How do you review your digital footprint?

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.

MODIFICATIONS

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

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?

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

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?

Have you:
• Discussed with your board how technology might help with your work?
• Identified staff processes and progress?
• Identified any time constraints?

DIGITAL FOOTPRINT

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

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?

FLUID

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.

EVENTS

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

MANAGING DATA

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:

and

This is a process of making modifications and not necessarily making wholesale changes within your organisations or practice.

TIMELINE AND ACTIVITY

Engaging in the above activity may look like a great deal of commitment – it isn’t.

We would estimate a maximum commitment of 20-30 minutes per day. Make it a part of your weekly timetable and activities and develop an organisational ‘cultural’ commitment to increasing your digital and data literacy.

It is more about doing things differently, adjusting how you work, making more efficient use of IT and digital.

WHAT NEXT?

If you or your organisation wants some strategic help to take any of these ideas forward, please contact us for a discussion about how we might help you progress.

READING

OTHER ARTICLES IN SERIES:

Smart Cities: smarter VCSE

Digital governance

Why should community arts organisations gather and share data?

In Nov-Dec 2017 six Birmingham community arts organisations either based in and/or working with a range of communities from Sparkhill or Sparkbrook, came together to produce Spark: South Asian Arts Festival, a number of events designed with and by local people and curated by local arts organisation Ort Gallery. The Festival consisted of two weeks of films, music, arts, crafts, street art, theatre, poetry, food and more.

Arts and Heritage education specialist and Festival volunteer Jess Harrison, working with Pauline Roche from RnR Organisation who managed the social media for Ort Gallery during the Festival, carried out some pilot audience surveys at a few of the many events, and in this post she shares some of her thoughts and insights about small community arts organisations gathering and sharing data:

““We encourage our funded organisations to be more focused on audiences – to reach more people, broaden the groups they come from and improve the quality of their experience” Engaging people everywhere, Arts Council

Why share data?… to provide actionable insight about audiences and non-attenders, to enable communication directly with audiences or participants – Why share data?, Arts Council

Why gather and share data among small community arts organisations?
– Understanding audiences better leads to a) better programming which directly addresses their needs, and b) better marketing which can reach further across or deeper into particular sectors.
– Arts organisations face a number of challenges including lack of funding, facilities and staff; sharing data means that we can use our resources to everyone’s best advantage

My personal experience in gathering data from this festival:
– The benefits: directly engaging with people who’ve come to see shows, particularly asking open ended questions and gathering qualitative data
– The challenges: choosing what data to gather; gathering enough data to be representative and deciding what to do with the data when it’s been collected (ideally, this should be decided by the organisation before collecting the data)

Four practical recommendations for other small organisations collecting data:
– Have a clear idea of WHY you’re gathering data and WHAT you’ll do with it
– Be flexible and diverse in gathering data – be prepared to use a number of different methods (i.e. both paper-based and electronic)
– ‘Stitching’ data types together can give us more insights i.e. “track ticket purchasers, measure and map audiences, note accounts, compare web analytics, monitor social, share data, share donors” Data culture #1: back to (data) basics Patrick Hussey, The Guardian, Mar 29th 2012
– Make active connections with other local organisations in order to share data and practices”

Want to get involved in this local data gathering and sharing?

Following the successful Spark Festival project, there is now a legacy project which is exploring the development of arts activity/community arts activity within the Sparkbrook/Sparkhill area which will include data gathering and sharing.

If you want further details of this project, or our other work around data-informed decision-making, please contact RnR Organisation at RnR.Organisation@gmail.com

Data we don’t know we don’t know

This was a topic Ted talked about at our annual Open Data Day event in 2017 at Innovation Birmingham. We know that public policy is being made about resource allocation which excludes data from front-line organisations in our sector

Matthew Ryder speaking at NAVCA Future Forward

We were therefore delighted to hear our thinking reinforced by London Deputy Lord Mayor Matthew Ryder in a speech in December to gathered VCS infrastructure organisations at the NAVCA Future Forward conference in a speech, the significance of which has yet to be felt, where he said “data (and understanding data) is the key to ensuring that we have a voluntary sector that is skilled up for the future …… data increasingly informs public policy…you have data…that is going to be vital for how resources are going to be allocated towards your work; you will need to understand how to collect that data, and how to share that data, and we at City Hall…want to make sure we are giving you the skills…to be able to work with data more efficiently…you must pay attention to the data that you have – some of you will have data about your users that no government agency is aware of…you have that data, you can index those communities, you can put them on the map…we want you to understand the data you have, how that data is used …and we want, most of all, for you to help us shape the way data will be used in the future…giving those numbers out is going to make a difference to your stakeholders in your communities, not simply telling anecdotes…prepare ourselves for a future where that data will determine how resources are allocated” – full speech on YouTube here

We look forward to developing work on this topic this year, including at future Net Squared Midlands meetups and VCSSCamp, and we want to work with anyone else who’s interested in developing the data literacy of people in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. Please get in touch.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 things you need to know about Hacks

Participants from Brum City Drive 2017 Hack, which we ran at Impact Hub Birmingham 
  1. What is a hack/hackathon?

Hackathons, or to use the more well-known abbreviation, ‘Hacks’, are a fairly new concept to most people in the UK third sector.

Originating in the software development industry, hacks are events where people from different backgrounds and sectors choose to get together with others, or are encouraged to come together, to work intensively in teams to develop solutions to problems. One goal has been to make useful software which has the possibility of being commercialised.

  1. Why have a hack?

“Starting in the mid to late 2000s, hackathons became significantly more widespread, and began to be increasingly viewed by companies and venture capitalists as a way to quickly develop new software technologies, and to locate new areas for innovation and funding … Hackathons aimed at improvements to city local services are increasing, with one of the London Councils (Hackney) creating a number of successful local solutions on a 2 Day Hackney-thon. There have also been a number of hackathons devoted to improving education…” – from Hackathon, Wikipedia

  1. Our involvement in hacks

Pauline Roche and Ted Ryan of RnR Organisation have been participating as voluntary sector subject matter experts in hacks and similar exploratory events like design sprints, unconferences and data dives for the past several years, in Birmingham and elsewhere in the UK.

“We find that working on challenging issues in teams with a combination of people with technical skills, people who are knowledgeable about the issue, researchers etc, brings a different and new dynamic to approaching and identifying possible solutions to the kind of social issues with which we in the sector are familiar. You can read more about the kind of events in which we’ve taken part in this area in this blogpost”

  1. Differences between hacks and more traditional events

The main differences between hacks and other issue-based events are its length, the opportunity to meet other participants before the main event, lack of agenda, lack of keynotes, lack of fixed mealtimes, giving/getting feedback.

Unlike more traditional conferences and similar events, Hacks are usually held over 24-48 hours, sometimes even going on for a week, and they assume active participation by all attendees. The main event is often preceded by a get together where potential attendees spend a few hours meeting each other with a view to finding out what knowledge, skills and interests they each have which could contribute to a diverse team at a hack.

At the hack itself there are no keynote speakers; instead, people ‘pitch’ the issue they want to work on and then other attendees decide, having heard the pitches, which of those teams they want to join. There are no fixed meal breaks so the creative flow isn’t interrupted – instead, refreshments are made available during the hack so people can take breaks when they feel the need. However, opportunities are provided during the event, not just at the end, for teams to check-in/feedback to the whole event,  sometimes verbally, sometimes using graphics, and respond to questions and comments on their progress.

  1. Things to bring to a hack

  • Wifi-enabled devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones) as well as extension cables and memory sticks

  • Your experience

  • An open mind

  • Design thinking and other information research skills

  • Creativity

 

  1. Participating remotely

Through the use of social media and other collaborative technology, you can be part of a hack even if you’re not physically in the room.

Most hacks have a hashtag e.g. #HackMentalHealth, and people elsewhere in the country (or the world) can join in the event remotely, using the hashtag to ask questions, make comments, share documents etc as well as responding to people tweeting from the hack.

  1. Typical hack schedule

  • Night before hack (or a few days before): Pre-meeting of potential participants. Attending the pre-meeting doesn’t mean you have to come to the hack – it’s a chance to see what it’s about, meet people, share ideas.

  • Start of event: Participants arrive at venue and register, introductions, pitches, teams form, hacking begins

  • Mid-event: Check-in/Feedback session

  • End of event: Teams present/demonstrate their work/findings

 

  1. After the hack

There may be follow-up events, more hacks and opportunities for hack participants to keep working on the issues.

Many people go to hacks on a regular basis, sharing their skills and knowledge with others. One place where developers find out about upcoming hacks is here

  1. Want to get involved with hacks in the voluntary sector?

We’re planning to do more hacks in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, particularly with smaller organisations in the West Midlands.

We’re collating a list of interested parties – get in touch with us if you’d like to be part of one, whether you’re in the sector as a chief officer/worker/volunteer/trustee, or in other sectors as a developer, designer, data analyst, researcher, subject expert, entrepreneur, academic or student and we’ll keep you up to date with developments.

All events will be announced via our monthly newsletter Digital WM News.

 

More reading and a podcast

Hack weekends: 5 tips on keeping the momentum going, (Sept 2012)

Because not all the smart people work for you… (Dec 2012)

Not a coder? How to do well at hackathons (Oct 2013)

Charity Hack brings tech innovation to Scotland’s third sector (Sept 2015)

‘Sheffugees’ hack helps asylum-seekers and refugees (Feb 2016)

Planning Your Own Tech Event [podcast](Aug 2017)

Blog: Wider Engagement and Fresh Ideas Needed in Your City? A City Data Hack is a Great Place Start (May 2018)

Asset-based transformation: an introduction

Fig 1 is our first design of such a model. We will, in the coming months, develop this design and model. This will be done through discussion with commissioners and community activists to enable a robust, fundable and sustainable model to be designed that recognises the importance of all participants within the process.

31i-three-field-model

Fig 1 ASSET BASED COMMUNITY HEALTH OPERATIONAL MODEL – 1ST DRAFT

The development of this process is only part of our thinking.

For this model to be implemented systemically, ensuring success and sustainability, we would argue that there is a need for true transformation of the public realm funding processes, to review its attitude and opinion of VCSE / community groups, and their role in service provision.

Figs 2-4 outline our thinking about changes to the public realm funding decision making process.

We promote the use of data from wider sources than those currently used. We outline an asset based approach that should be adopted to support services, not because utilising community assets is a cheaper option in time of public realm budget cuts, but because community assets are an essential and skilful resource than can optimise the impact of projects.

In the coming months we will expand on these designs exploring current process, Fig 2 Traditional (Established) Model (yellow section on left), and the ‘market’ development of a supply chain. This diagram also explores the Product Development Process, (brown section on right), which is supposedly assimilated into the supply chain process.

40-transformation-1

Fig 2 TRADITIONAL (ESTABLISHED) MODEL, PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

Fig 3 Current Ecosystem, Design Process, Wider Data Proposal explores what impact the term ‘transformation’ has had on the ecosystem, with the yellow and blue sections identifying a “delivery disconnect” in the sustainability of income from any ‘product’ developed within the supply chain.

This figure also provides an outline of the ‘Design Process’(grey section), as well as outlining a Wider Data Proposal (green section).

These last two sections form part of ‘absolute’ processes, processes that, together with the Product Development Process, are external to the system but should be incorporated within it, if true transformation is to take place.

40-transformation-2

Fig 3 CURRENT ECOSYSTEM, DESIGN PROCESS, WIDER DATA PROPOSAL

The last sheet, Fig 4, incorporates elements of our previous work, Three Field Asset Based Community Development (green section), together with structures developed by Poc Zero with whom we are working to develop transformational proposals. Poc Zero’s Ring Of Confidence, is augmented by Boxes Of Support (orange section). The final section Developing The Dojos (purple), begins the exploration of how community organisations can be engaged as ‘peers’ within the delivery and process, designed or developed through public realm funding.

40-transformation-3

Fig 4 RING OF CONFIDENCE, BOXES OF SUPPORT, THREE FIELD ACTIVITY

The Operational Model, Fig 1, and subsequent transformational designs, Figs 2-4, place asset engagement and development at the core of the activity.

We believe that communities, assets, volunteers, whatever label is used, should not be seen as an aid to public realm funding cuts.

Communities and individuals, irrespective of their issues, can be assets to a programme but, generally, projects/programmes are developed within a deficiency model, activities to rectify deficiencies.

We at RnR put communities at the core of activities and model how both public organisations, Fig 1 and public realm funding can be transformed to accommodate their resources and assets, Figs 2-4.

This is what we believe to be true transformation.

If you are interested in discussing our designs or activities, please contact us to discuss how we can work together for you to achieve your outcomes and demonstrate your impact.

 

Pauline Roche

Ted Ryan

September 2016 

All images © copyright RnR Organisation except for Ring of Confidence © copyright Poc Zero

Digital skills: looking at the data in 2017 – Part One

Originally published in Sept 2016, this post was updated to reflect the 2017 data in various reports, including the second annual Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2017: Benchmarking the digital and financial capability of consumers in the UK, and the fourth annual UK Business Digital Index 2017: Benchmarking the digital maturity of small businesses and charities in the UK

This post is PART ONE of two posts:

PART ONE looks at some data on online and digital skills in the UK population as a whole in 2017

and

PART TWO looks specifically, at 2 regions of England (West Midlands and East Midlands) where we are working with some people in smaller charities and some people in the tech communities.

PART ONE

We at RnR Organisation are working to increase and improve basic digital skills and use of technology in smaller charities in order for them to achieve their aims more effectively. The second post in this series looks at digital skills in UK SMEs and charities, including in the West Midlands and East Midlands.

Basic Digital Skills

Basic digital skills are defined as:

1.      Managing information

2.      Communicating

3.      Transacting

4.      Creating

5.      Problem solving

Basic Digital Skills and Basic Online Skills

Having skills 1-4 means a person has Basic Online Skills, while having 1-5 means a person has Basic Digital Skills.

In 2016 the ‘UK Basic Online Skills framework’ was refreshed and updated to become Basic Digital Skills. In order to have full Basic Digital Skills, an organisation must be able to undertake at least one task within each of the five categories outlined below.

“21% (11.5m) of the UK are classified as not having Basic Digital Skills, which represents a 9% improvement and a reduction of 1.1m people since 2015, when the last Skills report was published. Furthermore, 6% report having four of the five skills, suggesting many are close to achieving all five. 9% of people (1% decrease from 2015) have no Basic Digital Skills. This aligns with the results from the Lloyds Bank Consumer Digital Index, finding 9% are not using the internet

Nearly all adults have managing information, communication and transacting skills. The skills acquired by the fewest people are ‘Creating’ (86%) and ‘Problem Solving’ (82%)”, p.39, Lloyds Bank Consumer Digital Index 2017, Lloyds Bank in association with Doteveryone, Mar 2017

 

 

 

 

Regional differences

 

“This year [2017], Yorkshire & Humberside and the South East both report that 86% have the required skills – the highest amongst all regions. This is really encouraging and is also reflected in Ipsos MORI’s Tech Tracker for the use of online banking.

There has been a significant improvement in the West Midlands and Northern Ireland (both reporting a 13% increase), and Wales and Yorkshire & Humberside have also shown a 9% improvement.

Despite a significant improvement since 2015, Wales remains the region with the lowest skills level overall at 71%.
The North West and North East have seen little or no change since 2015. This could suggest there is a need for continued commitment at a local level to drive digital skills training, following on from initiatives such as Go ON North East”, ibid, p 48.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic Digital Skills and internet access

UK maps showing lack of internet access and lack of digital skills

UK maps showing lack of internet access and lack of digital skills in 2015 – Basic Digital Skills UK report 2015: Report prepared by Ipsos MORI for Go ON UK, in association with Lloyds Banking Group

 

 

 

 

Tech companies and VCS organisations making social impact together

All people in tech companies want to improve the lives of their stakeholders, and this can include helping organisations in the charitable or voluntary and community sector (VCS) low or pro bono, an activity usually known in business as Corporate social responsibility (CSR) or Corporate responsibility (CR).

This can include giving the VCS organisation support to use technology better, and more, possibly to automate some of the more repetitive and time-consuming processes in the organisation.

It might also mean joining the Board of a VCS organisation as an unpaid Trustee or Director in order to assist with good governance.

We want to support tech companies and VCS organisations in the Midlands to grow and develop those kind of relationships. We can see there are mutual benefits to be had.

Benefits for the tech companies

Benefits for the tech company can include that the company can offer development opportunities to their staff to increase their employability and retain their talent. They can learn more about and engage better with their local area and community. They can develop new products and services, or improve existing ones. They can gain satisfaction from helping and reinvesting some of their profits and resources in the local community.

Individual staff members can get satisfaction from helping a VCS organisation which helps people in their local area and community.

Benefits for the VCS Organisation

Benefits for the staff of the VCS organisation can include that they can improve their technical and digital skills, thus increasing their employability.

The organisation can learn about opportunities to change some of its processes, possibly freeing up valuable time to spend it with users of their services. They can offer opportunities to local tech companies who want to fulfil their CSR.

How we can help 

We are members of the collaborative workspace and community of changemakers Impact Hub Birmingham.  We also do project work around open data at the incubation centre of the Birmingham tech community Innovation Birmingham. We have built excellent relationships with colleagues and companies based in each of these spaces.

This, and our many years of senior level experience and networks in the wider voluntary and public sectors, plus our wide social media networks, makes us ideally placed to bring together people from both the voluntary sector and tech companies under the tech for good/social impact banner.

Tech for good meetups and other initiatives

In 2015 we co-founded Net Squared Midlands (@Net2Midlands), a local branch of the global Net Squared network of tech for good groups. We run regular Net Squared Midlands sessions at Impact Hub Birmingham. Every month or so we run a session to bring tech companies and not-for-profits together to address topics of mutual interest e.g. agile processes, using video better.

We also co-founded the unconference for voluntary sector infrastructure organisations interested in digital transformation, VCSSCamp, hosted annually since 2013 at Innovation Birmingham. We work on a number of other related initiatives including the UK Open Data Camp and the West Midlands Open Data Forum

Want to know more?

We are taking these ideas further. If you’re from a tech company or a VCS organisation, or a strategic body which supports these organisations, and this post has sparked your interest, please get in touch with us to find out more and to start a conversation.

MORE RESOURCES

How charities can work with tech companies by Sam Applebee, 3 Aug 2017

Starting your nonprofit:digital partner relationship on the right footing [Conversation Menu], CAST – Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology, 2017   

Tech for good near you [growing list]

Thanks to Joel Blake OBE, Social Innovation Consultant, for some of his expert insights in this field

Henry Ford, Top Gear and Robert Kennedy, and my thinking on innovation and transformation in the voluntary sector

A strange trinity of influence and, while the first two have something in common, they have little to do with the Voluntary Sector. Sometimes, while accumulating information from a variety of sources, something happens. This was one such time for me – a quotation, a television programme and a speech. Suddenly the answers to a conundrum, issues of transformation within the voluntary sector, became slightly clearer

The Quotation

“If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said they wanted faster horses”  – a statement attributed to Henry Ford. The statement could be seen as a total disregard for customer feedback, or it could be an expression of his own self belief, a self belief that transformed car production which may have been his ‘transformational’ gift to market forces.

The Model T is acknowledged as the motor car that transformed the way people perceived motor cars, and perhaps the motor industry, how they travelled and how they perceived the new mode of transport. But was it the car that was revolutionary, or was it the production of the vehicle that was transformational?

Ford made cars cheaper due to his assembly line and efficient fabrication, instead of the then standard hand-crafted vehicles. This made cars affordable, vehicles functional and easy to maintain and, thereby, not just the preserve of the rich or eccentric but affordable by the middle classes.

But, can the development and improving of the assembly line and fabrication process be seen as THE ‘transformational’ act within the development of the motor car? Of course it can’t!

It was important, but other aspects of transport infrastructure – roads, petrol stations, mechanics, etc. – needed to be developed, in parallel with vehicle design and production, for cars to be a reliable and efficient form of transport.

Roads (1) are essential for cars. They need to be flatter and smoother than the ‘tracks’ required for horses, faster or otherwise. John McAdam’s aggregate solution was robust for horse drawn vehicles, not so for people who were becoming more mobile through mechanical devices – cars and bicycles. People started advocating for improved roads through activities such as the ‘Good Road Movement’ in America.

Modern Tarmac (2), a 1901 patent by Edgar Hooley (a Welshman born in Swansea), who added tar to the aggregate, flattened the surface with steamrollers, providing a smooth surface on which to drive or ride. Modern roads, and therefore more comfortable rides, were born.

Access to petrol is another essential component for ‘extensive’ travel in motor cars. Gasoline was originally sold by pharmacies (3). The pharmacy in Wiesloch, Germany, was used to refuel Betha Benz in 1888, and, by the early years of the 20th Century, there was an increase demand for fuel, due to increased car ownership influenced by Henry Ford’s transformations.

The world’s first purpose-built gas station was constructed in St. Louis, Missouri, followed by ‘stations’ in Seattle, Washington and Altoona, Pennsylvania. Early on, they were known to motorists as “filling stations”, and were usually attached to hardware shops. The first bespoke station, opened in 1913 in Pittsburgh, was still open in 2013 as Walter’s Automotive Shop. Not only had filling stations arrived but so also had mechanics.

The Television Programme

In 2007, during an episode of Top Gear (4), Jeremy Clarkson and James May studied a number of early car designs, exploring the root of the modern car design: 3 pedals, one gear stick, a hand brake and an ignition key.

While having an ‘interesting’ time driving classic cars, including the Model T Ford (which wasn’t that easy to drive) and the De Dion-Bouton (Model Q), they concluded that the Cadillac Type 53 (5) was the first car to use the same control layout as modern automobiles. They finished the item by pointing out that the Herbert Austin took that design and put it in the Austin 7 (6) – this became the first mass-market car to be fitted with the layout.

The Cadillac Type 53 remained in production for one year only, 1916. The Austin 7, produced from 1922, created an affordable car for the British public, and is said to have had the same effect on that market as the Model T had in America. Austin licensed the design and it was copied, and manufactured, all over the world – in Germany by BMW, the Dixi, their first car; in France as the Rosengarts; in America, until 1934, as the American Austins, and in Japan, although not under licence, Nissan based the design for their first cars on the Austin 7.

While production of the Austin 7, and other cars grew, so did road building, the proliferation of ‘filling stations’ and the rise of the mechanic. These were individual actions of transformation that collectively transformed the automotive industry, the way we travel and perceive travel on a worldwide basis.

The Speech

So what has all this got to do with voluntary sector innovation and transformation?

For that I turn to Robert Kennedy’s speech at the University of Kansas, March 18, 1968 (7). As part of his campaign for the presidency, he talked of a deep malaise of spirit in America, of Native Americans [so-called ‘Indians’] “living on their bare and meagre reservations, with no jobs, with an unemployment rate of 80 percent” and people living in “black ghetto, listening to ever greater promises of equality and of justice, as they sit in the same decaying schools and huddled in the same filthy rooms”

He believed that “the unselfish spirit that exists in the United States of America” meant that things can be better.

Then came the part that made me sit up, the part that challenges some current views, that VCS organisations, and the sector in general, needs to be transformed, become innovative and more business like

Kennedy stated that “…even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction – purpose and dignity – that afflicts us all. Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.

Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.

It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.

It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.

It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armoured cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.

It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.

It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans”.

The Sector

Robert Kennedy was talking about different issues, different measurements.

We cannot value the impact of the VCS on our GDP in the same way as manufacturers. We cannot believe that innovation just happens in service delivery of VCS organisations. We cannot compare our care processes, the looking after of the most vulnerable people, our education system and schools, our green and open spaces to a production line. Yet we do. We are currently exploring how VCS activity becomes more business-like, responding to a ‘new market’, being innovative and borrowing from ‘social sources’ to initiate projects.

The transformation of the voluntary sector is currently being discussed within the same economic rules in which Ford and Austin, McAdam and Hooley operated. We cannot impose or replicate the actions that transformed the economic environment they operated in. They were not alone in their transformation, and undertook development with an awareness of potential impact. They understood their market – they knew the potential for investment and return on that investment.

My questions are:

How do we measure our return on investment, how many people we care for in a day, how many we wash, dress, feed, teach, enable to play, plant flowers etc.?

Do we spend time developing programmes that insist on innovative ways of counting and delivering outputs, or do we spend time exploring other ways of measuring involvement in the delivery and the impact of activity?

 

References

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_road_transport

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarmac

3  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filling_station#History

4 Series 10 Episode 8 2nd December 2007

5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadillac_Type_53

6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_7

7 http://images2.americanprogress.org/campus/email/RobertFKennedyUniversityofKansas.pdf

When is a market not a market?

A confusing title for an equally confusing time. We are told we have to behave more ‘market like’, be innovative and develop new products.

But, can publicly funded services, a publicly funded, openly tendered and procured service exist within a true ‘market economy’ (private sector) market?

As a producer, in a ‘market economy’, I would know the size of the market I operate in. I would know my market share, its sustainability and its growth potential.

I would know my customer demographic, have 5 year forecast predictions and have indications of actions to fulfil those potentials.

Any new product (innovation) that I wished to introduce into ‘the market’ would be developed and based on a thorough understanding of the above issues.

I would be able to cost development and retooling , potential borrowing requirements and repayments, capitalize the expenditure over a given period, borrow against projected sales and growth and then decide if I progress or not.

Having developed the initial product, from my own resources, and borrowed to get the product to market I would know which demographic it was targeted at, potential sales and impact on the whole market and my other products within the target market. I would know what share of the market my new product should achieve, and if that would have an impact on current products, or gain me larger market share overall i.e. I might lose 2% of market share from my current products but the new product would obtain 5% of market share, so my overall gain would be 3%.

While I accept that there is a finite amount of money in any given economy, at any given time, in this scenario I believe I could persuade people to change their buying habits and buy my new product.

All these judgements are based within an open ‘economic market’ – knowing that people want to buy my product, persuading people to buy a new product, made by me.

I am aware of how much money exists within my market and what I have to do to impact on my growth.

Product innovated, developed, produced, marketed, sold…

In the public sector funded service provision we are told we are to exist within a market and develop these skills. We are encouraged to innovate and develop new products to meet the need of tenders and procurement activity which is the way we access the funding. The process is developed, implemented and run by commissioners who receive an allocation of funding to ‘procure’ services and, in turn, develop tenders for applicants.

It is therefore a market restricted by funding, funding that can fluctuate within the public finance environment.

It is data driven, public sector data driving delivery targets, informing commissioning targets and outcomes. Data drives silos (specific funding for specific issues), and funding it attached to silos, and cannot (or very rarely can) be transferred between silos.

It is therefore outcome-orientated and very restricted. We have to deliver the expected outcome (data driven) within public sector (and silo) finance restrictions.

This is not a market.

Into an outcome-orientated market (environment), we are expected to deliver given outcomes, often in an expected manner. We cannot innovate, as that may not fit the commissioning brief. We cannot expand our market or products, through innovation, as there is a finite capacity to the finance in the silo for which we may be tendering, and the tender is for delivery, not development.

I cannot borrow to develop new products as I am not guaranteed a place in the market – I can neither argue nor prove my case.

Long term capitalisation of any investment is also restricted by the length of the contract, usually three years but it can be shorter, and any IT development to improve productivity cannot be included in a tender application.

Transformation argues we need, as a sector, to change our behaviour and practice within our ‘markets’.

While there may be skills and practices we can learn from the open market, we are having to learn them within the confines of our eco system, what I would call, based on the foregoing, a ‘non market’.