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Open Y: The Future of Community Engagement with the YMCA

Customer interactions often start and end online. Organizations need to prioritize innovation and collaboration to ensure high levels of community engagement. In a presentation at the 2016 Acquia Engage conference, Nathan Maehren, SVP of Digital for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, and Chang Xiao, Managing Director at FFW Agency, spoke to the digital transformation currently underway at the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities and, soon, across the larger network of Y’s.

The YMCA’s mission is to play a role in youth development, inspire healthy living and make a change in local communities. Like many nonprofit organizations, resources can be limited; however that is not necessarily a barrier to digital transformation anymore. Modern community engagement starts by meeting community members where they are, simplifying access to information and communicating a unified brand. To get there, it’s time for organizations to invest in their digital futures.

The YMCA was faced with the challenge of a decentralized and diverse digital ecosystem. With 2,700 locations and 20 million members in the U.S. alone, Y’s of all shapes and sizes are doing digital nearly 900 different ways. The challenge is not just to centralize their digital experiences but to reach their customers and to serve their communities more effectively.

To tackle this challenge, the YMCA turned to FFW, Acquia and Drupal to help launch Open Y. Rooted in the philosophy that collaboration drives innovation and impact, Open Y is the YMCA’s open source initiative to bring digital transformation and unity to the 160-year-old YMCA movement.

For the YMCA, digital transformation starts with the shift to open source. At its core, the Open Y platform offers high-quality user experience and integration, as well as increased levels of control and flexibility; from centralizing information on programs and services to establishing consistent and shareable branding, content and templates. Open Y has dramatically increased accessibility to the Y’s offerings and improved asset management. More than that, the organization is investing in innovative technology like connected devices to bring real-time, contextual experiences to their members—like, customized training programs delivered straight to exercise machines.

While the Open Y initiative is in its early stages, it’s on track to see exponential growth over the next few years. In just eight months, the YMCA has had over 30 Y’s commit to Open Y, or list the initiative as a top priority within their communities. The move to open source has been instrumental for the YMCA, and the initial results serve as proof for other organizations facing similar obstacles.

Watch the full presentation, Open Y: Bringing Digital Transformation to the 160-Year-Old YMCA Brand, below:

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