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?

Digital Skills for the Care Sector

On Thursday Skills For Care launched the first part of their strategy on the digital skills needs of the care sector.Digital Working Strategy

This plan is based on results from an on-line and paper based survey conducted in the early part of this year. Further qualitative research and in depth interviews are to follow.

There is a Storify summary of the day and the strategy is available to read and download from the Skills for Care website, however some of the headline figures and findings presented by Sara Dunn really stood out for me so I’ve shared them here.

Encouragingly over 90% of managers in social care providers reported that their organisations are using digital technologies to support HR & recruitment, in delivery & recording of learning and to support marketing & communications.

Where the figures are the most revealing is when the same questions are asked separately of managers and their staff.

  • 78% of managers report that digital technology is used by their organisation to keep in touch with family and friends of residents, however only 48% of staff would report this as true.
  • The method used by staff for accessing the Internet varies and shows that the proliferation of smartphones & tablets maybe out of step with how organisations see Internet access. For example 74% of staff say they use their own smartphone for personal use to access the web with just 14% using an employer supplied device for this purpose. Also 20% of respondents say they have to use their own personal device for work use. The figures for Tablet use show a very similar proportion of own use and employer supplied devices.  Compare this with Desktop or Laptop access where 64% use an employer supplied computer (30% laptop)  against 10% using their own machine (15% from own laptop).
  • The skills gap varies across disciplines. Rather worryingly 22% of managers say they personally need increased Basic On-line Skills as do 52% of frontline staff! There is also a call for increased Digital Champion skills by 50% of managers and  a massive 80% of frontline staff.
  • There is a large gap in the perception by managers of the level of digital skills their staff have against the rating staff would give themselves. 97% of staff say they have good basic on-line skills, but only 48% of managers would agree. 91% of staff say they have on-line security awareness, a view shared by only 40% of managers. We discussed this and wonder if it could be that staff consider themselves to be digitally skilled if they can use a smartphone or tablet to navigate the web, make on-line purchases, access social network sites and manipulate images. This would be against a managers view who would only consider staff to be digitally skilled if they could use mail merge, spreadsheet formulas and other parts of their desktop office software.

Echoing the findings of our Connecting Care work, the survey and subsequent discussions highly rated the often self led digital innovations sourced by Activities Co-ordinators in care homes. These unofficial digital champions could lead the way in bringing tablet technology, mobile apps for arts and reminiscence or simply websites like YouTube and Google Streetview into a care setting.

There is still a way to go, particularly around addressing the  IT and digital infrastructure basic needs of small voluntary sector care providers, but the strategy that this research has produced feels like a very positive start in skills development for staff providing care services.

Good use of technology is inspiring

I’m not sure about awards ceremonies. There is something that makes me think, “how can that be the best example of a thing?” or “are they really the most significant person?”. What about all those other undiscovered examples of splendid ideas or good projects just getting on with it and not getting a certificate or a cut glass trophy. Some awards also seem to be just about the glitzy ceremony after which the ideas and innovations fade back into the shadows. However I do think the Technology 4 Good awards (now in their 4th year) strive to be different.

The awards were launched on Tuesday this week in the BT Tower at a lunchtime get together which showcased some of the winners from previous years. It’s really helpful to see how ideas and initiatives such as the Dyslexia Global AutoCorrect software from LexAble and Lifelites have progressed and changed lives. It’s a great way to hear people’s stories and to learn from what they do and how they use technology. The @tech4goodawards twitter feed will be featuring some of these previous winners over the next few weeks. I was also reminded that I must go back and see Anne at StartpointSK6 in Stockport for another Fish and Chip lunch!

Mark Walker explained the life cycle of the awards which will feature a Viewing Event in May to meet the short listed entries and then the Inspiration Afternoon (awards) in July. There is also a Showcase Event planned for later in the year to see anTechnology 4 Good Awardsd find out more from the winners.

This process is truly about how technology can be used for good, so it’s right that a wide cross section of the voluntary sector get the chance to see these great ideas and to learn and be inspired by their great work.

Even the awards (pictured here), constructed from recycled computer parts are amazing!

Nominations in the 7 categories are now open on the website and close on 6th May, I’m sure there are some great ideas out there just waiting to be shared.

Disaster Planning – Some thoughts and a checklist

‘It’ll never happen to us’ is something I often hear said by voluntary sector organisations when I mention disaster recovery procedures and business continuity policies. Fortunately most will have insurance so the computers are covered by insurance and the building can be repaired, but what about their data. Worryingly I meet organisations who don’t back up personnel information or keep offsite secure copies of files and who would have no way of accessing client or service user records should they need to restart their service elsewhere.

Monday dawned for an early start and a late finish (partly due to an incident where there was no Crew for the train at Crewe!) to visit Services for Independent Living in Leominster, another of our Connecting Care organisations. SIL work in partnership with local health services and local authorities to provide services that enable disabled and older people to live independent lives in their own homes within their own community.

They see data security and business contingency as central to their service delivery. They treat both the people they are supporting to live independently and that person’s information with equal respect. SIL have invested in a comprehensive IT support contract that will ensure their services would be up and running again on a replacement server in days not weeks or months. They have also been proactive in considering the many scenarios for continuing their operations should the building be inaccessible, staff unavailable or any other emergency situation arise. This information is well documented and very importantly is well tested too.

I want to see more social care organisations thinking like this.

I’d want the reassurance this gives if they were to be providing care and support services for my family by looking after their details responsibly. Wouldn’t you?

There is a Business Continuity & Disaster Checklist (125KB – PDF) we use that may be helpful. It offers prompts to some of the things that organisations should consider when thinking about their plans for business continuity.

No fog on the Tyne

AlnmouthThe adventure began with a visit to two of the social care organisations we are working with as part of Lasa Connecting Care.

On Thursday after a brief detour to see the sea at Alnmouth (you have to) and Barter Books (you also have to!) I met the staff at Abbeyfield in Alnwick. This is a great example of a residential social care provider who are innovating and really keen to try new ideas.

We talked about the routine (but necessary) things like data back-up and having IT support in place (both being addressed). I showed them the services available from CTX and Get Online At Home (very useful) and we discussed electronic care plans (all still on paper). But the thing that impressed me most was the way they are using ipads with their residents. (Or should I say, ‘the painting book’ and ‘the music’ … Words like iPad and Tablet are strictly off-limits!)

An artist from ipad engAGE is visiting the home once a week to help residents discover how art and creative apps can transform their lives. Oh that’s so easy to say, but does it really happen? Well on Friday afternoon two residents who usually stayed in their rooms were writing poetry together, listening to music and exploring new interests. Previously a 98 year old resident had been painting. Incredible!

Then on Friday it was off to Horden further down the coast near Hartlepool looking at the work done by the Youth and Community Centre there. With 45% of the community having no formal qualifications and many children growing up in homes with no Internet access this building is really a vital digital centre for the community. They run some formal classes, but the informal drop in sessions to use the web, apply for jobs or complete paperwork are most popular and made me think. With the Job Centre requiring people to have an e-mail address, one to one support to help people overcome this hurdle and simply learn how to send an e-mail was in great demand. They are also about start using tablets (can I use that word?) with groups that are older (post-work) and younger (pre-school). Truly an intergenerational heart of the community, helping people of all ages who want to gain digital skills.

I missed seeing the Northern Lights (argh!), but clearly saw two examples where social care and community care are being provided by forward thinking staff teams.

A final thought from Abbeyfield about both their home and their use of technology, ‘We can worry about the frills & colours later, we need to get the strategic view right first, but make sure that it’s centred around the needs of residents’.

We take so much for granted in the devices we own and how we use technology, but without basic e-mail access or a reliable, affordable office computer or the benefit of trying tablet computing it’s easy to feel shut out. What are we doing to remedy this and show our community the benefits of the digital world?