We’re starting the second day of Akvo Comms Week, the theme of which is “Riding the Tech Rollercoaster”.

This is a week when the PR and communications team comes together. From Amsterdam we’re going to talk to each Akvo hub around the world – East and West Africa, the USA, South Asia (India) and South East Asia (Indonesia). We’re meeting with each product manager to get clear on how we’re helping them communicate about their product. And we’ve got some special guests coming – people with amazing experience – to help inspire everyone to wrap their heads around the challenge of “Riding the Tech Rollercoaster” – working in an industry where nothing stays still and everything can be both exciting and bewildering (often at once!).

The PR and communications team is small – currently 4 people, hiring one more. It’s really good to have an intense week together. Emily is joining us from New York, Jo and Linda from London and I’m in Amsterdam this summer. Day one started with them in London – and from today we’re all together at our Amsterdam office.

You can see the agenda for this week below, or here on Flickr.


I wrote the other day about how we approach PR and Comms at Akvo. Here, I want to highlight four things we’re looking at, specifically:

1. Meeting with each regional hub

Akvo is in a process of expanding while decentralising, with more autonomy and direction coming from our regional “hub” offices, who work closely with partners to introduce our systems at scale in the field. This week we’re talking with each location to get their perspective on things. This includes learning what they’re working on, and the issues they face day to day. We want to understand whether their hub team feels connected to the rest of the organisation, what they’d like to hear about that they don’t, whether their work environment is functioning well, and more.

On Monday we got these talks rolling, talking with Luuk, Phylis and Tim in Nairobi, Henry in Washington DC and Amitangshu in Delhi. On Wednesday we’re talking with Peter in Indonesia and Emeline in Burkina Faso.

2. Meeting with each product manager

Akvo has four products we offer partners today – Akvo RSR, Akvo FLOW, Akvo Openaid and Akvopedia. We’re talking to each product manager to either refine or develop a communications plan. I think we’re reaching a point where we need broader product marketing plans for each product, actually, so we need to work out how to structure those and what the comms team’s role is in developing these. We’ve done some work to think about what these should cover and will be talking these over with the relevant people.

Today we talk with Adrian about Akvo RSR and Hans about Akvopedia. On Wednesday we sit down with Mark Westra to talk through Akvo FLOW, and on Thursday we talk with Siem Vaessen about Akvo Openaid.

3. Amsterdam workshop – Riding the Tech Rollercoaster

Working in a tech firm can be a crazy ride. You’re ahead of the curve, you’re bringing people with you for the ride, things are changing all the time, new people, new products, new ideas. This session will talk about communications, and how it can help people handle the experience, and enjoy and express their work.

A very Special Guest – Zena Martin aka @zenamonique – will run a session exploring these themes on Wednesday. Zena is a really charismatic and experienced technology communications expert, with a keen focus on communicating to diverse groups, too. It will be great to have her perspective, as someone who has seen many tech organisations rise, fall or reinvent themselves.

Themes will include:

How to handle the fact that technology organisations never stand still.

How to ensure everyone has a voice in the development of the organisation, whether they’re a founder or the newest member of staff.

How to balance our internal needs with the need to keep looking outward, keep moving forward and stay adaptive. How to balance the needs of partners with the need to remain at the forefront of our sector.

How to evolve an organisation that has a truly diverse culture.

Afterwards, we’re going to pile onto a canal boat with the Amsterdam staff and cruise around the canals for the evening. Which will be very nice.

4. Sprint day – delivering on the Summer Menu

About a month ago, I shared a “Summer Menu” of initiatives and outputs we’re working on. Thursday is devoted to focusing as a team of four on some of those, to move them towards completion.

Finally, I’m also really delighted to have the chance to introduce some people informally to my friend and long-time mentor Jonathan Becher aka @jbecher, who will be visiting as my second Special Guest, on Thursday evening. Jonathan is based in Silicon Valley and is the chief marketing officer of SAP, the largest business software company in the world. I’m really proud of what we’ve built at Akvo and it’ll be nice to have the chance to introduce him to some of the people involved. I also find it reassuring to only have 65 staff to get to know, whereas he has to deal with 66,000.

Mark Charmer is a co-founder and the communications director of Akvo.