Looking for a communication platform

Hi all - I’m reaching out about a situation I’m in and I’m looking for a good communication platform that also manages content well.

A little background info:
I help lead an educational project based in VA. VA is broken into 8 regions, and we have representation on the project from each region. In all, our team is about 14 adults. We also work with youth (ages 13-21) and have about 25-30 youth leaders, also divided somewhat evenly across the regions. There are statewide events where all hands are on deck, and then localized smaller efforts where one region will be working. My role is to oversee the work of the project as a whole, so that means keeping an eye on both state and regional level activities.

Up until now, we’ve been relying on email, dropbox, and google drive, but youth don’t respond to email, not everyone has enough space on their dropbox account, and google isn’t quite meeting our needs for communication and is difficult to “unshare” with those who move on from our project.

We need a system.

We need an internal communication system that can also house resources for both our adults and youth to access. I need to be able to communicate both publicly to the whole group and smaller groups, as well as to individuals privately. My teams need to be able to access meeting notes, documents, and collaborate with each other. I also need the ability to onboard and offboard individuals as they are added or removed from the team.

I’m not necessarily looking for one tool to rule them all if I can find a few things that work really well for our needs. Also, we do not need these to be free, although free solutions are welcome. An emphasis on safety and privacy is also required since I’m working with minors.

I’ve looked into some options like Slack, Basecamp, Discourse, Discord, Mighty Networks, Microsoft Teams (I’m based out of a university that is Microsoft based, so I can get access to that for free), and a few others.

What would you suggest? What other info do you need from me?

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Great question

What are the issues with the apps you mentioned - Slack, Basecamp, Discourse, Discord, Mighty Networks, Microsoft Teams - that might give a bit more guidance on what the solution might be.




Teams (and Microsoft Exchange with SharePoint services) for free would be a pretty good deal, if your IT department is willing to support that. Most other options are going to be wicked expensive for that many users.

  1. house resources (I assume files, media, etc.)
  2. communicate publicly and privately (I assume private and public teams and channels)
  3. meeting notes, documents, collaborate (I assume chat, work on files, one-to-one meetings, etc.)
  4. onboard/offboard individuals

Microsoft Teams would be excellent for this – but you would need to check out the licensing. You can invite individuals to meetings as guests, and the file and chat, depending on your institutions external access policies.

The licensing issues may vary, but need to be worked out for all the solutions of course.

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Mostly is that they do one thing really well, but lack in the other spaces. Slack, discourse, Mighty are great for communication, not so much for files. Basecamp, from my limited experience, has a bit of a learning curve and my team has the whole spectrum when I comes to comfort levels with new tech.

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Yeah, the only thing about teams is that I’m not sure I could add everyone that is outside of my university. Something to check on for sure.

Your assumptions are all correct, as well as your caution about our institution and it’s willingness to add people who aren’t part of it. That’s one of the largest hurdles, because we have 8 universities with their own systems and none of them play well.

I have been there. It depends entirely on finding a good champion within your IT support folks to make this happen.

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Your post reads like an easy pitch for Basecamp to me. I think you’d see better engagement and outcomes with it than with the Microsoft stack. The biggest downside is that its chat is not as compelling as iMessage or Slack, which might be important to the students (neither is Teams though.) Your cost would be $1k/year. Do you have a person who would be willing to to set up the projects and HQs and make sure people have what they need to work in there?


Talk to IT and go with what they agree to actively “support”. (Otherwise you do support and doing that will probably destroy you).


Basecamp is completely free and unlimited for education and I use it with university age students for any project I do with them out of class. They seem to really like the interface and it works really well for the requirements you gave.


It is a long time since I used basecamp in anger, but I am pretty sure you can integrate slack (the free version) into it, which might solve the chat being not very compelling as @cornchip rightly points out.

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Have you considered building your collaboration suite with Apple features? Messages, FaceTime, iCloud Drive? Works best, perhaps, if your collaborators are all on Apple devices, but that doesn’t entirely rule out participation.

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So glad you mentioned that—I misunderstood it as only being free for individual teachers for their classes. I can recommend it in more situations now.


I think anything outside the Microsoft eco system is a hard sell within the IT departments.

It’s like the old saying “No one ever got fired for recommending IBM”

Fortunately, since the demise of Crazy Ballmer the new CEO has positively changed the culture to get back to core business and support good software.

Additionally with the Microsoft set of products there is a wealth of training material available.

Change in any organization is a difficult task and do not underestimate the amount of time involved in supporting the new software platform that can impact the time focusing on the project at hand.

Teams has a lot of momentum behind it and given that you stated it will be free it seems like the logical choice on many fronts


@cornchip I need to look into Basecamp again. It’s probably been a year or two since I’ve spent time with it. We don’t really have someone dedicated to updating projects or training people so simplicity is key.

@Rob_Polding Didn’t realize there was a free education version. Do all members need to be teachers or students associated with a school or can I add people who aren’t connected to a specific location?

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@anon41602260 I’d love to be able to do this but technology used is all over the place with this group. I think it would produce more headaches than solutions with this team. Thanks for the suggestion.

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@D_Rehak perhaps I should have specified further. It’s free for me to use and set up, and it looks like I could invite others to it, but it doesn’t guarantee that everyone has access to Microsoft apps that would work more seamlessly with teams. Some of the youth I work in are at schools that are Google/Chromebook centric and don’t use Microsoft at all. Others are all Microsoft, and then the different universities seem split with some on google and some on Microsoft.

Looks like Basecamp’s free for teachers and students requires everyone to have an education email account, which unfortunately, doesn’t describe all of the members of the team. https://basecamp.com/discounts Paying for a business license isn’t out of the question. Those who use it, what specifically makes the communication piece subpar?