post revised and updated Mar 2018
TWEAKING SOME PRACTICES: IT’S NOT ALL OR NOTHING
Having discussed wider and strategic issues in the previous two articles in this series (Smart Cities: smarter VCSE and Digital governance) we thought it necessary in this article to provide some practical guidance for organisations about how to incorporate such activities into their operational activities.
This is a process of making modifications and not necessarily making wholesale changes within your organisations or practice.
All organisations use some form of IT and therefore have an existing digital footprint (“one’s unique set of traceable digital activities, actions, contributions and communications that are manifested on the Internet or on digital devices” – Wikipedia).
Organisations use technology to monitor activity and therefore have access to specific and bespoke data.
Websites are commonplace for most organisations and provide an excellent shop window for services and activities but do we make the best use of them, including to meet and collaborate with others?
As a sector we are now hearing a great deal about digital transformation – there are individuals and organisations that would advise us as to how to maximise our digital presence and data footprint but, unless organisations understand and own their own journey, they will not get the full benefit of the activity.
This article therefore provides some guidance as to how to review your activity
DO YOU KNOW WHAT DATA YOU KEEP?
Do you believe that you could improve how you manage your digital footprint?
• Discussed with your board how technology might help with your work?
• Identified staff processes and progress?
• Identified any time constraints?
• Does your digital footprint tell your story, celebrate your successes, and promote the numbers (people, events, networks, outcomes) you achieve, the issues you address, the impact you make?
• How do you market or promote your organisation?
Do you use leaflets, networking, blog, social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), your website?
DIGITAL BY DESIGN
• What data do you keep about your activities, your users, your funding sources, other?
• How do you present your data? In annual reports, in funding applications, in other publications?
EXPLORING YOUR DIGITAL PRESENCE
We have divided an organisational digital presence into two distinct categories: fixed and fluid.
Fixed digital includes websites and other IT processes. While the organisation has input into such activity, such resources can be inflexible, often purchased and maintained externally, used to promote and record organisational activity.
Web presence (fixed): What does it say about you, what information do you share, who is/are your target audience(s)? Develop a digital presence that tells your story, using narrative and data to represent impact and outcomes that are being achieved, and not just the information that represents how you fulfil contract obligations. What does your website say about your organisation?
Social Media (fluid/flexible): Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp.
What does your use of social media say about your organisation? With social media, often controlled and administered in-house, you have more flexibility over your digital presence and can use this media to portray more intimate insights into the organisation.
• Who manages your Facebook page, LinkedIn organisation page, Twitter account, website content? You, your staff and board can decide what stories get told using as many or as few of these platforms as make sense for your organisation – go where your users are.
• Do you measure the impact of your marketing? Blogpost reads, e-bulletin circulation, Facebook followers, leaflet distribution, LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers and re-tweets, website use – create a baseline using analytics, and monitor changes so you can stay in the loop.
PEER TO PEER LEARNING
You can interact with peers from your sector in this area at various events and meetup groups. Peer to peer learning with other non-profits about using technology to achieve outcomes is a great way to learn and practice new ideas in a safe and supportive environment.
BarCamp Non Profits unconference brings together people from tech and digital with people from non-profits (charity, academic, government, arts and culture, etc) to exchange ideas and learning, in London
Net Squared Midlands: tech for social good is a West Midlands-based tech for good group, part of Net Squared a global network, with regular free events for people interested in using web or mobile technology for social good. “NetSquared brings together nonprofits and activists, tech leaders and funders, and everyone who’s interested in using technology for social change”.
NFP tweetup – informal evenings of thought-provoking sessions, sharing and discussion focused on how not-for-profit organisations can make the best use digital media and technology, in London
Tech for Good Near You – online real time searchable map of tech for good events in the UK and Ireland
VCSSCamp (Voluntary and Community Sector Support) is an unconference for people from VCS local infrastructure organisations to meet and talk about the ways they use digital tools and technology in their work; annually in Birmingham, other places by arrangement with the organisers
Data management tools (some are open source software) allow you to have more control over data about your organisation, your area and your issues.
Your organisation could make use of free online tools to find, manage and visualise data such as:
Open Street Map (open source maps and mapping tools)
Tableau Public (data visualisation tools)
Trello (project management tool)
Wikimedia Commons (freely-usable media files)
Wikipedia (free encyclopaedia)
Wikidata (free knowledge base).