Posted in Blog News

Thinking of topics for VCSSCamp

With less than a month to go until VCSSCamp Four takes place in Birmingham (there’s still a few tickets available) you might (OK probably not!) be thinking about the sessions you’d like to pitch, or the discussions you’d like to have.

Recently i’ve read a couple of research reports that discuss technology in our organisations and how we could (and should) be doing more with it. I’d be really interested to hear the views of staff from infrastructure organisation on these reports and what we can do to make the use of digital technology more central all the organisation does.

Firstly there was the NAVCA “Future of Local Infrastructure” report published in January 2015 which highlighted many challenges faced by infrastructure organisations, but also suggested that  :

“Infrastructure needs to be financed, but it also has to undergo a redesign. It needs to be leaner, meaner and more technologically savvy. It needs to act as a lever bringing in new resources to the sector, including social investment, crowd funding and pro bono support. It needs to be the enabler of voice and the advocate of community action. It needs to collaborate and share more cost effectively. It needs to promote and develop the ‘time economy’, co-production and good volunteering practices. Above all, it needs to help the sector with foresight and managing change, because the pace of change is not going to slow.” Sara Llewellin Chair of Chair of the Commission the Commission “

You can download the report from the NAVCA website here.

Then secondly, published last week was “The New Reality” a research study conducted by Julie Dodd about how digital technology will deliver the next step-change in social impact. It is based on interviews with over 50 senior leaders and digital experts from both inside and outside the non-profit sector. The report offers a “20 Steps to Digital Transformation” chart and presents 10 key insights for change from which i’ve picked out a couple here.

Major skills gaps need plugging. The speed of technology change has created a gap between the digital skills that organisations have, and additional ones they need. Key areas identified were: data, digital strategy, lean and iterative process management, and business model.”

The next stage of digital for non-profits is not fundraising and marketing. Efforts and successes in digital to date have largely been focused on digital marketing and fundraising. Whilst these have been – and continue to be – valuable, the focus now needs to be on how digital technology can transform organisations around their core mission. This may mean moving digital teams away from these directorates in order to grow digital expertise across the board.”

The New Reality can be downloaded here.

You may also have read about the work that New Philanthropy Capital are doing and the two part question posed by Tris Lumley of NPC about “The power of digital to transform the sector”. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

“Digital technology can be the driving force behind this transformation, giving us fundamentally new abilities. It is connective—joining together people, services, knowledge and places. It is efficient—doing some things faster, more accurately and at a cheaper rate than people. And it can be intelligent—with the ability to analyse, map, diagnose and predict.”

“I believe digital technology holds the key to unlocking value chain thinking in the social sector.”

I can’t argue with any of this … but are our organisations doing this or even ready and equipped to do this? Are they still thinking “that’s a good idea, but we can’t possibly achieve it”?

They have convened a “Technology For Good” Digital Transformation group to look at these questions, it will be interesting to hear the results of this group and how it will work with and listen to the smaller organisations in the sector and the infrastructure organisations that support them!

I’m sure you have also read other reports that have prompted thoughts, or that you have your own topic and passion that you’d like to discuss with others. It’s an unconference so the floor is yours!

Please suggest topics in the comments below or just come along, either with topics to discuss or simply with questions to ask or issues that trouble you (well technology related ones anyway!)

We look forward to meeting you all in Birmingham on 30th June.

Posted in This is VCSSCamp

Reflections on the General Election and the new Conservative Government

I’ve recently started following Duncan Shrubsole, Director of Policy, Partnerships and Communications for Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales. You can follow him on Twitter: @duncanshrubsole


Never has the phrase “a week is a long time in politics” seemed so apt with the fallout from the 2015 election, the surprise election of a majority Conservative government and the impact on the other parties (and their leaders) still dominating the airwaves, twitter and newsprint. Amidst a sea of insight and analysis here are three reflections on what this might mean for the voluntary sector and three suggestions for how we should respond:

A. Everything changes, everything stays the same: for all the speculation as to what a majority Conservative Government means for an EU referendum, the Human Rights Act, the union or even the BBC, the reality of David Cameron being re-elected means that the core issue for this Parliament will be the same as that of the last one – the public finances. The Conservatives plans to turn a deficit of £75bn this year into a…

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Posted in This is VCSSCamp

Open Data and the voluntary sector, revisited

A post about Open Data and the voluntary sector from 2010 – good to see people were thinking about our role in relation to open data a few years ago, and longer if you read the comments!

arbitrary constant

I posted on the topic of Open Data and the voluntary sector earlier today, and I’m very grateful for the time people have taken to respond. I thought I’d jot down a response to their response in the hope of continuing the conversation.

My original post boiled down to 4 propositions:

  1. Given the novelty of Open Data in the public sector, I didn’t think people would be that interested in voluntary sector Open Data.
  2. The motivation for public sector organisations to publish their data (transparency) doesn’t necessarily hold for why a voluntary sector organisation would publish their data.
  3. The power dynamic between voluntary sector organisations and their funders means that Open Data could be used as a resource for undermining the voluntary sector.
  4. Voluntary sector organisations are extremely well placed to benefit from the publication of Open Data by public agencies.

On point 1, my commenters rightly note that I’m…

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Posted in Blog News, This is VCSSCamp

How to become a social CEO

BlooIt really helps if, as the CEO, you’re actually in the room at the beginning or in the early stages of an event to promote the voluntary sector use of digital and tech, which might sound a bit odd when so much of being social these days can be done virtually i.e. from somewhere else besides the place where the event is happening, but in this case, I think being face to face can really help to lay down good foundations.

We’ve been fortunate with VCSSCamp in that the infrastructure organisation RAWM (Regional Action West Midlands) was the main sponsor of the first one in 2013, and their CEO, Sharon Palmer, was able to be there for the early part of the event. Sharon was also there for most of VCSSCamp 2 in June 2014, and we also had our second CEO, Andy Gray from Dudley CVS (who also sponsored both VCSSCamp 1 and 2) at that one. Neither of these CEOs would claim to be social media, or digital, experts, but they knew enough to want to be there, and it was clear that they both appreciate the staff and volunteers they have who do know and use digital a bit more regularly.

And so we came to VCSSCamp 3 in Barnsley. The venue was ace – accessible, light-filled and plenty of room to move around in. The Voluntary Action Barnsley staff were warm and welcoming and the CE of Community Services, Nigel Middlehurst, was present from the start, working on his iPad until we began the intros. He explained that he would have to leave during the morning to attend another event, and we didn’t really expect him back. But he did come back, and he also went to several of the day’s sessions. He also took part, as did everyone else at VCSSCamp 3, in a Happy Birthday Vine (6-second video) shot by unconference veteran John Popham.

My point in referencing these 3 CEOs is that they made the time to come to VCSSCamp, and they stayed in the room, listening, learning and participating. They may become more social themselves, they may not, but they are demonstrating a fundamental quality of being a good leader, that they understand the importance of social and that they are supporting their staff, volunteers and trustees to be so. Isn’t that a key part of becoming a social CEO?

More reading including this year’s list of top charity #socialCEOs:

The Top 30 Social CEOs 2014

‘Social Media: A Briefing for Charity CEOs’ PDF by Zoe Amar and Matt Collins

Six ways charity chief executives are using social media for good by Zoe Amar, Nov 7 2014

How Your Organization’s CEO Can Use Social Media for Thought Leadership – by Beth Kanter