Smart Cities: smarter VCSE

Tech and data for good

Technology and the understanding and usage of data can help us in the VCSE sectors. Digital tools and approaches can help us work better, sometimes freeing us up to spend more of our valuable time helping our beneficiaries, sometimes allowing us to make better decisions and work smarter.

The concepts we need to get more familiar with in the sector include digital, data, transformation, ownership, impact, collaboration and sharing.

Work smarter

We all need to work smarter – digital technology and data will help us to do that. We need to increase the digital and data literacy of everyone, but especially those in our sector.

We are not the only ones in society doing the work that we do but there is no shortage of need and time is not on our side. If we do not transform our organisations, there are other organisations, without our understanding of local community needs, who will come into the ‘market’ and say they can do the job better than us.

We need to reclaim our mission and prove the need we serve, using technology and data, including our own, to improve our processes and prove our impact.

Transformation using technology is in the best interests of our beneficiaries and our organisations.

Data

We are constantly having to rely on data produced by the statutory sector. We work to encourage the VCSE sector to understand, value, use and share our own data, amongst ourselves and with trusted allies.

We attended a datadive run by the charity Datakind UK in June 2014 where data scientists gave up a weekend to examine the data of 4 separate charities, eventually producing dashboards or data visualisations which helped each charity show its impact.

Net Squared Midlands, a tech for good group, part of a global network of people interested in using web or mobile technology for social good, organises meetups where VCSE organisations can meet and get support from digital advocates who want to support work in the sector by sharing their technical skills.

Digital skills

The annual Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index tracks digital adoption among small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) and charities.

From the 2018 report:

  • 103,000 (52%) charities have all five skills (up 4% since 2017).

  • 2.4 million (58%) SMEs have all five skills (down 1% since 2017).

  • Less than half (49%) of SMEs in the West Midlands have all five Basic Digital Skills – the lowest of any region.

  • In the third sector, charities from the South West and Wales have the lowest Basic Digital Skill levels (45%) – this is flat year-on-year.

  • 60,000 (30%) charities and 655,000 (16%) SMEs have low digital capability.

  • only 18% of SMEs and 8% of charities have taken the step to optimise their services for mobile use.

  • Since 2014, charities’ growth in digital usage has surpassed that of SMEs. Some of the largest changes include:

    • Nearly one-third (29%) of charities now use Cloud-based IT systems, this is 15 times more than in 2014.

    • Two-thirds (65%) of charities are now accessing Government Digital Services, more than seven times as many as in 2014.

    There are now nearly one million SMEs and charities on ‘the cusp’, with four of the five Basic Digital Skills, up 34% in one year.

Tools and resources

There are many tools, resources, organisations and events to do with technology for non-profits, many of them available to us in the VCSE sector at low or no cost. Many of the tools and resources are designed and maintained by people who believe in tech for good, including volunteers.

We also recommend organisations and events like VCSSCamp, the unconference for voluntary sector infrastructure organisations (CVSs and Volunteer Centres etc) at which you can network with and get support from other organisations in the sector who are also engaged on this same transformation journey.

Allies

We have allies in this work, people who work in the public or private sectors but who also want to ‘give something back’.

Organisations like Datakind UK bring together charities and data scientists to enable the data scientists to examine the charities’ data and help them understand the patterns in the data which will help them do a better job.

Meetups like those organised by Net Squared local organisers attract ‘techies’ who are civic-minded and want to work with us to help us find solutions.

What technology many charities need

As far back as 2015 a national charitable funder ran a pilot programme which was to help charities use technology to create change in the lives of certain groups in society.

The funder was clear that there were a number of things 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’

We think this is a handy list of work which does need to be funded by some funder(s) and we continue to work to identify and seek dialogue with, and share information about, funders who will fund these areas.

Resource-saving tools

What are the tasks you need to do? Of these, what are the time-consuming ones which could be automated?

How much time do you spend answering the same queries over and over, organising events, arranging meetings, travelling to meetings, keeping up to date, managing projects, updating documents, finding out what your members think?

How much money do we pay for simple website maintenance and updates?

Tools like Eventbrite, Doodle, Skype/Hangouts, Google alerts, Trello, Google Drive and Survey Monkey can save us time and money in times like these and we should be using them more. Links to these and other tools can be found in Charity Catalogue, a curated list of useful resources for UK charities brought to you by a committed group of volunteers and the SCVO Digital Team

Voluntary sector and smart cities

In a blogpost written by us in September 2012, when Birmingham was establishing its Smart City Commission, we said:

“The voluntary and community sector (VCS) has accommodated the move from early computers to flat screens, to laptops, blackberries, smartphones, iPads etc etc. We have accommodated changes in programme applications – online, monitoring through prescribed databases and spreadsheets, and reporting on pre-set and template programmes. Smart/digital systems, big/open data, ‘Smart Cities’ programmes are all processes and programmes that will benefit the sector in developing, delivering, monitoring and reporting services.

The question for the VCS is not about whether, or how, we engage in ‘digital by default’ [see Government Digital Service], but how do we proactively lead/shape our involvement within the ‘technological journey’.

While the public sector is planning reforms and changes based on technological developments, there are growing concerns over our sector’s ability to take part in and respond to the continued changes”.

Future articles

In the other articles in this series we look at the strategic and operational processes we in the sector need to be aware of and implementing if we want to achieve the transformation to ‘digital by default’ that is so badly needed.

Events

Some events relevant to this topic:

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 work together.

 

OTHER ARTICLES IN SERIES:

Digital governance

How do you review your digital footprint?

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

What are your charity’s digital identity needs?

How could digital identification help UK charities to more effectively collect information about people using their services?

Do charities need to prove who people are, ensure that they are legally eligible for services or to record and recall information about them? If they do, what worries them about the process?

Could Yoti Keys help people to take ownership of their background information and how they share it when accessing multiple, or repeat, services?

Yoti have commissioned Nissa Ramsay of Think Social Tech, and Pauline Roche of RnR Organisation, to find answers to these all important questions.

Nissa and I will be exploring the most effective use cases for the Yoti app (which verifies legal identities or key personal details, like age) among UK charities. We will also explore the use cases for Yoti Keys, our offline solution, which is a product in development that enables charities to register and subsequently identify people accessing their services without needing a smartphone, documentation or connectivity.

You can find more information here.

Get involved

If you work for a charity based and working in the UK then we’d love to hear from you.

All we need you to do is to share your opinions and experiences by responding to this survey by 10am on Wednesday 26 September.

The survey will be relevant to you regardless of whether your work is paper-based or tech driven, face to face or online.

We’re particularly interested in hearing from you if you have a need to legally identify people. We also want to hear from people who could potentially use the offline Key to help prevent people from having to tell their story every time they access a service, or to help their organisation better manage and monitor people’s interactions with their service .

What next

The research will end in late September, with a first look at our findings coming out later in the year.

If you want to follow the progress of the project then you can. Nissa and I will be tweeting about our work using the hashtag #digitalidentity.

Please let us know what you think by completing the survey or getting in touch with Nissa at nissa@thinksocialtech.org or I so we can work towards delivering the best possible products and services for UK charities.

Civil Society Strategy 2018 – commentaries etc

Civil Society Strategy: Building A Future That Works For Everyone, Cabinet Office, Aug 2018 [123pp, PDF]

 

ARTICLES

Charities react to the Civil Society Strategy: ‘Good start, could do more’, Kirsty Weakley, Civil Society, Aug 9 2018

Civil Society Strategy: 7 things social entrepreneurs need to know, Laura Kekuti, UnLtd, Aug 9

Civil Society Strategy – A Closer Look, Will Downs, Clinks, Aug 21 2018

The Civil Society Strategy – good ideas, no execution, David Ainsworth, Civil Society, Aug 10

Civil Society Strategy is only the beginning, sector says, Liam Kay, Third Sector, Aug 9

Civil Society Strategy: Localgiving’s Response, Aug 9 2018

Civil Society Strategy: Much to welcome, tempered by the broader context, ACF, Aug 9 2018

Civil Society Strategy – Our Thoughts, London Funders

Civil Society Strategy Special [podcast], CAF, Aug 23 2018

The Civil Society Strategy: What It Says About Digital, Lisa Horning, NCVO, Aug 30 2018

The Civil Society Strategy: What It Says About Funding And Finance, James Clarke, NCVO, Aug 14 2018

The Civil Society Strategy: What It Says About Impact And Evaluation, Alex Farrow, NCVO, Aug 20 2018

The Civil Society Strategy: What It Says About Local Infrastructure, Lev Pedro, NCVO, Aug 30 2018

The Civil Society Strategy: What It Says About Public Services, Rebecca Young, NCVO, Aug 14 2018

The Civil Society Strategy: What It Says About Regulation, Douglas Dowell, NCVO, Aug 16 2018

The Civil Society Strategy: What It Says About Volunteering, Shaun Delaney, NCVO, Aug 15 2018

The Civil Society Strategy: What You Need To Know, Elizabeth Chamberlain, NCVO, Aug 9 2018

The Civil Society Strategy won’t feed the sector, Mark Freeman, CCVS,  Aug 16 2018

Does the Civil Society Strategy deliver for charities? Richard Sagar, Charity Finance Group, 16 Aug 2018

The future is collaborative commissioning, Community Southwark, Aug 14

Government aims to build digital in civil society, Mark Say, UK Authority, Aug 10 2018

Government and charities don’t do enough to give people power, Julia Unwin, Civil Society, Aug 14 2018

Inclusive Democracy and Participation, Roz Davies, Good Things Foundation, Aug 12 2018

Julia Unwin: Government and charities don’t do enough to give people power, Julia Unwin, Civil Society, Aug 14 2018

New Civil Society Strategy – too many roadblocks on the way to success left untouched, Daniel Ferrell-Schweppenstedde, DSC, Aug 23 2018

NYA CEO Leigh’s thoughts on the Civil Society Strategy, Alex Winterton, National Youth Agency, Aug 14 2018

Our response to the Civil Society Strategy, SSE, Aug 10 2018

Paul Streets: The devil of the Civil Society Strategy lies in the delivery, Paul Streets, Third Sector, Aug 10 2018

Plotting the path: David Robinson responds to the government’s Civil Society Strategy, David Robinson, Community Links, Aug 21 2018

Revitalising trusts to support local communities, Community Foundation for Surrey, Aug 10

Strengthening Civil Society, Miriam Brittenden, CUF, Aug 28 2018

UKCF Chief Executive Welcomes The Civil Society Strategy, Fabian French

What charities should expect from the new Civil Society Strategy, Oliver White, nfpsynergy, Aug 16 2018

What Links Netflix, Assistive Technology And The Civil Society Strategy? Ian Burbidge, RSA, Aug 21 2018

LETTERS

The ‘civil society strategy’ can’t rely on charities with no funding, Guardian, Aug 12 2018

PRESS RELEASES

Government outlines vision to empower and invest in society, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & SportOffice for Civil Society, and Tracey Crouch MP, Aug 8 2018

“We now need to see Government driving action on the ground” – Our response to the new Civil Society Strategy, Paul Streets, Lloyds Bank Foundation, Aug 9 2018

Net Squared Midlands helping charities do good better

Net Squared Midlands is relaunching on September 20th 2018 with a new development plan for bi-monthly meetups.

Net Squared Midlands, organised by Pauline Roche and Ted Ryan from RnR Organisation, is a tech for social good group with regular free events for people interested in using the web or mobile technology for social good. It’s part of a global NetSquared movement of innovators in more than 70 cities around the world, including Birmingham.

Ted said: “In developing Net Squared Midlands, we aim to build a sector that knows how to use technology more efficiently in order to help their beneficiaries, explore the specific issues and activities not financed through many tech for good funding streams, increase the efficiency and productivity of our sector e.g. automate repetitive tasks, and to build a creative and collaborative digital mindset in the sector”

Sam Reader, of new tech startup Wondr, who has recently become a member of Net Squared Midlands, said: “I think what RnR Organisation is doing, to help charities and non-profits is a great approach and very meaningful. Our team are also passionate about connecting people with others, to share useful information for positive action so I look forward to being involved with Net Squared Midlands.”

Net Squared Midlands is one of 4 themed areas of work undertaken by RnR Organisation, under the Tech for Good and Data for Good banners. They also publish a free monthly e-bulletin (Digital WM News), organise the unconference for voluntary sector infrastructure organisations (VCSSCamp), and Pauline chairs the regional funders network (WM Funders Network).

Digital Leaders week 2018: Running iSandwell Camp

Digital Leaders Week is a national celebration of opportunities, challenges and support for the digital transformation of Britain’s businesses, public services and society. Listing over 120 events (77% outside London) with 10,000 free places RnR was happy to help share, inspire, inform and build the UK’s Digital Confidence. 

We were delighted to be in Sandwell in June during 2018 national Digital Leaders week to facilitate the second iSandwell Camp, this one focussing on Digital Champions.

With over 30 participants from the public and voluntary sectors we looked at how we use our digital skills at work and at home, the need for digital in the region, where we get our digital skills and information from and perception of the issues in Sandwell in regards to digital exclusion.

We then set the scene to where we are currently are with the Sandwell Digital Champions network, seeing the iSandwell Camp event as a chance to put the brakes on and engage with the community to ensure we are on point, welcoming feedback on the existing role description.

Nathan Coyle from New Union liveblogged the event for iSandwell during the day.

 

 

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

Digital skills: looking at the data – Part Two

The first of these two posts was originally published in Sept 2016; both posts reflect the latest 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 Two of two posts:

Part One looks at some data on online and digital skills in the UK population as a whole

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 TWO

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. This second post 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 in SMEs by region

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barriers to doing more online for SMEs by region

Basic digital skills in charities by region

 

 

 

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 want to encourage 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