Big data and the social sector – some reading

I’m doing a trawl of reading on Big data and charities, the voluntary sector etc and publishing it here so others can also benefit – fill your boots

Is big data leveling the playing field for charities?

By Alize Cyril, LucyInnovation blog, 27th April 2017

“…What most charities can do now with big data is to use the information to find out what activities interest the public. With this information, fundraising activities can be tweaked to fit market trends and consumer spending habits. For example, if big data says that charity runs are much better fundraisers than bingo, for instance, then charities can test these trends for their supporters in order to yield better results….”

Big Data And The Voluntary Sector: Sharing Is Caring

By Maria Pikoula, 21st July 2015

“…Charities, often at the frontline of service provision, are in an excellent position to collect and release data related to their own finances as well as their operations, such as numbers and breakdown of beneficiaries and volunteers they work with. A great example is the data released by the Trussel Trust about the foodbanks they run.

This is an opportunity for charities to:

  • lead the way by becoming more transparent

  • showcase the value of their work and the need for what they do.

Combined with local authority and government data, this evidence can enable policy makers to better assess specific, often multifaceted social issues…”

How analytics and big data can transform giving

By Sally Falvey, JustGiving, 17th July 2015

“Big data is disrupting how we date, consume media and shop online. But can an algorithm predict the causes that matter to us? What variables impact someone’s propensity to give?…” Includes link to JustGiving’s “Get your free beginners guide to data and fundraising”

Big Data: The Gift That Will Keep Givers Giving

By Elizabeth Svoboda, Wired, 13th February 2015

“…The work non-profits do is more crucial than ever, especially as government funding for many social programs plummets and the gap between haves and have-nots widens. But keeping such organizations afloat has also gotten challenging as budgets shrink and donor numbers dwindle. These realities have convinced some insiders that smart data is the secret sauce non-profits need to up their game. And if non-profits get savvier and more effective, donors and participants could benefit, too. When you give to a worthy cause, research shows, your brain gets happy, and committed volunteers enjoy a “helper’s high,” reporting better health and more life satisfaction than non-volunteers.

For non-profits to pull off major social transformation, says consultant George Weiner, they need to start thinking more like their data-conscious for-profit peers: “We’re not trying to sell widgets, but we are trying to sell volunteerism.” Weiner, founder of the Brooklyn-based Whole Whale agency, is one of a band of experts imparting an urgent message to non-profits: If you’re a would-be world changer, 1840s technology isn’t going to cut it much longer…”

Big Data and the charitable sector: Research implications

By Diarmuid McDonnell, VSSN, 2014

ABSTRACT: This paper briefly considers the opportunities and limitations of Big Data approaches to the study of the charitable sector in the UK. First a consideration of the core features and concerns surrounding Big Data is provided. A number of research projects that are characterised as or analogous to Big Data techniques are then described. In particular, there will be a focus on the potential research use of administrative data held by the Scottish regulator of charities, OSCR, and national surveys such as the Scottish Household Survey. Finally, the paper reflects on further potential of Big Data approaches for research on the voluntary sector.

Analysis: Crunching the numbers for charity

By Jenna Pudelek, Third Sector, 11th March 2014

“Big data – the gathering and analysis of large sets of figures – is playing an increasing part in business decision-making. Jenna Pudelek finds out, with two case studies, how it can help make charities more effective…”

Small charities need big data

By Ben Smith, Charity Choice, 19th April 2013

“The concept of big data – the huge volume of data that our increasingly digital and traceable lives generate – can be intimidating to small charities. And for those struggling to keep afloat in a crowded and uncertain market, worrying about it is simply not a priority. But big data can be just as relevant for smaller organisations in the sector as it is for larger ones…”

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

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tech Talks And Tips From YouTube: Jan 2017: Wakelet

The 2nd largest Search Engine in the world, YouTube processes more than 3 billion searches a month. 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute.

We spent some time at the beginning of this Net Squared Midlands meetup talking about how we search YouTube using filters etc, and then co-organiser Pauline shared some short ‘How to’ clips she had curated from YouTube.

We also had time for a lightning talk about Code Club from Tim Wilson

The full Wakelet of the event is here: Tech Talks And Tips From YouTube: Net Squared Midlands

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

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