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Adventures in Wagtail

18 Jun 2021

Oxfam America’s storytelling platform built on Wagtail CMS

We’re joined by John Abdulla, Oxfam America’s Associate Director, Constituent Product to hear the full story of Oxfam America’s digital transformation, including picking and adopting a new open source CMS (hint: it’s Wagtail), the role digital plays to help deliver their important mission and what’s next on the horizon for John and the team.

John Abdulla headshot

John Abdulla

Associate Director, Constituent Product of Oxfam America

The Thinking Behind the Replatform

We needed a CMS that enables us to communicate and engage more effectively within the US. We’re not selling a product, just like any nonprofit who’s doing mission based work or social justice work, we need to use technology to show you the impact you can make and give you a great experience at the same time. Companies like Amazon, Disney and others have paved the way. We expect a great experience from the web and for non profits it has to be great to cultivate long term support.

A few years ago we did a full redesign with Mezzanine CMS. It was built in Django, which we were familiar with, and we had an excellent developer in-house who customised it a lot based on our unique needs. However, that developer moved on and Mezzanine became a nightmare that we couldn’t maintain.

Why Wagtail?

We started testing Wagtail when it was still a fairly new CMS. We used it for an immersive storytelling platform that we had built. We liked the features and the depth it allowed us when it came to long form content.

Historically we’d always found it a challenge to find a CMS that both suited our developers and our editors without needing lots of support. But the more our editors used it the more they loved it. It’s so easy to use - in two minutes we can update pages, move components around, add and re-order videos, blocks of content. We feel like it’ll set us up well for the future. At the same time because it’s open source our developers are able to work around the CMS and make enhancements. It’s truly a CMS for the people.

Getting help

Initially we didn’t expect to need a lot of support but due to staff turnover we did end up leaning on Torchbox more substantially during the early days, but now we are able to maintain the CMS without much in the way of support. However, we are a small team so when we do have improvements or developments we want to make we know we can call on Torchbox and scope out some ideas and get help in implementing them.

The fact that Torchbox are the creators of Wagtail is an added bonus as the technology is continually being improved in the way that we need it to and can benefit from.

What’s Next for Oxfam US?

We’re all hearing about digital transformation, maybe we’ve already been transformed over the last year! But it’s all about people and how you help them to leverage digital in the work they do. Everything in our lives can be improved with digital.

We’re only going to continue to grow so it’s important to think about the system’s improvements alongside the people and the processes, to allow us to scale and continue to get value that we can deliver back to our users. 

We’re big fans of Wagtail and the work that Torchbox do and we’re excited to be on this ever-evolving journey.