RnR Organisation Digital WM™: Project 2020

We aim to develop and support a more creative and collaborative mindset amongst people working in and governing the VCSE sector so that they know how to use the internet and digital technology more efficiently in order to help their beneficiaries. This should also increase their efficiency and productivity e.g. automating repetitive tasks. We are also hoping that by the end of the project they will be more able and willing to use freely available digital tools and software.

We are exploring essential issues and activities not currently supported by the major tech for good project funders.

We envisage that the objectives will impact on the VCSE Sector in the following ways:

  • Developing capacity to ensure an organisation becomes ‘digital ready’ or digitally improved
  • Providing or developing appropriate staff/volunteer training
  • Exploring and increasing organisations’ digital footprint to include updating individual websites and engaging in routine social media campaigns
  • Organising and running Exploration events or Hack Days to aid development and delivery of activity
  • Reinforcing/increasing capacity/usage of current system.
  • Exploring need for upgrading of internal IT systems
  • Developing project / economic reasoning for (large scale) capital investment in IT

We will achieve the delivery of the Project 2020 objectives through these three themed areas:

 

See our more detailed Digital WM™: Project 2020 plan in our Resources section here

Tech for good at a bad time

So it snows, and you have to cancel the seasonal market for which you’ve been preparing for the last few weeks, or even months. There are so many disappointed people – you, the organiser, your staff, your stallholders, their potential customers. You and your staff have allocated time and resources, stallholders have prepared and/or refreshed products and services, customers were expecting to see and probably buy something new.

A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE?

Before completely abandoning the market, maybe there’s a viable alternative to cancelling it. Stallholders will have prepared­­ products and services for sale, and many of them will have been planning to offer customers some special offers or discounts. What about creating and organising an online virtual market on your website, or other shared platform, offering at least some of the above?

A ‘VIRTUAL’ MARKET

This ‘virtual’ market could start whenever the actual market was due to start, and run up to whenever the season ends. You could use posts in your social media channels and have a catchy unique hashtag, which both stallholders and customers can re-use and cross-post. Stallholders could submit some copy/video about their products/services for you to use (reasonable quality video can now be done on a smartphone) – they can make whatever they were planning to have had/sold/displayed at the actual market look as good as they can make it.

POTENTIAL BENEFITS

What are the potential benefits that could happen with a ‘virtual’ market? You and staff could get to use the allocated time and resources in a slightly different and creative way, stallholders could still show off their products and services, and customers, maybe even more than would have turned up in person, could still see and possibly buy something, and they might also recommend the market to their contacts – bonus marketing!

ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?

We know that not every organisation is set up for adapting to a situation like this. We know that not every organisation can yet take payment online or over the phone. We also know many smaller organisations don’t have a website, Facebook page or other online presence. These cases illustrate what we, for some time, in our business RnR Organisation, have been saying needs to be happening in our sector.

Non profits, voluntary sector organisations and social enterprises need to be using available technology, possibly in ways they haven’t tried before. A lack of digital skills and no organisational culture to use technology in our organisations and businesses can obviously be overcome, but, in this case, having an online presence where they can display, promote and sell their wares will have given your stallholders a proven competitive advantage over those who didn’t have one.

We hope this post encourages organisers to consider running virtual events online when opportunities like this arise, possibly having it as a Plan B when they start planning any future markets or similar events.

NEED SOME PRACTICAL HELP?

We hope this post also encourages those in our sector without an online presence to think about why that is, and how they can plan to address that. We’re here if you want to talk to us about practical ways of doing something about it.

Regional data on charities

The Lloyds Bank Business Digital Index 2017 measures the digital capability of 2,000 small businesses and charities across the UK

The report concentrates on small businesses but it does have a very useful section on charities, especially useful for us being the data about charities in the regions – the two digital demographics diagrams for small businesses and charities are below

(1) Small businesses

(2) Charities

NCVO Almanac

The other key source of regional data about charities/voluntary organisations is the NCVO Almanac 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Contribution to Technology award winner

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Pauline with her award – Outstanding Contribution to technology 2016; photo credit: Cheryl Garvey

We are celebrating!

Our Managing Director, Pauline Roche, won the award for Outstanding Contribution to technology at the 2016 West Midlands Women of the Year Awards held on Friday November 11th at the Novotel Birmingham on Broad St.

Pauline is an information science professional specialising in community building, outreach and developing better processes for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to use technology and data. She is passionate about increasing the digital skills and data literacy of people in charities. She co-founded the Net Squared Midlands: tech for social good meetup series and VCSSCamp.

Pauline is a tech connector, do-er and fosterer of skills and knowledge in the West Midlands and beyond. She bring charities, funders and community groups together to address social issues by organising events, blogging and tweeting through her business RnR Organisation, a social enterprise supporting data informed programmes focussing on asset-based community development and tech for good. She aims to be an example to women striving to improve life in their community.

Read the event story here

Open data and social enterprise – worlds colliding

On Feb 21 (Open Data Day) and Feb 22 we were in Hampshire at Open Data Camp, helping with the organising, delivering and participating in a few of the unconference sessions, mainly to do with data and charities, and engaging community groups with data and open data, the latter referring to our work at RAWM with community groups to support the development of the Birmingham Skills and Data Hub aka Birmingham Data Factory.

Fast forward to today and, in my role as Policy Associate (Information and Communications) for RAWM, I’m searching for events to put on the RAWM website to share with the voluntary and community sector in the West Midlands region. I see that, on March 30th, SEWM will be running a members event which will include Tim Edwards, Group Head of Regeneration The Aspire Group discussing Buy Social, the national social enterprise directory.

This is the year when, as I’ve said a few times on Twitter, I’m finding my #worldscolliding and this is another one. What’s the connection?

Well, as part of Open Data Day, new data from the Buy Social Directory was made available to Open Data Camp participants. This joint open data initiative between Social Enterprise UK, Spend Network and the Cabinet Office was made to ensure that, for the first time, there was the opportunity to track all spend with social enterprises by local authorities and central government. This is to increase accountability and identify new opportunities for investment in social enterprise

So, as members of SEWM via RnR Organisation, we’re looking forward to being at the SEWM members event on March 30th and seeing whether this data release on Open Data Day might also be of use to some of our fellow SEWM members, as well as giving us an opportunity to bring members up to date with the work we’ve been doing at RAWM on the use of data and open data by and for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

This could be the start of a whole new set of relationships!

Good things come…

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Photo from NG Events Ltd

Ever since I was the CEO of The Digbeth Trust, meeting with the then-head of Digital Birmingham to discuss the ICT needs of voluntary organisations in Birmingham, I’ve been clear that many voluntary organisations, especially the smaller ones, really need financial and other support to get the ICT equipment to help them do their work better, and thus be able to help their beneficiaries in more efficient and effective ways.

So I am pleased to see that there is an event in Birmingham on April 10 2014 to launch a Connectivity vouchers scheme to help fund a new faster broadband connection for small and medium-sized businesses, charities, social enterprises and other not-for-profit organisations. It’s funded by the Government’s Urban Broadband Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, and managed by Digital Birmingham.

Digital Birmingham will cover up to £3,000 of the connection costs for eligible organisations (that’s usually enough to pay for all the work) and it’s a grant not a loan, so you don’t have to pay it back.

The voucher scheme is also available in Coventry, although there doesn’t seem to be an event, just a page where eligible organisations (SME (small or medium-sized enterprise) or are a third-sector (voluntary) organisation within the Coventry City Council area) can register their interest

So as vouchers are available on a first come, first served basis, I’ll be encouraging all the charities, social enterprises and other not-for-profit organisations that I know in Birmingham and Coventry to be registering their interest asap – and if you work with those organisations, can I ask you to do the same? Being better connected helps us all.

First thoughts as to where VCS are in relation to LEPs

Background
Local Enterprise Partmerships (LEPs) were established to develop a local growth agenda, locally driven by businesses that had a buy-in to a distinct geography, supported by Local Authorities and other influential institutions, FE Colleges and Universities. LEPs developed strategic plans, recognised skills deficiency and suggested ameliorative processes to enhance their growth programme.

This was all fine and dandy, with government programmes being routed through the process, focusing such activity through the development plans, business plans being reviewed and evaluated with a business eye, and then along comes Europe!

In November 2012 after some deliberation, but coming as no surprise to those who had read Lord Heseltine’s report ‘No Stone Unturned’, The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) announced that the EU Structural Funds 2014 -2020 were to be directed through the LEPs.

While they waited for the initial guidance which eventually arrived in April and July 2013, LEPs went about their business, merrily developing their strategic plans within their initial structures, business orientated growth programmes targeting, predominantly, private sector enterprise, acknowledging the growing sound bites that it was the private sector, and not the public sector, that creates the wealth.
LEP and VCS engagement – a stalled start

In their initial development LEPs had little, and in some cases, no contact with Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations. From November 2012 there was an increased flurry of activity by some LEPs with VCS organisations as they began to discuss how LEPs and the Sector could benefit each other.

What didn’t help matters was the variety of names and terminology used to describe the activities of VCS organisations:
· Civic Society
· Civil Society
· The Third Sector
· Non Government Organisations (NGOs)
· The Voluntary Sector
· Social Enterprises
· Charities
· Community groups

Adding to the confusion of titles was the variety of perceptions of where the Sector gets its money from.

Some basic statistics
VCS organisations constitute an important sector of the economy, creating jobs and economic value, as well as social and environmental benefits. According to research by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), there are over 162,000 voluntary organisations in the UK. These organisations employ 793,000 people (around 2.7% of the UK workforce), and additionally they spend around £18.1bn on goods and services each year. At the same time there are over 60,000 social enterprises in the UK, and 5,950 co-operatives employing 230,000 people.

LEPs and Europe
With the announcement that LEPs were to ‘oversee’ the 2014-2020 structural funds, LEPs had to begin to accommodate new concepts and partnerships in order to deliver EU programmes.

Whilst ESF and ERDF were known programmes, terms like social inclusion, social innovation, community lead local development were unfamiliar. These concepts were to be accommodated into new strategic plans that would outline how the LEP would deliver a European funded programme, and so consultation began.

LEP and VCS engagement – a second bite
While an LEP is capable of delivering economic growth, it will be necessary for it to develop strategic partnerships with VCS organisations in order to fulfil, not only EU requirements, but also to enable them to deliver a growth agenda that accommodated the socio-, as well as the economic, growth agenda.

In some cases, the LEP journey of partnership with VCS was easier than in others – some sought out partnerships, some had partnerships within their existing agenda, and others continued without any partnership plans.

Those LEPs that recognised the importance of an ‘inclusive economic growth’ programme have recognised that the delivery of any growth agenda requires the engagement of those furthest from the labour market, people who, for whatever reason, take longer to become, or in some cases cannot fully become, economically active, and are continually excluded from accepted ‘norms’ and mainstream activity. For this engagement to be achieved, community lead organisations need to be involved.

LEP and VCS – issues to be addressed confusions to be clarified
The most common prejudice faced by the sector in any engagement is the focus on the charitable aspect of the sector, and not on the business aspect. There is often a misguided view that organisations receive grants to deliver to those in need. Much less is known or appreciated of the new commissioning and procurement aspects of public services, and the sometimes onerous open tendering process which organisations need to go through to win contracts, even small ones.

The concept of ‘Social Enterprise’ was often confused with ‘charitable’ delivery and, therefore, in some cases, ignored. There is evidence throughout the country, through information sharing at VCS network meetings, of sparse appreciation of the activity and role of the VCS.
This ignorance or lack of appreciation has prevented significant partnerships being developed, and while the role of LEPs was purely economic growth, stimulated only by the private sector, the management of European Structural Funds brings wider responsibilities.

The most successful LEPs and VCS partnerships occur where there is a historical connection between local and regional infrastructure organisations and the current European Management processes in Local Management Groups.

What therefore does the sector bring to LEPs?
While there is little argument that local, regional and national economic growth policies are a necessity, where such activity can be lead by business, it can be supported by public sector funding. However, the lack of penetration and engagement of public sector programmes has consistently failed to engage a certain percentage of the population. Whatever title we give this, or these groups, (for they are not a homogeneous community, geographically, culturally or socially), if we are to develop a fully integrated socio-economic growth programme, they must be engaged to their fullest potential, and at a pace that maintains and sustains their engagement.

We cannot assume that all individuals are capable of full time employment within the labour market. Are then these economically excluded individuals not to be included in mainstream developments and provision, or just managed/cared for, within other provision?

Are we to ‘lump’ all these people together or, building on the concept of the individual, develop communities of geography or interest, with civic activities that can include the individuals, starting the journey from their own specific capability and journeying, at their own pace, arriving at a destination with which they are comfortable?

What the VCS offers the LEPs is access to such groups, and the ability to engage them in relevant, developmental and sustainable programmes that will engage them, over a period of time, in the socio-economic development of an area.

There is significant evidence throughout the country where community and civically lead programmes have stimulated local engagement in economic regeneration and growth activity. Social innovation programmes can develop a social economy, and can generate sustainable activities that can accommodate developments which facilitate the necessary engagement outlined above.

This process is not one of ‘charity and care’, ‘handouts and management’, but one of business, humanity, and compassion, with an understanding of the individual’s journey, place and circumstances, and an appreciation of the economy, targets and their achievement capability, matched to a support programme to accomplish set and agreed targets and activities.

Digbeth – a possible focus for Community Led Local Delivery

The European Union Structural Fund guidance from the commission and BIS outlines the use of Community Led Local Development (CLLD) as a method of addressing challenges identified within a specific geographic community.

Developed in rural areas as the LEADER programme, its use has now been widened to include Urban areas.

This proposal explores the possibility of promoting the Social Enterprise Network within Digbeth, Cheapside and Highgate as a CLLD.

THE AREA
Digbeth, Cheapside and Highgate contain a large number of Social Enterprises as well as some of the most deprived communities within the Greater Birmingham LEP.

The population of the area is about 10 -12,000

Developing a Local Action Group (LAG) within this area will build on, and develop, a number of current initiatives. The Social Enterprise Network, a vibrant residents association that is already engaged in community action and economic development activity, as well as venues that address social inclusion issues for residents, including young people, within the area, will enhance the LAG’s ability to deliver and develop socially innovative and inclusive responses to issues that can be replicated across the area.

Social Enterprises, Private and Public Sector as well as community groups already co-exist within the area, with an economic interdependence that is unprecedented in Birmingham. Developing a CLLD within this area will enable the vibrant economic activity and relationship to become more productive and dynamic.

THE OUTLINE ACTIVITY
Developing a LAG’s Local Development strategy to address the following;

Challenges to be addressed – Youth and enterprise, Low skills and lack of entrepreneurship within the area, social innovation activity to challenge social and employment exclusion.

Target groups to be supported – Young people, long term low skilled individuals and business start ups; social enterprises.

Thematic objectives likely to be covered TBC
European Social Fund can be used to develop a skills agenda and programme.
European Regional Development Fund can be utilised for business support and potential asset transfer activity.

Links to other initiatives
Neighbourhood Budgeting and management; Birmingham City Council

LOCAL ACTION GROUP (suggestion)
· Social Enterprise Network (Hub) covers all SE and VCS organisations
· Digbeth Residents Association
· Highgate Residents Association
· City and South Birmingham College
· Cultural Organisations (Friction Arts)
· Business Representatives (Custard Factory, National Express)