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How these organisations are using WhatsApp Communities to drive social change 

Here's how WhatsApp Communities is simplifying communication for organisations that deal with millions of users at once.

whatsapp, whatsapp communities,From left to right, Shivnath Thukral – Director, Public Policy India, Meta Azeez Gupta – Founder, Rocket Learning, Raghavendra Prasad - Founder, Project Stepone and Nick Clegg – President. (Image Source: Meta)

How does one manage 70,000 WhatsApp Groups, each of which is critical in an organisation? Well, that’s the challenge WhatsApp Communities hopes to solve — especially for organisations involved in India’s social sector. Take the example of Bengaluru-based Rocket Learning, which works with over one million parents and children in India. It hopes that WhatsApp Communities will help bring some structure to these WhatsApp Groups. The ed-tech social startup was one of the early beta testers for the feature.

“The announcements tab in WhatsApp Communities is a godsend. This is a powerful way to broadcast messaging to various groups,” Azeez Gupta, co-founder of the startup, told indianexpress.com on the sidelines of a discussion around WhatsApp’s Communities feature held at the company’s office in Gurguram. The company showcased how select organisations part of the ‘Communities’ beta testing have been utilising it.

For those unaware, Communities is a new feature that has been rolled out by WhatsApp globally on Android, iOS and web. The feature allows a group admin to bring all their Groups into one community. For example, one school could add all its various parents, teachers, class-based groups to one Community and then use the ‘Announcement Tab or Group’ to broadcast a message to all these groups.

WhatsApp also sees Communities as a tool for regular admins to do messaging at scale, but in an easy way.  “Our aim with WhatsApp Communities is to make these conversations easier, more efficient and more impactful. Communities can organise their group conversations under one umbrella, without compromising privacy and security – making it a powerful tool to drive social impact at scale,” said Nick Clegg, President Global Affairs, Meta, who was part of the discussion.

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In Rocket Learning’s case, the organisation works at various levels, with schools, teachers, anganwadi (daycare) workers, and of course, parents. “Often these daycare workers, teachers and parents, are on multiple groups. But being in one WhatsApp Community allows admins to access those groups in one go,” Azeez Gupta explained. He added that it also makes the job of daycare workers easier, as they can just send the information to many groups at one go, instead of finding each parent or messaging each group separately.

Others also shared the sentiment regarding ‘ease of messaging multiple groups’. “The Announcement Group is a great feature. One of the biggest challenges we faced was that ‘any escalation meant many messages across multiple groups’. With Communities, we can simply publish a message on the announcement group for all our volunteers and have the right people respond,” Raghvendra Prasad, co-founder of Bengaluru-based Project StepOne, said during the discussion. The organisation, which started as a telemedicine help group during Covid, has now evolved into focused telemedicine. It still has over 30,000 volunteers across the country, with doctors in different states all spread out on various WhatsApp Groups. Prasad added that Communities makes it easier to track all these.

According to Arun Gupta, Founder of Pinkishe Foundation– a Delhi-based Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that works with rural women and girls in menstrual health and hygiene– Communities brings a much-needed layered approach.

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Gupta said earlier they would miss certain groups while trying to deliver a message. “Communities is helping bind all the groups together,” he told indianexpress.com. He added that Communities will also be critical for managing some of their new projects, which could lead to the creation of 1,000 or more new WhatsApp Groups. He said they were initially reluctant to set up some of these, because of worries on how they would control all groups. “We will need multi-level control, and that’s what Communities offers,” he explained.

WhatsApp’s new features, such as Polls, as well as more powers to admins–including the ability to delete any message from a group or restrict messaging to only admins– are also useful in Communities. For instance, Polls is a quick way to gauge sentiments and get feedback in a large group, according to these organisations.

More importantly, WhatsApp Groups tend to have a higher open rate compared to the newsletters they typically send out, according to Subha Ram, Director, GurgaonMoms, an organisation based in Gurugram. In fact, GurgaonMoms has expanded its work beyond just mothers, and is also reaching out to senior citizens, entrepreneurs, etc. With WhatsApp Communities, they have focused on senior citizens.

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“The very convenient thing in WhatsApp is that you can make it an admin only messaging group. Where we need to have conversations, we will open it for conversations, where only the admin gives messages, it will become a broadcast,” Ram explained to indianexpress.com.  She added that the Communities feature makes it easier for admins such as her to know where all groups are and what announcement to make.

No doubt, while the Communities feature promises big potential, organisations are still testing out how to best use it. Rocket Learning, for instance, has put 1000 of its parents and teachers under one Community.  “We are trying to understand how they use it, how they don’t. I still feel that on the interface, there are more things WhatsApp is planning to do. For now, I think most of our users are not attuned to going on the Communities tab. If there are many Communities, then it becomes a little hard to navigate,” he said.

First published on: 02-12-2022 at 12:50 IST
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