Lessons from the Charity Digital Code of Practice – Principle 3: Culture

Charity Digital Code Chair Zoe Amar quizzes Rainbow Services CEO Jemma Mindham on her top takeaways from embracing the ‘Culture’ principle of the Code.

Guest Writer | 6th Jun 19
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In the third installment of our series exploring what the Charity Digital Code of Practice means in practical everyday terms for charities, Charity Digital trustee and Chair of the Code Zoe Amar sits down with Jemma Mindham, CEO of Rainbow Services.

The Code was launched last year to help charities benchmark their progress in using digital and learn from example, with seven guiding principles for digital success.

We’ve previously explored Principle 1: Leadership with Age UK’s Lara Burns, and Principle 2: User led with DataKindUK’s Giselle Cory and Tracey Gyateng. This time Amar asks what charities can do to make digital embedded in their workplace culture, and why changes in behaviour and attitude are important to kickstarting their digital journey.


Zoe Amar: As a small charity, how are you applying the culture principle in The Charity Digital Code of Practice?

Jemma Mindham: The culture principle is about organisational change, collaborating and motivating people. It’s all about learning by example. Our Chair and myself as CEO are using digital and we start to share our experience and ideas, and admit what we don’t know then others will follow us.

It also helps that our organisation is linked to the Essex and Hertfordshire Digital Innovation Zone and steering group and delivery partners of Digital Boomers, enabling us to keep up to speed with new tech developments.

Because I was at the beginning of my CEO journey when I saw the draft Code a year ago, it was really good to look at it and to be able to clearly link it to my charity, Rainbow Services (Harlow). It helped me show them what digital is, understanding what the different aspects of digital are. The seven principles in the Code helped me box up those elements and deal with them. The Code really helped us.


Amar: Rainbow Services (Harlow) is making good progress with digital. How would you have described the culture previously, and what needed to change?

Mindham: It was very traditional. We had a paper based culture, and people were comfortable with that. Annual leave and holidays were all booked on paper forms. There were no apps or plug ins on the website which meant that it wasn’t meeting users’ needs- volunteers could not register their interest via the website, and people couldn’t even sign up to the email newsletter online.

Back in 2017 we invested in moving onto the cloud and storing our files there, but no-one really used it. We had also moved our finance management onto Quickbooks but we weren’t using it to its full capacity. So we had started on the tech journey but the leadership didn’t know the full extent of the potential.

I came into the organisation having worked for larger national charities and was able to bring across some learnings. Our organisation is part of a network of CVS organisations in Essex and we share what we are using and swap ideas.

We’ve now made improvements to our HR database, other systems and social media which have led to a sixfold increase in use of our infrastructure advice by the charities we support.


Amar: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in encouraging behaviour change on your team?

Mindham: The challenges haven’t been about money or resources. For us the challenge has been about people. How do we bring people along on that journey, convincing them that technology can save time and money? We realised that our leadership team needed to lead by example, and be positive about change.

Getting our Chair on side as well as key members of staff who others respected really helped, especially if they were managers. My leadership team and I worked hard at convincing, encouraging and motivating staff, then picking people off one by one and offering them buddying and handholding.

The other thing I learnt is that it’s important to be honest as a leader rather than pretending you can do everything. That helps other people admit if they can’t do something technical. Be an example of the behaviour you want to foster.


Amar: You were involved in commenting on the draft Charity Digital Code of Practice. How can charities foster greater collaboration externally and internally?

Mindham: It’s all about honesty and openness. I am quite clear that digital is great but I don’t want digital to replace human contact. We still need to see each other and communicate and that helps build trust. Welcoming debate and constructive criticism helps people open up. Externally, we have a culture of sharing with partner organisations, discussing ideas about digital systems and tools helps.

Always admit when you don’t know something, but be prepared to share. And do go and buddy with organisations who may need help or who can help you.


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