How the SCVO are developing a digital ecosystem for themselves and others

Sally Dyson from the SCVO shares how they’ve created a digital ecosystem in Scotland to kickstart their own and other organisations digital journey

Guest Writer | 25th Oct 19
splash of light creating a digital ecosystem not unlike the SCVO
Guest writer Sally Dyson is Head of Digital and Programmes at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Service (SCVO).  After 25 years working in and around the voluntary sector working on skills development and change programmes, I currently have the privilege to work with an amazing bunch of folk focussing on digital evolution across Scotland. I’m also digital trustee on the board of Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh. You can follow Sally on twitter @sallyld.

The voluntary sector in Scotland is amazing, almost 40,000 organisations supporting 5.4million people across 80,000 square kilometres. Most organisations, 78%, operate at a local level with 75% having incomes of less than £100k per year.

Alongside their main job of supporting people in the following fields health, housing, culture, education & research, community social & economic development and recreation activities, hundreds of Scottish charities have been working with Scottish Council for Voluntary Service (SCVO) to develop our digital ecosystem and kickstart their own digital journey.

Here I reflect on the last six years of SCVO’s journey where the foundations were laid for a Digitally Confident Third Sector in Scotland. This is the first in a series of blogs exploring some of the activities that organisations are using to support their digital evolution.

> See also: 6 big questions charity digital leaders need to ask

Start at the very beginning, a very good place to start – no, not with Do, Re, Mi but yes, with A, B, C: language. At SCVO we’re part of the voluntary and community sector. We’re immersed in the way organisations tick. They are patient and committed, often working above capacity and staffed with passionate, knowledgeable people with a wealth of experience.

The first challenge was encouraging a small group to start on their change journey. Making that first step relevant, accessible and achievable was paramount. When people talk about digital change ‘transformation’ or ‘revolution’ are words often used. This kind of terminology wasn’t going to encourage busy organisations operating on shoestrings to get involved. So investing energy in what the right language to use was the first step. Digital ‘Evolution’ hit the right tone. The logic behind this suggested organisation would

  • start somewhere
  • make small steps
  • reflect
  • learn
  • make more small steps
  • gain confidence
  • see results
  • become more curious

Then continue their journey over the years to ultimately transform individual organisations and the sector.

We are fortunate to be backed long term by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery Community Fund. Both give us latitude to test, learn and iterate. Starting at the top of organisations gave us a germ of an idea to create a supportive learning and sharing space for senior leaders.

> See also: Get online week: How your charity can benefit from workplace digital champions

Six months and fourteen pioneers later saw the first iteration of the now hugely popular Senior Leaders Programme. This cohort developed the key themes that run through all the activities sitting in the digital ecosystem. These were the need for organisations to explore, adapt, invest and collaborate

and to start in one of the following five areas

  • Culture and Leadership
  • Data Driven
  • Using Flexible Technology
  • Taking a Service Design Approach
  • Being Cyber Resilient

Listening to Senior Leaders lead us to the development of a digital checkup . An online tool that scores organisations on five themes and originally signposted towards a range of resources. Further iterations of the health check now see organisations benchmarked against others, receive 1-2-1 follow up support and the latest development is a pilot trusted supplier finder based on sector recommendations.

Responding to organisations needs, we developed an ‘accelerator programme’. We took the themes from the Senior Leaders Programme, to create entry point workshops, stitching them together and cramming them into a two-day residential. This has enabled people from a much wider range of organisations and from different ‘levels’ in larger organisations to engage.

Supporting the development of the right skills, confidence and motivation is a driver throughout our ecosystem, and this draws on Essential Digital Skills for the Workforce. As part of our digital inclusion work, we identified that hidden behind the headline groups of older, poorer and disabled people there were many at all levels of workforces who were not confident in trying new ways of working. So we’ve extended our inclusion work to focus on supporting people to be curious, find solutions that can be introduced and create a bolder and new culture of ‘this is how we do things around here’.

Finally (for now) Cyber Resilience. Charities work with a wide range of precious and personal data. They are responsive operations that want to help and be trusting. That can often leave them vulnerable to fraud and therefore they need to be cyber resilient. We’re supporting a range of sector catalysts from different parts of the sector to inspire similar organisations to increase their work in this area and gain Cyber Essentials accreditation.

Over the last six years we’ve worked with almost 1,000 organisations to help them evolve. Some have had just a small interaction from us, some have a much longer journey. One CEO from the first leadership programme delivered a keynote for us just this morning to a significant organisation. Our key learnings – have a flexible approach, meet people where they’re at, learn from as many people as possible and whichever ‘door’ organisations use to get into the ecosystem is the right one.