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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Where next for digital in the third sector? 

This opinion piece is almost 2 years old

John Fitzgerald, digital evolution manager at Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), on the importance of progress in digital.

At SCVO we work with hundreds of organisations each year to help them grow their digital capacity. 

During the pandemic, thousands of organisations have connected with us to help them make digital progress in the most challenging circumstances. On that difficult context: it’s important to acknowledge that the pandemic has cost millions of lives, and it hasn’t gone away. Despite things starting to feel more normal in a lot of contexts, we’re still suffering from pandemic impacts. Not to mention climate change and the cost of living crisis. So a lot of challenges remain. 

Despite all of this, making progress on digital is still worthwhile.  

We’re setting out possible ways forward in our third ‘Call to Action’ report. It sets out a high-level roadmap, along with case studies and practical steps any organisation can take to make progress. There are three headlines in our new report: 

  1. The pandemic (is still) changing everything 
  1. Organisations have made amazingly quick progress in the most challenging circumstances 
  1. How might we embed these changes for the long term and make a lasting impact? 

Our vision is a simple one: Take the best of digital services from the pandemic, and make these approaches accessible to organisations of every size. 

To support our overall vision, we have five key ambitions. Firstly, whatever we do with digital, it needs to be relevant and accessible to everyone. That means focusing on user needs, and using a service design approach to make services that fit with people’s lives. Some brilliant services are actually quite low tech.  

Secondly, organisations have to be canny investors in digital technology. We need to invest at the right level, and spend money on things that are fit for purpose. With digital, being an informed buyer can make the difference between success and failure. Being able to experiment, to test and learn at a small scale can help reduce risks. Funders need to support this approach. 

Thirdly, we’re calling on organisations to embed digital approaches right across their teams, not hived off to techie teams building 'solutions'. Embedding digital means that people working on the frontline can see the potential of digital and work out how to make best use of it. And embedding digital means that people developing solutions have real contact with people using those services.  

Related to this, our fourth ambitions is that organisations focus on developing new skills and confidence right across their workforce. Keeping up with skills is critical to making digital progress - and funders and support organisations need to help with this.  

Finally, digital platforms and tools need to be secure by design and used responsibly so that we keep people and their data safe.  

There is no ‘done’ with digital – that can sound a wee bit intimidating. But it’s inspiring, too, because it means that digital will keep getting better in response to what users need. 

The full report is up on our website now: