Supply Chain Transformation That Builds Brighter Futures for Vulnerable Children

June 12, 2017

Have you ever had that moment in your career where you really felt like you accomplished something special?  Something beyond just positive feedback in your performance review or maybe a little extra bonus in your pay.  I am talking about something extraordinary, meaningful or special. It is so special you feel that little extra spring in your step when you are walking into your office building.  Or you have that extra sense of pride in what you do or what your company means.

I am fortunate.  I have that feeling every day.  I have worked in several large corporations – Deloitte, Kaiser Permanente, Intel – and have had many accomplishments that I can look back on and feel I really contributed.

But working for World Vision, a global humanitarian aid and advocacy organization, I get the opportunity every day to wake up, go to work and feel like today I get to experience something special.  I get to work with some of the most amazing colleagues, all dedicated to “building brighter futures for vulnerable children.”

I don’t need to give you all the statistics and data on how many children live in extreme poverty around the globe every day; how many children die daily because of unclean drinking water; or girls that experience violence, trafficking and exploitation beyond what you or I can imagine.

Take Barka.  Barka is 11 years old and had to flee her home alone in Nigeria.  Barka was fleeing the violence and death of Bako Haram, a terrorist group in northeastern Nigeria.  Barka swam across the river alone into Difa, Niger to settle into a refugee camp.  Difa is one of the poorest areas in the world in one of the poorest countries on the planet.  How does an 11-year-old girl, alone with no family, find hope and security in a place of the most extreme poverty?

Within the refugee camp, Barka experienced one of World Vision’s Child Safe Zones.  Barka had opportunities to learn, play games, interact with other children and experience love and a sense of security.  Barka commented to World Vision staff that this is the first time she had a chance to play games, feel safe and think about the future.

Why tell a story of Barka in a blog on supply chain?  What is the connection?

Just like you and your companies, World Vision buys materials, goods and services.  However, for us, the things we buy create places like the Child Safe Zone Barka experienced. Supply chain is critical to World Vision so that we can impact children that are the poorest of the poor.  Through supply chain, we can purchase refugee camp tents, hygiene kits and educational supplies so kids can learn. We can drill boreholes for clean drinking water, mount solar panels to power water pumps, and provide mosquito nets to prevent kids from Malaria and so on.  Like your company, World Vision needs an effective, efficient, automated and fast supply chain.  Your goal is competitive advantage, greater market share, faster speed to market, and a better bottom line.  Our goal with transformation of our supply chain, is also the bottom line. But our bottom line is the lives of the most vulnerable children.

World Vision has many false starts and failures in trying to transform the supply chain business from a highly decentralized, manual and inefficient environment to something better.  However, with the advent of cheaper world class cloud technology, World Vision can really alter the way we do supply chain.  World Vision has partnered with The Shelby Group and Coupa to journey together in transforming a supply chain business that will impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.

World Vision also wants to transform our donors who give millions of dollars, trusting that it will be used as they expect it will.  In a supply chain model that consumes and spends over $600 million in goods and services across the globe, we must ensure good stewardship, transparency and control of our spend to demonstrate to our donors that we can be their “trusted charity.”

With the help of The Shelby Group and Coupa, World Vision has completed about one third of its deployment journey to 65 countries that are some of the most challenging locations to work in.  While it is still early, results of efficiency, reduced cycle times, better control, ease of use and increased visibility of spend are coming in.

Managing change across 65 decentralized countries with many various cultures, languages and traditions becomes a huge barrier to adoption and success when trying to transform our supply chain processes.  Therefore, we seek to embed change management and communications into everything we do. We want our supply chain and finance professionals along with line managers and staff in the field to understand why a supply chain transformation is important, how this is different than past failures, and how it will benefit them.

Towela is an area development manager outside of Lusaka Zambia.  Towela oversees water, health and educational programs for the children of her community.  Towela complained to me about how hard it was to get supplies and materials for construction projects to build a school or a water well. While on a visit with Towela, I had her take out her laptop and showed her how easy it is to order and track cement and supplies she would need for their construction projects.  She was amazed and excited to think about the impact she will have on the children in the community to get supplies and materials faster and more efficiently.  Clean drinking water for children, irrigation for crops, and better health for the community – it is exciting to think about.

It is stories of Barka and Towela that give me that extra spring in my step when I start my workday.  I may not be on the front lines of our work in some of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world but I know that my team and I can make a difference.  With partners like The Shelby Group and Coupa, we are making a difference in transforming the way World Vision procures materials, goods and services to “build a brighter future for vulnerable children.”

I would like to invite you to be a partner with us as well. You can help change the lives of children just like Barka by opening your heart (and wallet) to make a donation to further World Vision’s work.

To donate, please visit:

Dale A. Welcome
ProVision Programme Director