It’s a very open call for ideas, although there are four suggested themes.
A group from the public sector and voluntary sector with an interest in digital transformation and digital growth in the charitable sector discussed this at our Net Squared Midlands: Tech for good event in Birmingham in January 2016 and responded with the bullet points below:
1) Unlocking digital growth
Every business and every charity can benefit from using digital technology, but for many of the smaller charities and micro community groups that we work with there are huge leaps needed to make digital transformation happen.
Corporate Social Responsibly – could larger businesses provide digital employee volunteering and mentoring services, brokered through the national network of well established local Volunteer Centres and Councils for Voluntary Service?
2) Transforming government
Whilst many staff in charities may be comfortable with using their smart phone to go on-line or conduct on-line transactions, the organisations they work for often aren’t at the same level, or don’t have the same infrastructure to make access to government services easy. Many charity websites are not responsive or mobile friendly and others are out of date, poorly designed or non-existent.
Simple transactions Government procurement is seen as being very bureaucratic and a barrier that small charities often with limited digital skills and capacity struggle to engage with. There is a need for more information sharing and awareness raising of what the third sector can (and can’t do) digitally as part of a strategic relationship with government.
Simpler commissioning models are needed, maybe with a group of third sector organisations collaborating on contract submission to “Government As A Platform”. ”; info sharing with public sector – lack of knowledge;
3) Transforming everyday life
Relevant activities that promote digital inclusion should be available at the point of need for individuals who use the services of charities, (e.g. Rough sleepers, single parents etc). Taking time out of running a small community group to assist a user undertake “computer classes” is not sufficient and can be off putting when the environment used is a school or classroom which may have unpleasant memories.
Help citizens to understand what their devices can actually do.
Will e-learning and MOOCs ever really catch on in the third sector?
Unlike public or health sectors where training is compulsory and e-learning has been found to be a very cost effective way to deliver this information, no such requirement exists for many tasks in voluntary organisation.
See Run A Club platform for skills development & administration of small community sports groups Run a Club packages
For some people leading chaotic personal lives there is a need for “pre basic digital skills”, mentors who can explain the reasons why being a part of the digital society is important. Vitally they also need to mentor and ensure that those farthest from being digitally active retain their connection, remember their e-mail address or government portal passwords.
Within voluntary sector organisations there should be a drive to recruit and sustain further digital champions, staff who can help their peers, volunteers and trustees or board members.
Charities need help recruiting trustees and some people are interested in becoming trustees but don’t know how – one helper network is the Small Charities Coalition who run a Trustee Finder service
4) Building the foundations
Of the 160,045 voluntary organisations in England, 83.1% are small or micro organisations with less than £100,000 income per year. It is these organisations that are most at risk of being left behind digitally and which this strategy needs to accommodate.
The digital framework and basic digital skills developed by Go On UK [now doteveryone] goes part way to helping organisations, but needs to cover the strategic digital transformation issues an organisation has to consider in order to build strong foundations.
Organisations prioritise service delivery over technology, which for a small charity is often the best use of limited resources and capacity, but basic ‘good practice’ cannot be ignored. Digital Fundamentals which must be embedded in the way organisations work, employ staff with digital skills and recruit volunteers to help their cause include:
Demystifying ‘the cloud’ and the efficiency saving that this form of working can bring to an organisation, its staff and trustee boards.
Being more aware of the many social media tools that help a charity raise its game, increase fundraising and promote its message to a wider audience.
Charities need to be directly aware of the National Cyber Security Programme as many don’t adequately protect their data files, use paper based filing systems or fail to back-up databases and don’t use anti-virus and other basic tools which could keep their digital assets safe.
Access to impartial advice about the best digital tools and products, not those linked to a particular supplier or solution e.g. http://www.connectingcare.org.uk
See Charity IT Association – https://www.charityitassociation.org.uk/about for Tech Surgeries and a Virtual IT Director for small charities who don’t have the resources to employ their own.
These statistics are a concern:
There are some worrying statistics from the 2015 Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index [updated annually]which tracks digital adoption among small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) and charities:
· 58% of charities lack basic digital skills (23% of SMEs), up from 55% last year
· 28% of charities think that they’re doing all they can online
· Over 50% of charities do not believe that having a website would help increase their funding and nearly 70% say the same about social media
· 55% of charities think that the knowledge level at board level is lacking.
· One-quarter (25%) of all organisations surveyed (SMEs and charities) believe digital is ‘irrelevant’ to them.[i]
And this list of technical equipment and events is exactly what is needed by many smaller organisations:
A national charitable funder ran a pilot programme recently which was to help charities use technology to create change in the lives of certain groups in society. There were a number of things which the funder said this programme would not cover and these were:
· Upgrading of internal IT systems
· Large-scale capital costs
· Updating of websites and routine social media campaigns
· Exploration events or hack days
· Staff or volunteer training
· Capacity-building to make an organisation more ‘digital ready’
As an organisation which believes in the need for the digital transformation of civic society, we think this is a handy list of work which does need to be funded by some funder(s) and we aim to identify and seek dialogue with funders who will fund these areas.[ii]
In summary it is vital to see increased opportunities for face to face networking with other Digital Leaders in the charity sector where exchange of information is possible and all share a common understanding. We have found it possible to gain knowledge of how to build a strong digital foundation by learning from one another in familiar surroundings and from people they trust in similar situations to them.
© Pauline Roche & Paul Webster – January 2016
I have so much to say about the various areas of work I’m doing that I don’t know where to start sometimes!
My friend Lorna Prescott (@dosticen on Twitter) says to start with the most enjoyable thing, the thing that you’re enjoying right now but I’m still stuck – sometimes this multi-tasking that women do means it’s hard to concentrate and get one thing done well i.e.to my own satisfaction.
The blog posts in my Drafts are:
- FutureShift Festival reflections
- When the public sector says “We haven’t got any money”
- Building a West Midlands Open Datastore
And another one that could develop into a series so I don’t even want to say what it is yet
I know I’m not the only person with a busy life, working in many different fields – it’s called a portfolio career after all – but if anyone has a solution to this dilemma that works for them, please share it with the rest of us!
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.
Post updated Dec 7th 2017
I was once asked if I knew anyone who had connections with a hospice – at first I thought I didn’t, but then I decided to leverage (see my 2013 blog about this) my LinkedIn contacts.
Anyone on LinkedIn can do it – here’s the route: enter ‘Hospice’ in search box at top left of page, choose ‘Hospice in People’ then filter your search e.g. you might just want a list of your ‘1st connections’ who know about hospices.
By doing this (using the filters on the right hand side of the page), I discovered I knew 9 people amongst my ‘1st connections’ who had a connection to a hospice – if I included my ‘2nd connections’, I found out that I know 1,251! I could then narrow the list further by using the ‘Location’, ‘Current Company’ and/or ‘Industry’ filters.
For me, it was enough to be able to choose from amongst my ‘1st connections’ but I was glad to know that I had further options, should I not have had any choice amongst them.
I was an early adopter of LinkedIn and I’m delighted that it’s standing the test of time – if you have any other questions about how you could use this great social media platform to help your business or community group, and you think we could help you, please get in touch.