Collaboration across a network of volunteers and trustees.

Poltimore House, one of England’s great historic estates, was built in 1560. It has had many owners over the years and has served as a school, a hospital and a nursing home. Following its sale by the NHS in 1975, it was neglected and even vandalized. The Poltimore House Trust bought the estate in 2000 and began a project to restore it to its original state.

Since buying Poltimore House in 2000, the Trust and Friends of Poltimore House have sought to get the local community involved in the house’s road to restoration. As well as the house itself, there are also 13 acres of gardens to maintain. Several aspects of the project have also been opened up to local schools, Exeter University and charities. 

With such a vibrant and active volunteer community, the 14 trustees have a lot to manage. To make the restoration project a success, the Trust has looked to recruit talented people and bring together the right combination of skills. This means that not every trustee is based in the local area. Whilst many live in and around Exeter, some are as far afield as London and Nottingham. To further complicate matters, most of them have full time jobs. This means that not only are people not in the same place, it is unlikely that they are all available at the same time.

Jonathan Wright, Acting Chair, explains: “The trustees all bring different skills and ideas to the table, which is one of the reasons we will be able to make a success of the project. But we are geographically diverse and this was presenting challenges in how we collaborated on documents. Previously we were operating on email, which, as well as being long-winded, also resulted in multiple copies of documents and, in some instances, wasted effort. It quickly became apparent that we needed a more straightforward and efficient way of working.”

 

“Huddle gives us a platform to ensure that the many people contributing to the success of the project are working together collaboratively and all pulling in the same direction.”

 

“As we’re available to work on the project at different times, we needed a workspace that would give us the document version control we desired, but also support us with a more intuitive virtual working environment.”

The Trust wanted software that would support its short-term objectives but also evolve with the project. It was able to benefit from the Huddle Foundation, set up to provide non-profit and charitable organizations affordable access to collaborative technology which makes a positive difference to how they do business. 

Using Huddle, the Trust has been able to overcome its version control woes. It gives trustees immediate access to the most recent document, allowing them to all work together in order to move actions forward. The implementation has provided the group with the streamlined and simple working environment it required to be more productive.

At present, it is only the trustees using Huddle. However, the Trust is keen to capture the project’s community feel online by giving volunteers their own workspace. Here, amongst other things, they will be able to access induction and health and safety guidelines as well as information about the site. 

“We’re exceptionally lucky that our friends and volunteers are so dedicated and passionate about the house,” Jonathan continues. “But we often operate independently of one another and we’d love to be able to use the whiteboard and discussion space to keep everyone up-to-date about the progress of various activities.”

“Huddle gives us a platform to ensure that the many people contributing to the success of the project are working together collaboratively and all pulling in the same direction.”

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