Improving digital skills in Scotland

  • Research suggests half of UK charities lack basic digital skills
  • In Scotland, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has launched a Digital Strategy to address this challenge, and is holding a series of digital workshops, seminars and other activities
  • In this guest post, the SCVO discusses its digital strategy and the support available to help charities in Scotland use digital technology to improve service delivery

Digital skills are becoming increasingly important in enabling charities to deliver services and support to people in need. However, according to a recent survey, 49% of charities across the UK lack basic digital skills.

In this guest blog, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) discusses how it is looking to address this problem.

Our digital strategy for Scotland, launched in Autumn 2016, focusses on three interconnected themes:

  1. Increasing digital participation to help those not yet online learn basic digital skills (approximately 800,000 people).
  2. Encouraging digital evolution to help third sector organisations transform.
  3. Inspiring organisations to be recognised as world leaders in using new technologies through digital innovation.

The theme of digital evolution encourages charities to think beyond digital as a mechanism for marketing and fundraising, and look at how it can transform service delivery and organisational support.

Third sector organisations should be making better use of digital in this area, as there are significant knowledge and skills gaps within the sector. Leadership from trustees and senior managers is crucial to enable digital transformation, as success is built on people rather than technology.

Digital enablement

SCVO feels there is a need to change people’s perception of technology, so rather than seeing IT as a barrier, they see digital as an enabler.

To tackle this we are supporting and encouraging the sector through a number of strands:

  • A digital leadership programme which exposes CEO’s and senior leaders to the potential of digital and then supports them to make change
  • An organisational development programme, Making Digital Work, which has helped people in all areas take action to improve knowledge and potential use of digital tools in a small area

Helping small charities

We will soon launch a digital assessment tool for small organisations. Our aim is to help organisations think about what they could do and then make that more manageable by breaking it down into bite-sized chunks.

Ultimately, we’re aiming to communicate that digital transformation is not simply about having a website, making an app or using social media. Digital transformation is about redesigning services and changing the way organisations work.

Fundamentally this is about people first and foremost; thinking about how service users want to interact with you in a digital world and how staff and volunteers can use technology to maximise their impact.

People at the heart of change

We have brought in specialists such as Netsquared, Third Sector Lab and Rebecca Curtis-Moss to deliver aspects of the programme. So far, we have worked with more than 500 organisations to help them use elements of digital technology.

We know, however, that ultimately this is about people. Putting people at the heart of what we do helps change to make sense and increases the pace of change.

The first digital leaders programme developed a Call to Action. It asks key stakeholders to ‘Create a Digital Confident Third Sector in Scotland’.

Some of our recent successes include:

  • Grampian Housing Association, which is now using social media and digital reporting systems to gain a better understanding of its tenants’ needs and respond to these more efficiently. This focus on digital has allowed it to save £30,000 worth of staff resources to reinvest into the organisation.
  • Quarriers, which is using Skype for Business to support carers in remote and rural areas of Aberdeenshire. Previously, this would have meant a 2-4 hour round trip for a 15-minute support meeting. Using this online meeting tool has increased the number of carers that can be reached in a day, while maintaining face-to-face support.

On 22-23 February, SCVO’s Digital Directorate will offer a range of workshops, seminars and activities at The Gathering, at The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow.

Our aim is to open up the world of digital and inspire organisations to take their first, or next step, on their digital journey.