Episode 65: Little Sun Success

WordPress Briefing Podcast with host Josepha Haden Chomphosy
WordPress Briefing – A WordPress Podcast
Episode 65: Little Sun Success
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Learn about where WordPress is going, how we’ll get there, and how you can get involved.

Join WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy as she looks at a recent WordPress success story, the clean energy solution Little Sun, and learns about their WordPress story.

Have a question you’d like answered? You can submit them to wpbriefing@wordpress.org, either written or as a voice recording.

Credits

Host: Josepha Haden Chomphosy
Special Guest: Romane Guégan
Special Guest: Ashley Mrozek
Editor: Dustin Hartzler
Logo: Javier Arce
Production: Brett McSherry
Song: Fearless First by Kevin MacLeod

Show Notes

  • Website: Little Sun
  • Small List of Big Things
    • State of the Word – This year’s annual keynote, State of the Word, will be on December 11. Save the date to hear the WordPress project’s co-founder, Matt Mullenweg, share reflections on the project’s progress and aspirations for the future of open source.
    • Celebrating 10,000 Photos in the WordPress Photo Directory – On October 11, the 10,000th photo was approved! The Photo Team is one of the newest ways to contribute to the WordPress open source project.
    • Community Team Training #11: Using the Translate Live tool – Uncover the potential of the “Translate Live” tool, which is ideal for presenting at local meetups to engage and onboard new translators for your native language. If you’re organizing a WordCamp, consider introducing this tool during your Contributor Day.
    • A New WordPress Showcase – The journey to update WordPress.org continues with the launch of a new Showcase design. The Showcase is a natural starting point for visitors arriving on WordPress.org, and it both inspires creativity and demonstrates what’s possible with WordPress.

Transcript

[00:00:00] Josepha: Hello everyone, and welcome to the WordPress Briefing. The podcast where you can catch quick explanations of the ideas behind the WordPress open source project, some insight into the community that supports it, and get a small list of big things coming up in the next two weeks. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Here we go.

[00:00:28] (Intro music) 

[00:00:40] Josepha: Today, I’ve got a special guest with me. I have here a couple of folks from Little Sun, a nonprofit organization that recently moved its entire online presence to WordPress. And we’re talking everything from their mission statement and donations all the way to their blog and shop.

Welcome both to the WordPress Briefing. 

[00:00:59] Ashley: Thank you.

[00:01:00] Romane: Thank you. 

[00:01:01] Josepha: We have with us Little Sun today. Can you start by introducing yourselves and your organization? Just tell us a little bit about what you all do. 

[00:01:08] Romane: Hi, my name is Romane Guégan. I’m a Senior Press and Communications Manager at Little Sun. 

[00:01:14] Ashley: And I am Ashley Mrozek. I’m the Senior Digital Manager. 

[00:01:17] Josepha: So what does Little Sun do for the folks who are listening and maybe don’t know about it yet? 

[00:01:22] Romane: Little Sun brings full power and light to communities that live off the grid, with the focus on sub-Saharan Africa because most of the people who lack access to electricity and need them. And we also inspire people to take climate action globally. 

[00:01:39] Ashley: So access to solar energy helps kids who don’t have electricity and study at night. They can complete their homework at night. If their schools are in a more rural area, they will have a light to kind of guide them back home.

We also work on a lot of electric vocation projects and hospitals. So we’re, we’re kind of supporting labors that are, are taking place in the evening, after the sun goes down, among other things. 

[00:02:07] Josepha: Yeah. It’s, I, I think that that is one of the things that folks, probably most of my listeners, probably take for granted, like the easy access to light. And as we all know, the sun is around a lot. And so that is one of our most readily available resources other than potentially wind power. But I think that that is a great mission. And I really think that that’s wonderful work that y’all are doing.

So, is there a particular reason that you focus on sub-Saharan Africa? Is that where you find a majority of people who don’t have access to that kind of resource are? 

[00:02:43] Romane: Yeah. 70% of those people actually need in sub-Saharan Africa, where solar is actually a viable source of energy. Actually, it’s only 1% of solar, of the solar capital of the generation when we actually deliver solar energy there because there is so much potential.

[00:03:04] Josepha: That’s amazing. So you said that you all were funded in 2012. I imagine that your business has evolved over time. So, obviously, you all are WordPress users. That’s why we have you here with us today. But before we get into the questions about WordPress itself. Why don’t you tell us a bit about how your business needs evolved over time and how you wound up needing a solution that did use WordPress?

[00:03:31] Ashley: So I would say our focus and kind of the different initiatives that we’ve taken on since 2012 have shifted a lot based on various reasons, where our donors are, where we’ve kind of found the most need, and where we can be the most impactful.

And I think as we go into those new geographies, our online presence has become more and more important. 

[00:03:55] Josepha: So, before you all switched to WordPress, I understand that you had several sites that you had to merge into one. And so I assume that as you evolved the business and your focus has changed, you realized you needed something a bit more streamlined. So, how was that transition, that migration from a lot of different sites to one big site? 

[00:04:17] Romane: Yeah, because we started as a global project. And then, with the time, we evolved, actually also getting new donations. And in the past, we used to have one website where we have our webshop and our mission, our vision, all of our project descriptions.

But then we had another website only for the foundation. And then you had another foundation in the U.S. So it was the question, okay, how do we put everything together? So we actually switched from littlesun.com to littlesun.org with WordPress, and it was amazing to see how we managed with the team to create an ecosystem approach, including impact, but also sales, and fundraising. 

[00:05:02] Josepha: That was a big footprint that you all had, and you kind of consolidated it into one. And for all of our folks listening on the podcast, I’m going to include some links, not only to their site but then also to a few other things that we’ve mentioned in here today. So, since you made that change, how has it, how has that impacted the way that you all work with your site or with your online presence?

[00:05:27] Ashley: Yeah, I think using WordPress and having access to WordPress has been hugely valuable for us. We’re a small team, we’re a nonprofit, so it is pretty scrappy. Everyone is kind of doing a lot of different things. We don’t have a dedicated development team. And so being able to easily customize our pages and create new landing pages or make adjustments on the site without that development help has been valuable.

[00:05:55] Josepha: Yeah, so you don’t have a developer team now. Did you have a developer team when you had all the sites? 

[00:06:01] Romane: We just still work with freelancers. 

[00:06:03] Josepha: Okay, yeah. I am also not a developer, for what it’s worth, and have been working with nonprofits for a while. And I understand that problem where you have all these things you need to do and want to do, but there are also things you absolutely have to focus on in order to make your mission possible and your vision come true.

[00:06:23] Ashley: Yeah, and I think, I think WordPress has given us a lot more, like a lot more flexibility to kind of produce new content quickly. And because of that, it’s just been a lot more efficient, too, for us, you know. 

[00:06:38] Josepha: And you all are using Blocks? Are you, like, the best Block builders?

[00:06:42] Romane: Yeah, I love Blocks. 

[00:06:43] Josepha: Blocks are a fairly new innovation for the history of WordPress. WordPress has been around for 20 years, so we’re a nice, mature project. And we’ve really only had blocks as a functional part of the CMS for probably the last five or so. We’ve been working on the project a little bit longer. And it has been fascinating to me, like, in my own work that I have done with WordPress, kind of outside of my work with the project, to see, like, how much autonomy you get to have back as somebody who is not a developer, maybe isn’t a designer, but you do know exactly what you need to have on your site today, right?

And having to stop and find a freelancer or stop and find some set of developers who can make those changes. For me, when I was specifically working on nonprofit stuff. That was always kind of a moment where I was like, well, I guess I’ll just go to Facebook and put that on there or something because I was faster than trying to find someone to come help you. And so, I’m so glad you love the block.

[00:07:48] Ashley: We’ve created many a landing page. 

[00:07:50] Josepha: Also, your site is adorable, and your brand is adorable, in case no one’s mentioned that lately. Super cute. Super cute.

[00:07:58] Josepha: So, we’ve talked about how you kind of took a bunch of stuff and made it into one big thing and how that’s been easier for you all to manage it. But from the standpoint of just, like, somebody who’s running a nonprofit, someone who’s running an organization, how has that transition been for your team? I know you said you don’t have a huge team, but was the move toward WordPress a net benefit over time, or was it immediately beneficial? Like, how has that been for your team? 

[00:08:27] Romane: So what’s interesting actually is that we have a team that is spread also all over the world. And so we have teams in Berlin and in U.S., and New York. In Zambia, too. What was really interesting was how people identify to the new website because now we have to really think, okay, what is the content we want people to see, but also we want our critics to see. And so it kind of unified all of our content at Little Sun. And it was much more like much easier to understand afterwards. 

[00:09:03] Josepha: Yeah. 

[00:09:04] Romane: And it was because we also work at the intersection of creative communications, impacts, fundraising, technology, and to be able to put everything and have it on the front. And then have the stories to tell the stories from sub-Saharan Africa, from universities who got either a Little Sun lamps or solar systems, and then we have the donation page, so basically everything could be integrated in a super easy way, and it could target different audiences easily, either it’s someone who wants to partner with us, or a donor, or just someone who wants to be part of our solar training.

[00:09:46] Josepha: Yeah, and I mean, I think that no one will be surprised to hear that if you have multiple things that you have to get everybody to, it really increases the amount of marketing that you have to accomplish, rather than having one place for everyone to go too, and they can see everything that they might want once they arrive. So, that’s wonderful.

[00:10:06] Ashley: I think I was just going to say, or kind of echo what Romane said about the fact that we have so many different audiences, we have partners, we have donors, we have people who are just coming to learn about solar energy, or who are interested in purchasing a lamp. I think prior to this, it was a little bit confusing for those different audiences to kind of navigate to where they were intended to go to on the site, and now it’s much more cohesive. And we often hear that from people where it’s like, it’s quite easy to, to kind to find what they need to find on the site. 

[00:10:39] Josepha: I define the WordPress community as anyone who is using WordPress, regardless of whether they know it or not. And so you all, in my mind, are part of the WordPress Community. And I just wondered if being part of that community has changed your approach to the way that you manage your content online or the way that you have chosen work with your business as like an online entity that also does on-the-ground, in-person thing?

[00:11:06] Ashley: I think definitely. I think we’re kind of going back to what I said before. I think we’re much more efficient now. I think in the past, it’s the idea of, like, well, getting this web page live or publishing this is going to be, you know, we have to think about a huge timeline, that’s, is going to require a lot of resourcing, a lot of different types of expertise and people, and everything now feels like something that we can, we can launch pretty immediately, which is really wonderful too.

I would also say just like being a part of the WordPress community too. It’s the sort of support that we’ve gotten from your team. It’s always really tailored. And I think as a nonprofit working with a, like, a much bigger business, you can be apprehensive sometimes, feeling like you won’t really get that personalized support. 

And I think that’s something that’s been so nice with WordPress. Is really feeling like the people we’re working with are understanding our business and taking the time to understand our needs. And I think that makes us think differently about our online presence as well because then we feel like we have that additional support, which is great.

[00:12:12] Josepha: I’m always a fan of hearing that people who are passionate about WordPress are also passionate about helping others with WordPress. That’s one of my favorite things about us. That’s not true. I have like 25 favorite things about us. And so I need to stop saying that I have one favorite, but I never will.

Okay, well, do you all have any last thoughts that you just want to share with me or podcast listeners that we have? 

[00:12:36] Ashley: Yeah, I think the, the plugins and integrations have been really useful for us. I think it can be really intimidating to bring on, like, a new tech solution or tool and feel like everything that you are already working with or have is going to become outdated or obsolete in some way. And I think it’s just been really nice to work with WordPress and have all of those transitions be really seamless for everything to connect really well. Yeah, I think that’s been. That’s hugely helpful too. 

[00:13:07] Josepha: So, was that part of the decision-making process? Like, do I know that this software will be around in the future so that you’re making an investment in the site now and know that it’s going to hang around now you can find people help? Like, was that part of the decision-making process?

[00:13:21] Ashley: I think so. I mean, I guess I wasn’t completely around during the time, but I would say, like, that’s definitely something that we’re considering in any kind of tech that we’re thinking about is it can require so much work to, to kind of bring something on with such a small team. So we want to ensure that, yeah, it’s going to last, it has longevity, and it’s going to work with the tools that we already have. So I think all of that is really important for sure. 

[00:13:48] Josepha: Well, thank you both so much for joining me. Like I said, we’ll have a link to littlesun.org in the notes so that you all can learn more about their project and see their beautiful site with their beautiful little solar sunflowers.

Thank you both for being with me today. 

[00:14:04] Romane: Thank you so much. 

[00:14:05] Ashley: Thank you so much for having us.

[00:14:07] (Music interlude)

[00:14:11] Josepha: What a wonderful organization. I’m so glad that they found WordPress and that it works for them. Let’s continue our tour today with the small list of big things.

Item number one, it’s time to save the date: December 11th, 2023, for this year’s State of the Word. State of the Word is the annual keynote address delivered by the WordPress Project co-founder Matt Mullenweg. Every year, the event shares reflections on the project’s progress and aspirations for the future of open source. And so, if that is something that you like to tune into, December 11th is your day. 

Second thing on our list is that we are celebrating our 10,000th photo submission. So, on October 11th, the 10,000th photo was approved. The Photo Team is one of the newest ways to contribute to the WordPress open source project, and it feeds all of those photos into Openverse as well.

The third thing on our list today is that I want to tell you about a community team training module that just came out. It’s specifically about the Translate Live tool, and it is ideal for presenting at your local meetups to engage and onboard new translators for your native language. If you’re organizing a WordCamp, consider introducing this tool during your Contributor Day. I will leave a link for this in the show notes so that it is easy to find. 

And item number four, the journey to update WordPress.org, continues with the launch of a new Showcase design. The Showcase is a natural starting point for a lot of visitors who are on WordPress.org. It inspires creativity and also demonstrates what’s possible with WordPress. So, stop on by there, it’s WordPress.org/showcase, and give it a bit of a look.

[00:15:58] Josepha: And that, my friends, is your small list of big things. Thank you for tuning in today for the WordPress Briefing. And don’t forget to follow us on your favorite podcast app or subscribe directly on WordPress.org/news. You’ll get a friendly reminder whenever a new episode drops. And if you like what you heard today, share it with a fellow WordPresser. Or, if you had questions about what you heard today, you can share those with me at wprebriefing@WordPress.org.

I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, and I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks. 

[00:16:24] (Music outro)


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