“A Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) is a type of charity in England. CVSs are “the place at which local voluntary and community organisations speak to each other”. They offer a wide variety of services and support for local organisations, for example training, or advice on funding”
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:
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).
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.
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?
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;
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.
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
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.