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Response to change

 

How small voluntary organisations

are using tech

A partnership between arrow""

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A partnership between

  • IVAR

Covid-19 has forced small voluntary organisations (SVOs) to experiment with tech. For many, this has enabled them to become more accessible and relevant to their communities, and to explore new ways to tackle the digital divide.

 

Before the pandemic hit, we were working with CAST to understand how SVOs were using tech, as a follow-up to our Start somewhere study. We’ve followed the journeys of four charities responding to Covid-19 through digital, and here you’ll find tips and advice, stories of embracing digital and suggestions for how funders can support SVOs’ use of tech.

Response to change : how small voluntary organisations are using tech report cover.

Publications:

Response to change

Ellie Hale CAST, Annie Caffyn, Chris Mills


How small voluntary organisations are using tech

How is this useful?

Annie - test for website
Ellie Hale from CAST.

quote

We believe these granular insights into how small voluntary organisations have embraced digital tech over the last 18 months complement broader work around on how digital tools and approaches are used by the sector. We hope this supports both voluntary organisations’ and funders’ thinking about the role of tech – for their own organisations and the sector as a whole.

 

Annie Caffyn, Researcher at IVAR and Ellie Hale, Catalyst Producer at CAST

Summary of findings

Core Funding

1/7

Key points for small voluntary organisations (SVOs) and those who support them: 

 

  1. Covid-19 has forced small voluntary organisations to respond to change by using tech

  2. Everything now includes a digital or tech element – and many SVOs are leading the way

  3. We know digital is not always inclusive – how can we start to change that? 

Core Funding

2/7

Covid-19 has forced SVOs to respond to change by using tech

 

SVOs have come up with bold, creative and thoughtful ways to maintain contact with users digitally. They followed digital best practice in reusing what's out there, as well as testing and tweaking as they go. By responding in this way, SVOs have proven that digital is indeed possible – and sometimes even preferable.

Core Funding

3/7

How can I do this? 


  • Take time out to understand the existing digital habits and preferences of the people your organisation supports, as well as those of your own team. What devices and tools do they have access to and use already? How do they use them? What might they be comfortable with trying, given a little support?

  • Experiment with new tools and delivery models. Focus on the smallest, quickest or cheapest step you can take to test something new and see if it works for people. Take a look at what you already have that can be adapted. Follow best practice digital service design principles.

Core Funding

4/7

Everything now includes a digital/tech element - and many SVOs are leading the way

 

Many SVOs have been driving new practice around what inclusive, human connection-focused and responsible use of digital looks and feels like.

Core Funding

5/7

How can I do this? 

  • Be bold and experiment with new tech. Don’t wait for a global pandemic to try new things!

  • Set a clear objective for your tech project.

  • See whether a tech product that will meet your needs is already available. Unless you are doing something unusual, off-the-shelf will often give you what you need at a reasonable price. There are countless free tools you can reuse, many of which require no coding knowledge at all, and also other charities’ services you could repurpose.

  • Test, trial and pilot new tech before you implement it fully.

  • Reach out to other SVOs to seek advice and share learning about tech.

Core Funding

6/7

We know digital is not always inclusive – how can we start to change that? 

 

The pandemic has magnified the digital divide – SVOs have been trying to find ways of resourcing blended service models that offer choice and cater for a wide spectrum of digital access and confidence levels. While concerns over digital exclusion have led to some hesitancy over the use of tech, SVOs understand that achieving digital inclusion can unlock people’s access to a vast array of services and resources.

Core Funding

7/7

How can I do this? 

 

Core Funding

1/4

Key points for funders

 

Despite serious engagement and appetite to experiment with digital, many SVOs are facing ever-rising demand, as well as fatigue and anxiety about the future. They need to be resourced so that they can take the careful approach needed when introducing new tech.  

 

You can help by: 

  • Providing unrestricted funding

  • Supporting SVOs to adopt and adapt tech

  • Talking about tech and sharing knowledge

Core Funding

2/4

Provide unrestricted funding:

 

SVOs are embracing and experimenting with tech – this will require proper investment from funders. Flexible, unrestricted investment respects and supports the need for SVOs to respond to and resource change, in order to remain relevant and accessible to their users. Digital is no longer an add-on.

Core Funding

3/4

Support SVOs to adopt and adapt tech:   

 

For most SVOs, innovation is about adapting existing tech to improve their services – so, focusing on the simple and having realistic expectations about how most SVOS use and reuse tech is vital. Support SVOs to adapt existing tech, allowing them to focus on exploring how best to humanise tech and make sure it works for everyone.

Core Funding

4/4

Talk about tech and share knowledge: 

 

Funders can develop and share knowledge about tech and its use, and, where appropriate, help to stimulate SVOs to experiment more. Talking about specific examples of use is central to broadening the horizons of what's possible and appropriate in different contexts. Facilitating spaces for these conversations enables both SVOs and funders to learn and develop together.

With special thanks to arrow""

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With special thanks to

  • Integrate
  • Saving Lives
  • Chilli Studios
  • Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC)

    Case studies

    A woman looks at a app on her phone.

    01 June 2021

    How Chilli Studios were bold and experimented with tech

    Annie Caffyn, Chilli Studios


    Chilli Studios shared their story with us for our latest report Response to change: how small voluntary organisations are using tech.



    read-more read more

    Teenage boy in therapy session with counsellor.

    01 June 2021

    How RASASC embraced a blended service model using tech

    Annie Caffyn, RASASC North Wales


    RASASC shared their story with us for our latest report Response to change: how small voluntary organisations are using tech.



    read-more read more

    Saving Lives logo.

    01 June 2021

    How Saving Lives repurposed existing tech

    Annie Caffyn, Saving Lives


    Saving Lives shared their story with us for our latest report Response to change: how small voluntary organisations are using tech.



    read-more read more

    The front cover of Integrate UK booklet.

    01 June 2021

    How Integrate UK are working towards digital inclusion

    Annie Caffyn, Integrate UK


    Integrate UK shared their story with us for our latest report Response to change: how small voluntary organisations are using tech.



    read-more read more

    A short animation by Integrate and their service users. It was developed over Zoom, with short, socially distanced shoots in the summer to introduce the young people before they became animated versions of themselves.

    The report

    Response to change : how small voluntary organisations are using tech report cover.

    Publications:

    Response to change

    Ellie Hale CAST, Annie Caffyn, Chris Mills


    What began as a piece of research about ‘the use of technology’ has evolved into a study of how several small voluntary organisations (SVOs) responded to change, embracing technology as never before. This report includes pertinent messages for both SVOs and funders thinking about technology’s role in the sector and the next steps for embedding it in their approaches.

    quote

    Digital knits the whole thing together. It integrates all the various moving parts.

    We worked with the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST) to explore how SVOs responded to change and embraced tech through the upheaval and uncertainty of 2020.

    We found that SVOs are embracing tech through experimentation and innovation. While ‘everything now includes a digital element’, digital doesn’t yet include everyone.

    Our report include tips and advice for SVOs; stories of four SVOs embracing digital to respond to Covid; suggestions for how funders can support SVOs’ use of tech, including through unrestricted funding and greater recognition of the need for practical, developmental support; challenges facing both SVOs and funders.

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    Earlier findings

    Cover image

    Research reports:

    Start somewhere

    Annie Caffyn, Ellie Hale


    We worked with the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST) to explore the extent to which small voluntary organisations are able or willing to consider how technology might have a positive role to play in their work.

    Learn more about IVAR