The third sector’s digital call to action

The Scottish third sector is on the cusp of something big. 2017 could be the year we leapfrog the rest of the UK and become a world leader in the use of digital as a tool to bring about positive societal change.

Over the last six months I’ve been working with nineteen leaders from across Scotland’s third sector on a journey of digital leadership, part of the groundbreaking #OneDigital programme. From the work has emerged a Call to Action (read in full at the bottom of this post) which challenges Scotland’s third sector to better meet the needs of service users, supporters and partners. As Beth Murphy, #OneDigital Project Manager at SCVO, outlines, this is about people:

Being digital doesn’t mean being inhuman. We don’t see it as a way to save money and cut corners. Evolving your charity to fully take advantage of digital can mean having the data you need to demonstrate impact, developing services that meet the 21st century expectations of your users and freeing up time by reducing administration.

To bring about the change the public demands we need strong leadership. We need leaders like Mary Allison, Scotland Director at Breast Cancer Now. At the recent 3rdsectordigicamp Mary talked openly about embracing digital, the need to challenge the status quo and the need to learn from failure.

Digital isn’t a nice-to-have. It shapes how people live their lives, the third sector needs to embrace digital to ensure we remain fit for purpose. We need leaders who understand that. As David McNeill, Digital Director at SCVO, makes clear:

Leaders in the third sector do not need to be digital experts, but we do need to lead change which will enable our organisations to be fit-for-purpose in a digital world.

The Call to Action asks three main audiences to take specific actions over the next twelve months to ensure the Scottish third sector leads the way:

Charity trustees, chief executives and other third sector leaders

  • Ensure that you have the knowledge you need to drive digital change and engage in networks to support your professional development
  • Understand the digital skills of your staff, volunteers and end users, and invest in training and support to develop them

OSCR

  • Encourage charities to recruit a trustee to their board who understands digital and can support organisational change.
  • Highlight best practice in digital adoption in charities to inspire and motivate other organisations.

Funders

  • Make explicit statements about the importance of digital and advocate for consideration of a digital approach in the work you fund.
  • Train grants officers to understand how to assess and evaluate digital initiatives.

 

How will you get involved?

Share the Call to Action with your staff, volunteers and trustees. Join in the discussion using the #OneDigital hashtgag.

https://readymag.com/630268

Charity trustees & CEOs need to get to grips with digital

My recent piece for Third Force News looks at my work with Scottish charity chief executives and senior staff on the OneDigital action learning programme. It’s been a privilege to be involved with charity leaders who are really challenging their organisation and future proofing the work they do.

Many of the non-profits participating are taking a fresh look at the fundamentals of how they work. Their starting point is service users and supporters, not digital tools. They’re making simple changes to transform the way their staff and volunteers work, and allowing them to get excited and empowered about the vital work they deliver.

All of this work is propelled forward by the broader OneDigital programme and the Scottish Government’s digital strategy. However, having worked with these charity leaders over the last few months it’s clear that we need radical change if the sector is ever going to truly embrace digital.

Effective leadership needs to be the starting point. The charities taking part in our action learning sets have embraced change because they’ve got passionate, effective leaders. Senior leaders and trustees can no longer rely on junior staff to make key strategic decisions about digital. It’s not just about social media, it’s not just about the server that sits in your cupboard and it’s not just about your fundraising database. This is about looking at what you do with a fresh pair of eyes, experimenting and empowering staff and service users – it needs to be about real culture change. It’s about seeing the transformational potential of digital service delivery.

For many organisations all of this leads to one fundamental question: is your chief executive or chairperson ready to fundamentally reassess how you do things in light of the potential offered by digital?

Charities need a new relationship with technology. Let’s end the age of the giant IT infrastructure system and aim to get to the point where IT becomes invisible. Beyond that, we need to ensure all decisions we make are based upon effective use of data. We need to be geared up to spot societal trends. It’s vital that we respond quickly to the needs of our communities and we need to be able to truly measure the impact we have.

We need to move away from seeing data as a tool to win and report on funding, it’s about delivering the best services we can, when and where people need them.

Funding is going to be key to all of this. That doesn’t necessarily mean more tech-focused niche funding streams. In fact it would be much more productive if funders simply encouraged more people to make digital-first grant applications to mainstream funding streams. That’s probably going to mean training grants officers to assess projects where digital is key, and we need more funders challenging charities to think about where digital can improve outcomes.

Alongside the OneDigital team, I’m currently working on a charity senior leaders’ digital call to action. This will be a blueprint for change, shaped by those taking part in the action learning programme. Hopefully this will kick-start a wider conversation about the need for effective leadership, culture change, flexible technology, smarter funding, and collaborative data. Less strategy, more doing.

The Call to Action will be launched on 2 November at the Senior Leaders Digital Unconference – 3rdsectordigicamp. This event is open to senior leaders and key stakeholders from across the third sector.