Alight City Guides


How might we support Ukrainian refugees on their way into Poland?


In February 2022, Russian President Putin invaded Ukraine. Many organizations and volunteers rushed to support Ukraine in any way possible, including Alight, an NGO focused on providing services that are truly worthy of human beings instead of being just ‘good enough.’ But despite the deep desire to help, they were faced with a key question: How could such a small company make an impact in such a massive situation? To answer this question, Alight asked IDEO to help identify and assess opportunities to support at the Polish border.

What we found was that in the months following the start of the war, major Polish cities like Warsaw, Gdansk, and Krakow were taking in far more refugees than their infrastructure could handle. Many of Poland’s lesser-known cities did have the resources and infrastructure to support, but they were still lesser-known – and therefore refugees continued to flock to the larger, more recognizable cities.

This is the opportunity that IDEO helped illuminate for Alight: to help fleeing refugees make an informed decision on where to go by bringing awareness to these smaller cities that had room for short-, mid-, or even long-term relocations.

Moving from Notion+Super to Squarespace to Webflow in a matter of weeks.


Web design & Webflow expert

Webflow expert

By the time I joined the project team, they had already visited Poland, conducted research, designed the content, recommended the opportunity, and started building a website. Then a key integration failed and started causing site reliability issues. While my initial role was to help continue this build, things changed when we made the quick decision to move the entire site onto a completely new tech stack: Webflow, Zapier, Weglot, and Notion. My new role was leading the new Webflow build, including creating the site structure, mapping the CMS, and connecting integrations based on what the team had already created.

Documentation handoff & client guidance

One goal of this project was to ensure the client would feel confident owning and maintaining the website after the project ended. Each tech tool decision was made with this goal in mind, and as part of the final handoff, we created Loom video tutorials and written documentation for dozens of different tasks. This ranged from very specific ‘how to’ tutorials for their build, to more general guidance on how their tech stack worked together. These artefacts enabled the client to edit their own website, log in to any of the tools to make changes, or hand off to another designer or developer so they could continue building and evolving the site.


Using trusted tools & prioritizing stability

When the Notion + Super integration failed and caused the site reliability problems, we had to act quickly. Many scammers were operating near the Ukraine-Poland border in an attempt to take advantage of the people fleeing the war. An Alight website full of loading issues and 404 errors was not inspiring trust, especially in an environment of uncertainty. There was a real risk that we would lose the public's trust entirely, and any opportunity to help them. Therefore, we had to react rapidly over the next 48 hours to move the entire site over to Webflow. That done, we then spent the following two weeks building the next version of the website.

During those two weeks, we not only built the new stack, but also worked on advising, advocating for, and educating the client on why we made the tech decisions we did. The new tech stack was drastically simplified compared to the original. This version focused on using well-known, trusted, and reliable no-code / low-code tools. We utilized the powerful Webflow CMS to put together a content-first design that the client could easily maintain.

We then connected the build with Weglot to serve fully-localized content translations provided by Alight's native Ukrainian speakers. These translated guides provided information about employment, schools, healthcare, culture, LGBTQ+ resources, and immigration. In addition, we built a backend database that received data from the native, dynamic Webflow form submissions and also produced lightweight reporting data for the business.

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Embracing humanity during a human crisis

Alight is a small NGO that was trying to make a big difference during a massive humanitarian crisis. The number of people they've helped is fewer than 0.05% of the refugees fleeing into Poland. But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is every single family that was heard, guided, and supported along their journey.

Within the first month of the website launch, Alight helped more than 600 families choose a destination, and booked those families over 25,500 nights of safe accommodation. During that same time, 95% of site visits came from Ukraine and Poland, with over 200 requests per day for housing.

With the new site setup, the client was able to build credibility on the ground – despite the presence of scammers creating an uncertain environment for everyone. The updated SEO allowed Alight to utilize Facebook and Google Ad placements to build a broader reach and create more trust and credibility in their site. Now, the Alight team is fully empowered to own the project and confidently implement their own updates, revisions, and evolutions of the site.

In May 2022, our work for Alight was shared at the World Economic Forum by Paul Bennett, then-CEO of IDEO. In the audience were multiple Ukrainian government officials, including President Zelensky. One year later, Alight Guides have significantly evolved to include new programs, more support options, and three times the number of local guides as before.

For more information and context about the partnership between Alight x IDEO, check out this story.

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