Why I quit as Head of Comms and what’s next…

I’ve worked as part of an incredible charity for almost ten years. I started out with Relationships Scotland as Development Manager back in 2007, became Digital Media Manager in 2010 and then landed the role of Head of Communications in 2013. The Head of Comms role was 14hrs per week and budget was limited… very limited.

Despite that, with the support of great staff, we managed to achieve an incredible amount – running successful campaigns both online and offline. The charity is front and centre when it comes to the big debates around reforming the family law system. The need for stronger relationship support services within Scotland is now on the political agenda in a way that it wasn’t before.

While I was working 14hrs per week as Head of Comms I was still spending the other half of my week with charities, social enterprises and communities groups across Scotland to help them get the most out of digital. In the last twelve months I’ve helped major funders up-skill grant holders to get digitally confident, I’ve given a range of charities beautiful, accessible websites they can be proud of, I’ve run a third sector digital senior leaders programme for SCVO and I’ve trained thousands of charity staff in digital and social media skills. This is something I’ve been doing since 2008. This is what I’m passionate about. From now on this is what I’ll be focused on full-time.

This is something I’ve been doing since 2008. This is what I’m passionate about. From now on this is what I’ll be focused on full-time.

I took the difficult decision to quit a senior role for a charity I love because I’m convinced these next few years are going to be critical for Scotland’s third sector and digital is going to be key. With ever-shrinking budgets and changed public expectations we can no longer ignore the potential offered by digital as way of delivering services, collaborating with our users, better understanding societal need and raising much needed funds. I want to make sure I have the time to be part of some of the amazing work going on across Scotland to get the third sector digitally confident.

At Third Sector Lab and Be Good Be Social I’m now working alongside a range of people to make this stuff happen – designers, developers, multimedia storytellers, animators, SEO & Google Adwords Grants experts, digital skills trainers and social media strategists. We’ve worked with a wide range of organisations, including Cosgrove Care, The RS MacDonald Charitable Trust, Big Lottery Fund, ACOSVO, SCVO, GCVS, The Alliance, Breast Cancer Care, Angus Council, NHS GGC, The Scottish Government and more to help them get the most out of digital.

So if you’d like us to help your organisation get to grips with all this give me a shout. Whether it’s a new website, delivering elements of a service using digital channels, making better use of data, training staff in use of social media, getting trustees excited about digital or if you’d just like a chat here’s how you can reach me:

I’m looking forward to working with more people across the third sector to ensure Scotland becomes a world-leader in the use of digital as a tool for social good.

Digital Scotland: Future-proofing the third sector

I was recently asked to write a piece on digital inclusion and digital delivery of services for the Health and Social Care Alliance’s ‘Imagining the Future’ – a collection of think pieces providing insight into some of the essential ingredients for shaping a fairer, healthier future Scotland. Below is the full piece from the document.


Digital Scotland: Future-proofing the third sector

The Scottish Government has a bold ambition: Scotland should be a world-leading digital nation by 2020. It’s hard to argue against that – Independent or not it’s clear Scotland needs to embrace new technology if we are to have a truly diverse, robust economy. The Scottish Government’s ‘Digital Future’ strategy outlines four key strands: connectivity, digital public services, digital economy and digital participation. The Scottish third sector has a pivotal role to play, particularly around digital participation and public service delivery. But without a fundamental shift in thinking there is a danger the third sector will be left behind – along with vast swathes of the population.

30% of Scots don’t have basic digital skills. That figure rises to 50% of people with disabilities and 60% where the individual has no qualifications. 15% of Scots have never used the internet. A Citizen’s Advice Scotland survey found 36% of their clients have never been online. These stark figures highlight a massive societal gap that needs to be addressed if we are to achieve that 2020 vision of a digital Scotland. Access to physical technology and connectivity, particularly in rural areas, are important. But for me they’re not the big issues. We need to ensure people have basic skills needed to get online and embrace the internet. That word ‘embrace’ is key. Oxford University looked at why people choose not to use the internet in their everyday lives – 82% of respondents were ‘not interested’. Researchers found no evidence that these people are restricted from going online. They simply don’t care. For many older, disabled and unemployed people their first foray into the digital world will be mandatory online-only benefits claim forms – hardly an inspiring start. In a sense digital inclusion is more about social barriers than technological ones.

Recent research on digital exclusion from the Carnegie UK Trust recommends that ‘trusted intermediaries, such as voluntary workers, community development workers…can help to deliver the personalised, differentiated approach that is needed to help different groups of citizens in Glasgow to get online’. So third sector staff and volunteers will be key in ensuring the digitally excluded are skilled and enthused but it’s also worth thinking about that other strand of the Scottish Government’s digital strategy – digital public services. I believe the third sector can deliver innovative, effective services through a ‘digital-first’ approach. Of course we will always need face-to-face interaction with service users but let’s not use digital exclusion as an excuse for inaction. So could an Argyll & Bute counselling service save money and reach hundreds more isolated individuals if it allocated half its travel budget to video technology rather than the environmentally-unfriendly, time consuming practice of counsellors driving all over the region?

My experience on Foundation Scotland’s grants committee, chairing other funding panels and working with Scottish charities in my role at Third Sector Lab tells me that two fundamental areas need to be addressed to get the voluntary sector ready. First we need a skilled workforce ready to ask how digital technology can help us deliver cost-effective services that make a real difference to the lives of Scottish people; we need digital champions within every Scottish non-profit. Secondly we need funders to understand the difference digital can make and put their money where their mouth is. We don’t necessarily need dedicated funding streams – digital to should permeate all areas of the funding landscape. We also need to ensure grants officers have the skillset to objectively assess tech-based project applications from charities and social enterprises. Once we make that shift I believe the Scottish third sector can lead the world in digital media for social good.

FREE workshops on Prezi, Google Docs & Evernote in Glasgow on 10th Dec

As part of the GCVS AGM we’re programming a few workshops on Prezi, Google Docs & Evernote – along with a talk from me on 10 free tools to make you more productive online.

If you’d like to join us on the morning of Mon 10th Dec at The Albany Centre, Glasgow then download and fill out the booking form below then return it to john.robertson@gcvs.org.uk

It’s open to all, totally free and there’s even breakfast!

Thanks to the #SMWgla #BeGoodBeSocial surgeons

Just a very quick post to say thanks to all the kind folks giving up their time for free to help out at our social media surgery for Scottish third sector organisations on 21st Sept.


If you’re coming along you’ll get top-notch advice from one of these lovely people:


There’s tons of great events happening in Glasgow during Social Media Week, you can check out the Be Good Be Social Top Ten for inspirtation.


Glasgow-based third sector org? Interested in social media?

Tuesday May 31st, 1pm
GCVS, The Albany Learning and Conference Centre
44 Ashley Street, Glasgow, G3 6DS

The Glasgow Third Sector Forum invites voluntary sector organisations, volunteering organisations and social enterprises to participate in an informative and engaging event that will;

  • Outline the plans of the Glasgow Third Sector Forum for connecting the sector with information and resources
  • Present the opportunities of engaging with cloud computing
  • Discuss the pros and cons of using social media within the Third Sector to engage with existing clients and new customers – “Social media could boost the UK’s social enterprises by an average of  £212,000, according to research carried out by O2 and the RBS SE100 Index”.  Source – Social Enterprise Live

This event has been sponsored by the Glasgow Social Enterprise Partnership (GSEP) and is the first event to be organised by the Glasgow Third Sector Forum. 

The event is free of charge to Glasgow based Third Sector Organisations.   More information can be found in our flyer.

For more information and to book your place click here.
If you have any queries please contact CEiS Events on
0141 425 2923 or e-mail eventmanagement@ceis.org.uk

I’m presenting at the above event next week. I’ll be doing a bit of social media myth-busting and, hopefully, attendees will create the world’s quickest social media strategy.

To book a free place contact CEiS Events on 0141 425 2923 or e-mail eventmanagement@ceis.org.uk

Third Sector Forums are looking for admins [updated]

Third Sector Forums is constantly growing, we now have over 1000 members. With that growth comes the inevitable spam.

We’re looking for a handful of volunteer forum admins who will remove spam and, where possible, encourage debate and discussion amongst members. I can show you how to remove spam in about 30 seconds, it’s an easy peasy drop down option on posts and no techy knowledge is required.

The time commitment is tiny for spam blasting – reported posts would come direct to an admin and then you’d simply delete it as spam. This would be no more than 2 or 3 times a week and the process takes seconds to complete. It is also good if admins drop in to the forums now and again to see if any spam has gone unreported.

If you’re interested in becoming part of the UK’s biggest third sector forum please drop me an email – ross[@]thirdsectorlab.co.uk

This round of volunteer admin recruitment closes 12pm GMT 6th May 2011

SCVO launching new shared office spare Feb 2010


If you’ve walked past the old Clydesdale Bank building in Glasgow’s Merchant City recently you’ll have noticed there’s change afoot.

SCVO are launching a shared working space early next year – a really interesting development in Glasgow’s third sector. Follow the link above for more info and costs.

The model is very different from that established by The Melting Pot, Edinburgh, so hopefully they two can co-exist and compliment each other.

I’d love to know what people think…is this the shared working space Glasgow has been waiting for?

Being good and social – @Tumshie on posterous


I went along to last week’s #BeGoodBeSocial event at Edinburgh’s Melting Pot with a certain amount of apprehension. Since leaving the charity sector last year I’ve maintained a level of caution about getting too close to a world that occupied me, sometimes unhealthily, for over six years. I led Oxfam’s Digital Communications team (née Interactive Media) for four of those years, taking over the role shortly after Tim O’Reilly coined the term Web 2.0, YouTube was born, and at a time when Facebook’s main focus was college campuses rather than world domination. The scars I bear are for another post but it’s safe to say that there was a lot of flux, fuss and fallout over digital and social media during that period.

Attending #BeGoodBeSocial meant resurfacing questions that still reverberate in my head about how charities make appropriate use of digital tools, whether the often misplaced focus on numbers and media headlines had diminished any, and if those over-used words ‘engagement’ and ‘participation’ were really being embraced.

What a difference an evening makes.

Ross McCulloch (@thirdsectorlab) didn’t take nearly enough credit for creating an occasion that just worked. There was an informality that’s often missing at professional events; people turned up agenda-free to learn, to share, and to discuss, and that had a lot to do with how the evening was pitched in the weeks leading up to it.

Another masterstroke was in the choice of presenters – there can be a yawning sense of deja vu at events when person after person recounts their organisational ticklist of ‘things we’ve done’ but fails to give any additional context or insight. Here, however, were four very different, very compelling takes on being good and social:

  • Martin Keane (@onekindmk) talked about the wide and varied techniques OneKind are using with social channels. It was excellent to hear a focus on reciprocity, a genuinely varied multi-channel strategy, and honesty about success measures – and (thank you!) another person daring to suggest Twitter might not be the direct route to audiences that some would have you believe.
  • Steve Bridger (@stevebridger) offered a calm and considered guide to relationship-building that didn’t shy away from presenting tricky issues. There’s a real art to translating complex challenges into common-sense solutions, but Steve does so with aplomb and a very attractive slide deck. ‘Grow bigger ears’ was, for me, the phrase of the night.
  • Snook (@wearesnook) were just a breath of fresh air. I missed their workshop but was given the elevator pitch version by Kirsty (@kirsty_joan): developing audience personas beyond the usual broad brushstrokes. Viva la revolution – not everyone uses Facebook the same way! Lauren (@redjotter), whose MacBook had sent the entire livestream into disarray, summarised what they do in a short and sweet presentation. Their people-centric and design-led approach to social change is inspiring.
  • Rosie MacIntosh (who tweets from @oxfamscotland) finished things off with a presentation that would have given me a hernia in my previous role. But here are Oxfam Scotland facilitating a grassroots blogger network – allowing people to have a conversation about their shared values and interests – rather than storming in with a fixed agenda. Placing a value on engagement first and foremost is genuinely refreshing, and I loved the openness of it all.

So my outtake is one of positivity and very pleasant surprise: based on the evidence above there is not only some great work going on but also – more importantly – a sense of difficult questions being chewed over. Sitting in the pub afterwards (probably the oldest at the table, eek) it was really invigorating to hear people talking about all this stuff in a strategic, considered and experienced way. I want to slap myself for using the term ‘digital native’ but the gulf between those that actually *use* the tools as opposed to those who read a load of articles about why you should be using them is pretty massive.

Clearly the challenge remains in educating decision makers about what social media is and isn’t, and seeing beyond the more obvious headlines and trends. What I would observe – based on my own 18-month hiatus – is that events like this prove the debate is definitely going in the right direction.