Employees build app to match Ukrainian refugees with US sponsors

  • ServiceNow Blog
  • Culture
  • 2022
October 14, 2022

3 ServiceNow employees and two U.S. sponsors who helped Ukrainian refugees

Since the Russia-Ukraine war began, millions of Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes and found themselves in urgent need of international support. Welcome.US, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, is designed to empower Americans to sponsor refugees. The initiative required a technical platform to safely link sponsors to Ukrainians.

ServiceNow partnered with Goldman Sachs and Infosys to rally the most innovative minds and get to work. In only 2.5 weeks, the Welcome Connect app was born.

“A matchmaking problem”

Darren R., a ServiceNow client director who helped establish the partnership with Goldman Sachs, understood the gravity of the issue at hand. The U.S. government wanted to bring 100,000 Ukrainians into the country quickly. All of them needed to be matched with American sponsors.

“It was very difficult for dislocated Ukrainians to communicate with anyone who wanted to be a sponsor in the U.S.,” Darren says. It was, in essence, “a matchmaking problem.”

“If you’re Ukrainian and you don’t have means or connections, the way you find sponsors is through risky online marketplaces,” says ServiceNow Top Accounts Director Sara L., who helped orchestrate the project.

“In these types of situations, there are certain people who take advantage of it,” Darren adds.

It's not every day that you get to work on a project that's actually saving lives. - Sara L., Top Accounts Director, Remote, USA


There’s an App Engine for that

ServiceNow wanted to create a portal that preserved users’ anonymity, safety, and sense of control. Potential U.S. sponsors needed to be well informed. And to be most effective, the interface required simplicity and inclusivity.

Jeremy D., a platform architect at ServiceNow who’s been working on the Now Platform for more than a decade, believes in the art of the possible. “We can do anything on our platform,” he says.

He and others in the ServiceNow workflow design studio (a “cul-de-sac of experts”) made up the dream team for this project. With a focus on human-centered design methods, Jeremy and his colleagues used research and user testing, storyboarding, and capability mapping to co-create a solution with Infosys. Tailor-made on the low-code ServiceNow App Engine, Welcome Connect rose from the ground in less than three weeks.

Ukrainians retain control

To guard against malicious activity, Jeremy and his Infosys partners suspected they’d need to build filters to protect Ukrainian single mothers, for example, from unwanted connections. But they needed data to back up that idea.

Within 30 minutes, Infosys, with support from ServiceNow, gathered the data and built reports right into the Welcome Connect dashboard. Filters also allow users to flag suspicious accounts or disconnect from a sponsor at any time.

“We make it so easy. You’re not writing code to get this data,” Jeremy says. “We’re not only making it easier for the beneficiaries [refugees]; we’re also making it easier for people who own the platform to use it for their benefit.”

It “puts the power in the hands of the Ukrainian beneficiaries,” Sara adds.

Let the matching begin

On July 18, the connection function went live, enabling matches between sponsors and refugees.

“The speed with which we were able to do it—to me, that's the power of the platform,” Darren says. “It opened my eyes. I think it opened a lot of people's eyes.”

“It was exhilarating,” Jeremy remembers. For him, the coolest moment came after only three hours. “Hey, we’ve been live for three hours, and we already have hundreds of beneficiaries who have signed up,” he recalls.

Sara recognizes the passion and teamwork required to pull off the app. “Everyone who was in this project was committed. You did whatever you had to do to find the resources or make the case,” she says. “Within 12 hours, there were several connections. Now there are hundreds.”

Hey, we've been live for three hours, and we already have hundreds of beneficiaries who have signed up....To me, that was the coolest moment. - Jeremy D., Platform Architect, Remote, USA


A match made in Alabama

A young couple with three children in Madison, Alabama, saw the horrifying images of Ukraine in the media and wanted to do something about it. “We knew we needed to help, but we didn't know anyone,” recalls Corey Wheeler. “You had to know [Ukrainian] family members or friends in order to sponsor them.”

When he and his wife, Kelly, heard about Welcome Connect, they jumped at the opportunity. “We posted as soon as it opened,” they said, referring to the connection function. “We just dove in headfirst.” Before long, they were matched with Viiktoria and her son, Artem, 7, who fled to Israel after leaving Ukraine with only a backpack.

Within three weeks, Viiktoria and Artem arrived at the airport in Alabama. “Viiktoria kept saying, ‘Pinch me, pinch me. I can’t believe I’m here,’” Kelly remembers. When the Wheelers drove back into their neighborhood, their neighbors stood outside cheering, holding Ukrainian flags and posters in support of the new arrivals.

Viiktoria and Artem are adjusting well. “Artem, in particular, is really amazing to watch. He’s 7 years old, but in six months, he’s going to speak better English than I do,” Corey jokes. “He’s such a sponge.”

Meanwhile, Viiktoria’s been busy taking English classes and driving lessons, signing up for social services, and getting work authorizations. With community funds raised, the Wheelers are helping Viiktoria and Artem move into their own apartment by the end of the year.

Thanks to Welcome Connect, the Wheelers are providing Viiktoria and Artem with a new lease on life. “It’s really the perfect setup,” Kelly reflects. “If not us, then who’s going to do this?”

200+ connections later

A first-of-its-kind app has empowered Ukrainians, giving them agency to drive their own sponsorship experiences. Rather than being at the mercy of a confusing and exploitative process, hundreds of Ukrainians are using Welcome Connect to find safety in the United States. 

“It’s not every day that you get to work on a project that’s actually saving lives,” Sara notes. “I think it’s validation for private-public sector partnerships. There’s a role for business in helping solve humanitarian problems. We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do.”

“It’s our company stepping up to do the right thing by donating both staff resources and licenses,” Jeremy adds. “That, to me, was humbling. And it makes me proud to be a part of this organization.”

Refugees and sponsors weren’t the only ones to benefit from this project. ServiceNow employees found fulfillment in building the app. “To be able to do this as part of the course of my normal job is amazing,” Sara says. “This is what the platform was made for.”

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