Global children’s charity, Plan International UK, has today launched an ambitious project to transform communication between sponsored children and UK sponsors.

The project, made possible thanks to funding from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, has been supported by enterprise mobility specialists CommonTime. It will pilot a number of software solutions over 2018, with the aim of enabling modern, digital communication between a sponsor and their sponsored child. This technology also has the potential to dramatically reduce the time it takes for messages to reach recipients, and reduce the cost to the charity of facilitating communication.

Plan International UK has been running for more than 80 years, with currently around 81,000 sponsors in the UK sponsoring over 86,000 children in 50 countries. In every case, UK-based sponsors are paired with children in developing countries, and their donations help the whole community of the sponsored child.

Staff from the charity help these children move themselves from a life of poverty to one of opportunity, by delivering vital projects including the provision of good healthcare and clean water, and improving access to a quality education.

As part of the sponsorship programme, sponsors receive regular updates and photographs from their sponsored child and keep in touch by writing letters back. Facilitating the exchange of letters, images and drawings enables sponsors to build a connection with their sponsored children and learn about each other’s lives.

However, the logistical challenges of content moderation, translation and physical transit mean that even emailed messages can take a number of weeks to deliver. The introduction of CommonTime’s technology aims to make it easier, quicker and more engaging for the sponsor to send messages to their sponsored child using their mobile device. The child sends messages back via a trained Plan International Field Officer.  It also means sponsors will be able to exchange digital photos and videos with their sponsored children, which is a really exciting development.

Alan Gosschalk, Director of Fundraising for Plan International UK said: “Child Sponsorship has always been one of the most powerful and engaging ways to make a difference. Sponsors find it hugely rewarding building a personal connection with their sponsored child, and receiving updates about how Plan International UK is helping the community they live in. Support from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery has enabled us to utilise technology that will make it both cheaper and easier to build unique relationships around the world and communicate the impact of donations.”

Once the system launches, sponsors will be able to engage with their sponsored child at a significantly accelerated rate as well as take advantage of a range of new features; sponsors and children will be able to build quality relationships through the exchange of photos and videos, and written content will be automatically translated into local languages to remove as many barriers to communication as possible.

Ian Knight, CEO of CommonTime said: “We are delighted to be working with Plan International UK on a project that will have such a real-world impact. CommonTime believe that finding new and engaging ways of communicating with supporters will be vital to the success of charities over the next decade. Our team are excited to see the response from the pilot and hope that the innovation will be received well enough for an international roll-out.”

Importantly, this innovative pilot will not impact or hinder the content moderation process required to keep sponsored children safe (e.g. preventing them from accidentally revealing their exact location). The system will include a number of features for moderators that aims to speed up the process and reduce overheads. Plan International UK staff will receive a copy of every message before it is delivered to the intended recipient. Staff will have the option to approve or reject the messages depending on content. Rejected messages are automatically returned to the sender, with a brief description of the reasons for rejection and suggestions on modifying the content. This will provide sponsors the opportunity to edit messages before re-sending.

Notes to editor

About Plan International UK

Plan International UK is an independent development and humanitarian charity that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.

We believe in the power and potential of every child. But this is often suppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination. And it’s girls who are most affected.

Working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners, we strive for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children.

We support children’s rights from birth until they reach adulthood. And we enable children to prepare for – and respond to – crises and adversity. We drive changes in practice and policy at local, national and global levels using our reach, experience and knowledge.

We have been building powerful partnerships for children for 80 years, and are now active in more than 70 countries.


About child sponsorship

Child sponsorship creates a unique personal connection between a sponsor in the UK and a child in one of the 50 developing countries where Plan International UK works.

Starting at £19.50 per month, donations go towards providing the basics that every child needs. Sponsorship funds long-term community based development projects such as building schools, digging wells, training teachers and providing vaccinations, and benefits whole communities, not just individual children.

Sponsors are able to exchange letters and photos with their sponsored child, and see how much their support is helping to transform the lives of those around them.

Plan International UK currently works with 81,000 child sponsors in the UK, who sponsor more than 86,000 children worldwide. Across the Plan International federation, 1.1 million supporters sponsor 1.2 million children.