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

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’.

UKDigiStrategy consultation 2016: Response from Net Squared Midlands

It’s a very open call for ideas, although there are four suggested themes.

Introduction

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?

  • See volunteer centres https://www.ncvo.org.uk/ncvo-volunteering/find-a-volunteer-centre

2)         Transforming government

Whilst many staff in charities may be comfortable with using their smart phone to go on-line or conduct on-line transactions, the organisations they work for often aren’t at the same level, or don’t have the same infrastructure to make access to government services easy. Many charity websites are not responsive or mobile friendly and others are out of date, poorly designed or non-existent.

Simple transactions Government procurement is seen as being very bureaucratic and a barrier that small charities often with limited digital skills and capacity struggle to engage with. There is a need for more information sharing and awareness raising of what the third sector can (and can’t do) digitally as part of a strategic relationship with government.

  • Simpler commissioning models are needed, maybe with a group of third sector organisations collaborating on contract submission to “Government As A Platform”. ”; info sharing with public sector – lack of knowledge;

  • See the model working in Mansfield http://www.tea-m.org.uk/

3)         Transforming everyday life

Relevant activities that promote digital inclusion should be available at the point of need for individuals who use the services of charities, (e.g. Rough sleepers, single parents etc). Taking time out of running a small community group to assist a user undertake “computer classes” is not sufficient and can be off putting when the environment used is a school or classroom which may have unpleasant memories.

Help citizens to understand what their devices can actually do.

Will e-learning and MOOCs ever really catch on in the third sector?

  • Unlike public or health sectors where training is compulsory and e-learning has been found to be a very cost effective way to deliver this information, no such requirement exists for many tasks in voluntary organisation.

  • See Run A Club platform for skills development & administration of small community sports groups Run a Club packages

For some people leading chaotic personal lives there is a need for “pre basic digital skills”, mentors who can explain the reasons why being a part of the digital society is important. Vitally they also need to mentor and ensure that those farthest from being digitally active retain their connection, remember their e-mail address or government portal passwords.

4)         Building the foundations

Of the 160,045 voluntary organisations in England, 83.1% are small or micro organisations with less than £100,000 income per year. It is these organisations that are most at risk of being left behind digitally and which this strategy needs to accommodate.

The digital framework and basic digital skills developed by Go On UK [now doteveryone] goes part way to helping organisations, but needs to cover the strategic digital transformation issues an organisation has to consider in order to build strong foundations.

Organisations prioritise service delivery over technology, which for a small charity is often the best use of limited resources and capacity, but basic ‘good practice’ cannot be ignored. Digital Fundamentals which must be embedded in the way organisations work, employ staff with digital skills and recruit volunteers to help their cause include:

  • Demystifying ‘the cloud’ and the efficiency saving that this form of working can bring to an organisation, its staff and trustee boards.

  • Being more aware of the many social media tools that help a charity raise its game, increase fundraising and promote its message to a wider audience.

  • Charities need to be directly aware of the National Cyber Security Programme as many don’t adequately protect their data files, use paper based filing systems or fail to back-up databases and don’t use anti-virus and other basic tools which could keep their digital assets safe.

  • Access to impartial advice about the best digital tools and products, not those linked to a particular supplier or solution e.g. http://www.connectingcare.org.uk

  • See Charity IT Association – https://www.charityitassociation.org.uk/about for Tech Surgeries and a Virtual IT Director for small charities who don’t have the resources to employ their own.

These statistics are a concern:

There are some worrying statistics from the 2015 Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index  [updated annually]which tracks digital adoption among small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) and charities:

·         58% of charities lack basic digital skills (23% of SMEs), up from 55% last year

·         28% of charities think that they’re doing all they can online

·         Over 50% of charities do not believe that having a website would help increase their funding and nearly 70% say the same about social media

·         55% of charities think that the knowledge level at board level is lacking.

·         One-quarter (25%) of all organisations surveyed (SMEs and charities) believe digital is ‘irrelevant’ to them.[i]

And this list of technical equipment and events is exactly what is needed by many smaller organisations:

A national charitable funder ran a pilot programme recently which was to help charities use technology to create change in the lives of certain groups in society. There were a number of things which the funder said this programme would not cover and these were:

·         Upgrading of internal IT systems

·         Large-scale capital costs

·         Updating of websites and routine social media campaigns

·         Exploration events or hack days

·         Staff or volunteer training

·         Capacity-building to make an organisation more ‘digital ready’

As an organisation which believes in the need for the digital transformation of civic society, we think this is a handy list of work which does need to be funded by some funder(s) and we aim to identify and seek dialogue with funders who will fund these areas.[ii]

Summary

In summary it is vital to see increased opportunities for face to face networking with other Digital Leaders in the charity sector where exchange of information is possible and all share a common understanding. We have found it possible to gain knowledge of how to build a strong digital foundation by learning from one another in familiar surroundings and from people they trust in similar situations to them.

©         Pauline Roche & Paul Webster – January 2016

[i] http://www.rnrorganisation.co.uk/blogs/smart-cities-smarter-vcse/
[ii] Do.

Digital governance

Strategic processes

In this article we will concentrate on the strategic processes which are needed to help us in the VCSE sector to begin the transformation which will benefit our beneficiaries and our organisations.

Establishing, developing and overseeing strategy is the remit of the board. They need to be supported in identifying the strategy to drive their mission, develop it during the different stages of the organisation and oversee its management by those to whom they delegate that responsibility. That strategy should include the use and regular review of technology to make the delivery of services and activities more efficient and to decrease the time spent on repetitive routine tasks which could be automated.

Our data – owning, showing and sharing

Our organisations gather lots of data, usually at the behest of funders. Boards need to appreciate what data the organisation is collecting and encourage management to start using, sharing and combining it with other data so together they can use the acquired knowledge to make better decisions.

Organisations like the charity DataKind UK work with data scientists (people who examine and analyse data). These data scientists volunteer their time to help charities understand and use their data better. There are also schemes like Pro Bono OR whose members, operational researchers, volunteer to help organisations to make operational improvements.

Strategic digital footprint

But strategic digital footprint isn’t only about data. It’s also about raising your digital profile through accessible platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

We are constantly encouraging VCS CEOs, Trustees and others working in the sector to become more digitally active. Using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook make these activities more accessible and cost effective.

Supporting trustees on social media

Organisations and management need to explore how they can support trustees through these digital processes.

Are trustees on LinkedIn? If they are, are they leveraging their contacts to support the organisation, not just financially but also opening doors, creating or supporting partnerships, communicating about the brilliant work done by the organisations and its staff? Are they in groups which are relevant to the organisation where they lead or contribute to discussions? Do they reblog posts from the organisation’s website? Do they spot opportunities and send them on to the management?

Are trustees on Twitter? If they are, are they retweeting the organisation’s tweets to their contacts, thereby increasing the reach of the organisation? Are they sharing organisational and topical news, making new contacts, raising awareness of the issues faced by your beneficiaries?

On Facebook, where many voluntary organisations and community groups find a natural home, trustees could be posting event photos, spreading organisational news amongst their networks, publicly responding to organisation invitations and inviting others. It is a great place for new people to find out about your organisation, and trustees can, and should, be involved in this.

Using technology to develop a framework for a strategic process

And what about the governance meetings themselves? Are they just events where decisions are already made and trustees just go along and sign where they’re told to?

Or are they events where participation, including by those not in the room, is encouraged, including through using social media? Live tweeting VCS meetings is not common, but the public sector live streams some of its meetings so our sector must consider this as an option if we want to recruit new members, volunteers and trustees who are growing up in an age where this is the norm.

How many boards use video conferencing such as Skype or Hangouts to enable people to participate in everything, maybe excepting the most sensitive matters?

What skills are we expecting of trustees?

We would suggest that essential digital skills, as outlined in the Department for Education’s Essential digital skills framework, should be a given. Trustees should be able to:

  • Handle: Find, manage and store digital information and content

  • Communicate: Communicate, interact, collaborate, share and connect with others

  • Transact: Purchase and sell goods and services; organise your finances; register for and use digital government services

  • Problem-solve: Increase independence and confidence by solving problems using digital tools and finding solutions

  • Be safe and legal online: authenticate online accounts and email, set secure passwords and privacy settings, identify secure websites, recognise suspicious links

What next?

If you or your organisation wants some strategic help to take any of these ideas forward from people who understand our sector, please contact us for a discussion about how we might work together.

OTHER ARTICLES IN SERIES:

Smart Cities, Smarter VCSE

How do you review your digital footprint?

Smart Cities and open data

We have been undertaking research and taking part in event since 2012 into the impact of ‘Smart Cities’, ‘Smart technology’ and open data processes on third sector organisations, service delivery and future funding programmes.

Between 2012 and 2013 we:

Work from 2013 onwards

RnR Organisation is one of 3 VCSE stakeholders who developed the VCSSCamp unconference (informal conference where delegates from voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) support organisations e.g. CVSs, decide the agenda based on using technology better) starting in 2013. We have also participated in #SmartBrum hacks, organised an event to establish the West Midlands Open Datastore (a demonstrator site sharing data about the West Midlands), organised the first Datakind UK meetup in Birmingham and attended their June 2014 datadive, spoke at Leeds Datathing event which brought together professionals and other people interested in using data for good.

We are thus establishing a new cohort of partners outside traditional VCSE activity and have been developing this work of data-informed decision making, alongside at least one of our clients, Regional Action West Midlands (RAWM). We are interacting with a new network of relevant organisations in both the open and the data analysis fields, Open Mercia (data users in the Midlands), Data Unlocked (a local cooperative business in the field), the Open Data Institute (a national organisation) and Open Knowledge (an international organisation) which have a wider experience of ICT and Data Analysis which we can harness to benefit the VCSE sector.

At RAWM we were part of a 2015 Cabinet Office funded Digital Birmingham led consortium project funded under the Release of Data fund to help accelerate and automate open data extraction and publication processes from Birmingham City Council’s proprietary systems onto Birmingham’s new Open Data Hub to encourage citizens, communities, third sector to understand the value of open data to help solve community issues that matter most to them.

Future work

Our future research involving Smart Cities and open data will include:

  • Project monitoring and reporting

  • Monitoring client involvement and staff movement

  • Non-cash payments

We have example design briefs for the kind of work which the third sector needs in this area of work which we have put together. We would be interested to hear from analysts or others who might want to help us fulfil these briefs.

Creating and using embedded maps with Mike Cummins

Building Data literacy in the voluntary sector

In August 2014, as part of our project to build data literacy in the voluntary sector on the Civic Foundry pre-accelerator programme, we organised a session during the Foundry’s massive skills share to show Civic Foundry colleagues and others how to Create and use embedded maps (on WordPress) using Google Fusion Tables.

Mike Cummins and Simon Whitehouse from the co-operative Data Unlocked designed the session and Mike came in to deliver it and share his expertise with us.

Creating Fusion Tables and populating a map

Mike showed us how to create a Fusion Table and how to populate a map using local data from the police website and data from the Land Registry website – and then how to put the map onto a WordPress site.

I didn’t get that far but others did – watch the livestream of the session and you will hear Mike’s very clear instructions and our progress.

The session was very well received, both by the colleagues in the room and the people who joined the session via the livestream. The livestream is still available – thanks to our Civic Foundry colleague Matthew Green from Policyworks.

Post-session

Mike has also published a blogpost of the session content on the Data Unlocked website which shows some of the screengrabs he used – as with all things technical, a few things have changed names since the session e.g. Google Drive now calls the red ‘Create’ button ‘New’ , and the Land Registry is now part of .gov.uk so some of the screens look different but, if you listen to the audio on the livestream, Mike clearly says which links to use.

Future sessions

We are planning to offer more sessions like this to build and improve data literacy in the voluntary sector so please contact us at RnR Organisation if you’re interested in getting involved.