On Tuesday, NetHope – a consortium of 43 leading international NGOs that focuses on improving ICT (information communication technology) to serve people in the developing world – hosted a webinar featuring our work with Mercy Corps aiding Typhoon Haiyan survivors. The Mercy Corps and BanKO project, “TabangKO,” (which means, “my help” in Bisaya), won the GSMA 2015 Global Mobile Award for Best Use of Mobile in Emergency or Humanitarian Situations.

We felt incredibly honored to share the stage with our NetHope and Mercy Corps friends, and to have an amazing audience attend the live session. In case you weren’t able to join, here is a recap for you!


You can also view the whole session here.


Vai, TabangKO Program Manager for Mercy Corps

Ravi, our very own engageSPARK CEO


Quick Stats of Mercy Corps’ use of engageSPARK for TabangKO:

844,000 SMS Texts & Voice minutes
2 soap opera stories, 22 episodes
20,000+ beneficiaries

Mercy Corps’ Objectives for TabangKO

  1. To provide unconditional cash transfers through newly opened mobile bank accounts to survivors of Haiyan so they could start their recovery process.

  2. To provide concrete financial tools for them to continue their recovery process after this program ended. This included a livelihood loan project designed in collaboration with IDEO.

  3. Mercy Corps’ own crucial objective was to ensure that they encouraged people to save for future exigencies.

To accomplish objective 3, Mercy Corps did a one time in person financial literacy training, with plans to continue to encourage saving by sending simple SMS blast messages telling people to save money. But the beneficiaries they talked to felt like they couldn’t relate the messages to their own lives.

Vai and her Mercy Corps partners met engageSPARK at that time, and told them about their objective: to encourage people to save through relatable messages. Based on his prior NGO experience, Ravi and the engageSPARK team helped Mercy Corps craft a strategy: a 12-part “Soap Opera” style dialogue between a Filipino couple, “Ben and Joy.” Plus, engageSPARK gave Mercy Corps the option to try things they hadn’t even known were possible to easily do as a “non-techie,” like sending Voice calls (which participants found exceptionally engaging) and doing quizzes via both SMS and Voice in order to determine whether the participants were engaging with and understanding the messages.

The judges for the GSMA Global Mobile Award, according to Vai, specifically said: “it was the longer term savings encouragement messages used on this program that helped us win this among 800 other applicants.” Wow!

Participants especially engaged with and responded to the voice messages, which were recorded by one of the Mercy Corps staff team and his wife. Out of all of the voice calls that were listened to, 48.2% of recipients responded to the quiz question at the end of the call. In contrast, for the SMS messages sent, only 4.5% of recipients responded to the quiz question.

I wrote a blog post on when to use SMS vs Voice last month, but here is a summary from our Webinar slide deck:

Ravi demoed engageSPARK, showing people how easily a Voice or SMS story and Quiz, Voice IVR (where listeners press a number to retrieve info), or SMS Auto Reply can be set up and launched. He was able to set all of these messaging campaigns up in a matter of minutes!

Vai continually stressed how easy it was to use engageSPARK, giving an anecdote of how she is amazed by Excel formulas to show how “non-techie” she is. Here is a slide about other reasons, as she puts it, “engageSPARK was the turning point on [the TabangKO] program.”

Vai also shared some amazing results about the rate of savings increases among beneficiaries who reported receiving the voice calls. Mercy Corps will be publishing a full report on this at the end of the month, but if you watch the webinar, you’ll get a sneak peak!

engageSPARK is the easiest & quickest solution for SMS Text and Voice Call – blasts, surveys, reminders, alerts, and SMS auto replies. And the best part is that no technical skills are required to use our 3 step wizards: it takes just minutes to launch a campaign. Your account is free to create – the only cost is per message sent. So try it yourself!

Let us know what you think of the webinar, or ask any other questions you have in the comments or by emailing info (at) engagespark.com!