From fringe to mainstream: helping us all save the environment

E3Who are they?
WEST WALES ECO CENTRE.

Where are they?
Newport, Pembrokeshire.

What do they do?
Seek to reduce society’s impact on the environment, in particular its contribution to global warming and unnecessary climate change.

How big are they?
Turnover less than £1 million, a staff of 17.

What did they receive?
MapPoint 2006, Visio 2003, copies of MS Publisher and MS Office Professional

The outcome?
Up-to-date Office software across the organisation; reduced support requirements accordingly.

www.ecocentre.org.uk

Long before ‘green issues’ became fashionable, and prior to any wide public concern about global warming and climate change, the West Wales ECO Centre was founded as the West Wales Energy Group. With a remit to promote the issues surrounding energy use and the environment, the Centre seeks to help its region tackle a global issue, through a mix of awareness-raising, advice and practical initiatives.

Back in 1980, for instance, the Group started bulk-purchasing loft insulation which was then passed back to the community at greatly reduced prices; elderly and disadvantaged people were offered materials for free. It introduced the first bottle bank in the region, subsequently expanding into other recycling areas. Now, two advice centres in Wales dispense free information and guidance, and the ECO House and Visitor Centre are popular with those interested in more sustainable lifestyles – both locals and tourists alike.

“The mainstream has moved to us,” smiles Jake Hollyfield, the organisation’s Director. “We used to be fringe and radical.”

As an ‘advice provider’, the ECO Centre spotted the potential of MS Visio to help with call handling. “People and businesses telephone us for advice,” explains Jake, “and we need to equip our people with good processes – decision trees, for instance.” The aim is for the experts who design these processes to visualise them using Visio, before saving them as pdfs to forward around the organisation.

With a background in IT, Jake is very aware of the choices that face the smaller organisation when it comes to providing a solid infrastructure. The CTX scheme provided a much-needed extra option. “I got sixteen MS Office licences at £11 each,” he explains. “I couldn’t possibly have taken those at £200 each. If you are going to upgrade, there is a huge cost in being fully compliant and legitimate, but we HAVE to be completely open to scrutiny.”

So what were the alternatives? “We could have limped along with a mixed bunch of software. But this would have still relied on me supporting 13 or 14 different packages. And we were seriously considering open source: OpenOffice or Linux. But most of our people don’t have massively complex requirements – they want to type letters, for instance. We’d need to provide training and support after taking people away from software that they are perfectly comfortable with.”

 
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