Does your boss do tech?

Another question for VCSScamp…
If you had the full attention of your board, your CEO and the senior management team, what is ‘The One Thing’ you would show them that technology enables your organisation to do better, in order to convince them to ‘do tech’?

John Popham's Random Musings

Yet another discussion on Twitter about the large numbers of organisations, particularly in the public and voluntary sectors, who still resist the adoption of new technologies to make their clients’ lives better, and social media to transform the way they work.

This prompts me to ask this question – does your boss do tech?

In my experience, there are still far too many organisations where there are people on the frontline who want to adopt new methods and technologies, but their organisations, directed from the top, will not respond. And I think I know why this is, at least in some cases.

Most of us these days are immersed in the use of new technologies. We communicate all the time using Twitter and Facebook, or WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Instagram. We use catchup TV services, and seek out “how to” videos on Youtube. But, if you are the Chief Executive of…

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“… likes linking, hates re-inventing…” (Care homes and volunteers)

The title of this post is taken from my Twitter bio and is something i’m keen to put into practice when I can. If there is a good idea or good project out there, let others know about it, don’t go off and set up something in competition or with similar aims.

This is a little late, but fills in some of what i’ve been doing on Connecting Care during the latter part of March (after coming back from #14NTC, which I know i’ve STILL not blogged about!).

IT in Care Home

IT Facilities for residents at Oakland Village – Swadlincote

One of the other projects alongside ours in the DoH Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development programme is being delivered in 5 CCG areas by NCVO to link the work of local volunteer centres with care homes in their area. They are conducting research and developing pathways for volunteers to offer their skills to support the work and the residents. More details about the project and a list of the 12 care homes are here.)

In addition to traditional volunteering activities, we were keen to link with their work and find out the level of interest in the role of Digital Volunteers, both by the staff and residents of the care homes and as a skillset offered from the volunteer centres.

We attended all three of the NCVO events in Westminster, Oldham and Swadlincote, also at the joint event with My Home Life and CSV. The clear message heard from care homes was that more could be done with new technology, to offer digital skills support and to provide ways to supplement the role of Activities Co-ordinators in the care homes with suitable volunteers. This backs up the evidence we have seen from the care homes we have visited on Connecting Care. They are starting to see the importance of Tablet PCs and the place of these for art based activities, for reminicense and for communication with distant family members, but capacity to use them is often squeezed and (rightly) a secondary place to provision of support to residents. Something that volunteers may be able to help with.

I’d like to see the role of Social Care Digital Champions promoted (one for Digital Unite or Tinder a Foundation?). Of course there is the need to keep the main IT systems of the care home working, suitable equipment being in place and having good Wi-fi access … but that’s a topic for another blog post!

Beside the seaside…

One of the care homes we are working with on Connecting Care is in the seaside town of Bognor Regis. On Thursday we paid a return visit to see how they are getting on with the actions from our first meeting.

It was great to hear of the positive steps they are taking such as their new website, about their activities co-ordinator who is using YouTube to show interesting video clips requested by the residents and that they are exploring activities to use on a Tablet PC.  They have even found a volunteer to look after any day to day technical issues they have with the office computers.

However it was the simple and affordable changes to the technology they use that are making the most difference.

  •  for £15 they bought an HDMI lead so that they can hook up a laptop to the large screen TV on the wall, this really has transformed the way they use this TV and the range of media that the residents can watch.
  • for less than that (£0) we set up a account for file sharing between the computers located in the building and with the committee members at home. Previously files were shared around on USB sticks and by e-mail attachments often resulting in delays, frustration, security risks and wasted time due to version control problems.

So these two very simple changes have enabled them to offer better digital facilities to residents and to work in a more efficient way… thus meaning they could have more time with their residents.

Some BarCampNFP Thoughts

Welcome back, for regular readers (or anyone who follows my tweets) you’ll notice I’ve skipped a week. Penguin Day and #14ntc in Washington DC generated a lot of ‘thinking’ and ‘processing’ , so a blog will follow later.


With Pauline Roche at #barcampnfp

So back on UK time, Thursday was #barcampnfp. The unconference for people working for charities / voluntary (Not For Profit) sector who want to help their organisations do more and help more through use of digital technology.

The format is well established for this type of event and @spirals (Laila) did a grand job of keeping us all on track and on target through the co-creation of the agenda (and helped by her bell, generally throughout the rest of the day!)

Inevitably there are more sessions I wanted to attend than time to squeeze them in or that clashed with each other, but some points I learnt from the sessions attended are here.

  • We had a lively discussion about use of open source software in the first session. The ethos behind it and the collaborative community supporting it is more important than the up front cost of the software. It’s a mistake to think that using open source software such as CiviCRM is free and that other non-open source software is expensive. There is always a cost and a need for a technology plan that covers both software, setup and imprementation costs, the Gov.UK page about choosing which software to use sums this up very well. Other useful resources we mentioned included (Open Source Manuals), (Proprietary software and it’s Open Source equivalent) and the Social Source Commons which lists toolkits of websites aimed at those using technology in charities.
  • The session about engaging with your audience was useful as we covered ways to streamline the process for small orgs who don’t have a dedicated comms or social media officer. Simply setting up alerts on Twitter or Google for when your cause or organisation is mentioned or using Hootsuite and monitoring lists and serach terms had been very beneficial for some smaller organisations. We did conclude that in 2014 every charity does need to be monitoring these channels … and not just in the 9am-5pm slot!  As part of this the #nomakeupselfie hashtag inevitably raised and the importance of causes being responsive to mentions on social media and with the capacity to reply. Madeleine Sugden has written more about this subject here.
  • The ‘internal comms’ session felt a bit like a Yammer fan club meetup! Not a bad thing as it’s a good tool, but I’ve also now got Slack and Trello on my ‘must check out’ list. One point I don’t think we fully resolved though was, “what can be done about the staff and volunteers who say it’s too hard to use on-line collaboration sites, or even who don’t have an e-mail address”?
  • Finally in a group about supporters we talked about harnessing the enthusiasm and listening skills of your ‘super supporters’. These people aren’t paid members of staff or even volunteers, but believe in your cause or passionately support your campaign so tap into their tweets, let them blog and don’t try to micro-manage what they say, they’re possibly even more ‘on message’ than some staff or trustees!

At the drinks following the event I was talking with @paulineroche. #barcampnfp was a fabulous opportunity to talk digital and charities … But where were the very small organisations, the support providers (local leaders?) and the charity CEOs?? Do we need to spread the word wider for next time and make the event more accessible and more inclusive?

The Group Picture from Barcampnfp

The Group Picture from Barcampnfp

It’s hoped there will be more events like this (see what Matt Collins (CharityChap) is doing. The time feels right once more for this type of gathering (even outside of London), but is the wider sector ready to participate?