Posted in I'm an IO doing this!

What digital transformation means for a TSI

Our second guest post in advance of VCSSCamp Six is from Karen Herbert, CEO of CVS Falkirk who explains in real terms what digital transformation means for a TSI, the Scottish equivalent of a CVS.  (NOTE – This post wKaren Herbert - CEO CVS Falkirkas first published on the SCVO blog on June 7th 2016).

As leader of a Third Sector Interface, I meet many leaders of other organisations every day. Many charismatic people, very focused and dedicated individuals who are passionate about social justice in its many guises. From small local organisations to large nationals, and discussions cover a wide range of topics.

As you would expect, funding and cuts are often on the agenda, but not in a whiny way, rather as driver and catalyst for system change. But in recent times the severity of cuts and the increases in demand have combined to create a ‘perfect storm’ that is exercising all of us beyond what we ever considered reasonable.

I have no doubt that technology can be harnessed to benefit our organisations, improving service delivery, increasing reach, streamlining back-office, all of the usual suspects.

But underpinning that is our innate focus on social justice, and most particularly the need to keep our attention focused on those ‘hardest to reach’ or ‘furthest from’ or otherwise disadvantaged and excluded.

In my own small team I have employees who do not have a computer at home, whose children are disadvantaged by not being able to get online to do homework. In one local school with a more ‘affluent’ catchment area, all homework is set and completed online. In another just a few miles away which has a catchment area frequently described as ‘disadvantaged’, paper-based homework is the norm. Perhaps the decision is right for each school, but is everybody in each area typical of the whole? We all know people who live in ‘affluent’ areas who, for whatever reason, are actually in poverty; what additional barriers are being put in the way of these children? And childhood poverty is the blight of our time, which we need to address at an individual level.

I do not mean to suggest that education is a poor example, I could equally have picked access to healthcare, or housing, or employment, or a myriad of other areas. Technology can be a great enabler, but we must remain alert to those it does not suit, for whatever reason. There are individuals who cannot or will not access technology. We must be careful not to exclude them by creating yet another barrier.

However, rather than use that as an excuse not to increase our uptake of technology, I suggest that we take a different perspective. If we utilise technology better and harness its divergent features to provide a ‘pull’ service for those savvy and motivated to self-serve, that would free up our scarce and reducing human resources to provide a more individually tailored and supportive service to those who do not. If we get this right, everyone could access what they need in a way that is best suited them. Utopia? Yes. But….CVS Falkirk

I have a vision about how my own organisation could deliver this agenda, but a significant investment in hardware and software to start is required. I have just heard that more than half the PCs in use in our office cannot upgrade to Windows 10, they are that old. Although all of my staff team have received training in the main Microsoft packages that we use daily, and use our Salesforce cloud-based records system daily, we do not have an integrated solution that they can access while with clients, and there is so much more we could do to make their working life more productive and accessible for our clients and improve the working environment for my staff team.

If we could harness aspects of social media better to increase our reach and improve our accessibility, there would be more staff time to provide an 1-2-1 hands-on service for those that need it most to make a difference to their lives.

So why am I not delivering this? Because I am not an expert in all of these things, which means I have to pay for advice, find someone with all of the knowledge without a bias towards any supplier. I have to find the money to pay them, then the money to buy the equipment, then the money for staff training and not least, employing one or more people to do all of the work that will keep these solutions up to date and expanding. What existing service/post do I cut to pay for these changes? How do I take funding away from service delivery for an unknown future? This model of working is a fundamental change in thinking and practice, and like all paradigm shifts, is akin to leaping off a cliff. It would be made easier if it did not come at a time of austerity, or if an enlightened funder could be found to underpin the financial risk involved. Oh yes, Utopia again.

This decision requires a leap of faith, and I am finding it very hard to make a start. I know this is the role of a leader, and being a part of the One Digital Action Learning programme has helped me on this journey.

It has clarified my thinking and better informed my decision making. I have learnt knew ideas and it has reinforced thinking in other areas. I am grateful to my peers for their openness and support, we are all facing difficult decisions ahead. ‘Just do it’ is made easier by having a knowledgeable network to sanity-check your bad days. Having the thinking space to help make the right choices is invaluable.

A Third Sector Interface is meant to lead by example; how can I suggest that increased use of digital resources in original ways will improve the service for the many and free up resources to focus on the few, without proving it by doing it.

This is an informed choice, there is still a risk to be mitigated, but to me, the way forward is clear.

Posted in Blog News, I'm an IO doing this!, This is VCSSCamp

VCSSCamp, well that seemed to go OK didn’t it?

We (Paul, Pauline & Eileen) would like to thank all of you who came to the 2nd VCSSCamp in Birmingham last week. We really weren’t sure who would come, and whether anyone would pitch a session, but thankfully 40 of you did, and many of you pitched. Either you came last year and wanted more, or you were just intrigued enough by what you had heard about last year to find out what it was all about for yourself.

Actually you were probably there because (like us) you care about infrastructure organisations being suitably equipped with the knowledge and skills to make the most of digital tools, open data and social media etc.

VCSSCamp Pitching

There is already a blog from Mike Cummins about our open data discussion and a Storify summary of the day compiled by Saffi Price available and Ted was taking pictures and video which will be posted here in due course.

At the end of the day, you all very kindly scribbled down your thoughts about the day which we’ve listed here below. We really hope the day has boosted your confidence to try out some of the ideas and to carry out the actions. Please let us know if you do. (Thank you also to Dudley CVS staff for writing up the handwritten notes)

So, you told us after the day you’d like to do some new things …

  • Like to learn more about open data
  • Probably need to use Twitter in a more engaging way for the organisation – we tend to just broadcast at the moment
  • Learned new info around social media – homework to look into using Storify and others such as Google Hangouts
  • Have learnt about new social media programs to look into
  • Info about the Do-It website was useful
  • Small data projects by uni graduates
  • Search, research, share
  • Learnt a lot – new tools and how to deal with post codes and ward data
  • Listen – lots, Learn – absolutely, Share – defo
  • Learnt a lot changing the way we talk on social media
  • Look at data collection app
  • Going to tweet ongoing projects, not just old & new ones
  • Yes! opened my mind to how I and my organisation can use Twitter
  • Also answered my question about measuring impact and meeting Nick to find out about his app
  • Could we use webinars more e.g. third sector assembly/training/events
  • Keep making all the things we know an open channel

You said you liked “Networking” and “Fantastic networking” and even “Enjoyed people sharing ideas and networking”. It was “Good to talk to people & see where they are in terms of outcomes” and “It was brilliant to meet some people in real life”.

You went away full of “New ideas” and “Reinvigorated” and with “Lots of useful ideas and contacts”. You said “I got loads of good ideas and a very valuable opportunity to reflect and think about my work, my volunteering and social media”.

There were “Lots of fun & laughs” (always good to know) and just as importantly the day “Made me remember why we all do what we do” and from someone else, it left them“Feeling reinvigorated again about tech and social media”.

Also thank you for the compliments too!

  • Fantastic, wonderful day. Thank you so much for organising it, you are all superstars
  • Enjoyed connecting with new people, and recognising the importance of speaking like a human
  • Really enjoyed the day – spread the message
  • Thank you #VCSSCamp I’ve had a fab day

If you have anything to share please add to the comments in this post, post on your own blog and link here or let us know if you’d like to write a guest post to put on this site.

If you think an increased use of digital tools is vital for infrastructure organisations, I’m sure the Commission looking into the Future of Infrastructure would welcome your views. You can send these via links on

Thanks again to our lovely event sponsors Big Assist/NCVO, West Midlands Volunteer Centres Network, Dudley CVS, RnR Organisation and RAWM.

We’ll no doubt run VCSSCamp again next year, maybe in June and maybe in Birmingham. However, if anyone feels inspired to take this idea and format on locally in their area and run a VCSSCamp before then, we’d be delighted to help, we’ll probably come along too and may not break any microphones. Oops.

Posted in Blog News, I'm an IO doing this!

Things to think about when planning to tweet

This guest post is from Marie Faulkner, the Online Engagement Officer for the NCVO BIG Assist programme.Marie will be attending VCSSCamp.

At Big Assist we hear from infrastructure organisations every day, grappling with how to better market themselves and communicate their impact. 72 organisations have received vouchers from us for everything from getting support in writing a new communication strategy to constructing a new brand identity. To date we’ve awarded £228,000 to these organisations in marketing, social media becoming a big part in their plans.

I went to VCSSCamp last year, and I really enjoyed talking to the infrastructure organisations I met specifically about social media. I am always totally inspired by the work being done by front line organisations but in many ways infrastructure have other things to consider. So I thought i’d share the things I’ve considered myself and with colleagues about Tweeting in the hope that others have too and we can talk about them at this year’s event.

Things I ask myself when I tweet

  1. Is this for my target audience?
  2. Why and what is most useful? Mostly advice and support stuff? We are membership organisations – what do members want from us? Do they want to hear about things on the ground or are they more interested in organisational development.
  3. It’s OK that I don’t get the same amount of retweets as @38degrees or @savethechildren because our primary audience is busy people at work, doing their 9-5 jobs. Posting during commuting times and after work has shown some improvements in clicks.
  4. I wish my content was more fluffy and emotive sometimes but should I be writing about issues that aren’t in our organisational strategy? Lots of people are talking about this stuff – will I be invisible if I do anyway?
  5. It’s harder to talk about our own impact.

So, how do you all do it?

People I’ve spoken to who are doing it well…

Our customer consultant Julie has seen many infrastructure organisations working towards being able to demonstrate their impact through social media and use the networks to connect with other organisations and sectors.

For inspiration, there are some good case studies from infrastructure organisations using social media well – West Norfolk Voluntary and Community Action, Dudley Volunteer Centre and Voice 4 Change England.

And some how-to guides that have helped me along the way
These are worth a read if you want further guidance.

I look forward to seeing you all!

If anyone coming to VCSSCamp wants to talk to me about applying for vouchers from BIG Assist, or if there’s interest in a session about help for infrastructure, I’m always happy to chat about it – I’m @BIGAssist on Twitter.