also use Zendesk to write knowledge base articles, render service maps, and view analytics to see what’s being solved where.

According to Signpost’s director, Andre Heller, “It's our mission to transform information into power for our clients and decolonize humanitarian information to put our clients at the center of the response. Thanks to Zendesk, our dream of upgrading the architecture of humanitarian action worldwide is in sight - and we are truly looking forward to all we will continue to achieve together."

Signpost has connected over 24 million people with information needed to make critical decisions and find reliable access to vital services. Twenty-three Zendesk employees are currently supporting Signpost with pro bono volunteering. In further support of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide, the Zendesk Foundation has donated over $1.3M USD in unrestricted grants to the IRC since 2019.

Support for Ukraine
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that more than 5M refugees have fled Ukraine into neighboring countries in the past two months. The United for Ukraine platform will be a trusted and essential resource for displaced people to flee the country safely and find long-term solutions. Signpost plans to expand their Ukraine response by standing up additional instances in Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, and Hungary, with additional projects in Ukraine, Germany, and Lithuania planned in the near future.

A recent press release from the IRC explained the project's impact: “In the coming months, the private sector and aid agencies will continue to collaborate together to build a meaningful response to the fallout from the war brought to Ukraine. What is built for the emergency of today will also remain in the toolkit for future responses to crises as Signpost continues to scale worldwide.”

Launched by the IRC and Mercy Corps in 2015 at the height of the European refugee crisis, Signpost is now live in 18 countries on 5 continents, delivering critical information in 11 languages. Two additional nonprofit partners - Internews and NetHope - have joined the collaborative project.

We invite you to watch this short film about Signpost.