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How Chilli Studios were bold and experimented with tech

Chilli Studios shared their story with us for our latest report Response to change: how small voluntary organisations are using tech. Their case study shows how they use tech to monitor and evaluate the influence of their services. 


Chilli Studios aims to improve mental health through creativity. Based in Newcastle, they deliver services to people experiencing mental health difficulties and other forms of social exclusion: ‘We’re community focused… Art is the central tool but it’s about bringing people together and creating a strong community of support through creative activities… people get to a better place and form better relationships and have hope’.

Alongside developing a podcast and a wellbeing subscription inbox during Covid-19, Chilli has continued using technology to improve how they monitor and evaluate the influence of their services. At the outset, their objective was clear: ‘We wanted to develop a sense of whether we’re making a difference in people’s lives, and to some extent prove it’. Pre-Covid, they began to consider options for gathering data on how their users were experiencing their services and programmes.

Working with an IT specialist, they developed an app for service users to record their mental health and how they experience the service. This data is then fed into their existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database. ‘We wanted to see how well people are progressing. For example, with creative writing [classes], are they showing improvements in their wellbeing? Not just saying ‘it’s good’ or ‘bad’, but to give us a sense of the benefits and its value. Then with that data, you can consider how to improve things and measure those improvements, and articulate that to funders’.

Each service user enters data into the app which is linked to their individual membership data on the CRM database, making data collection easier. While a small number of service users may show resistance to using the app and others will take time becoming comfortable with it, they are sure the app will become part of their everyday life.

The app will make a big difference to Chilli, helping them to understand how their services make a difference in the lives of their service users. Chilli also feels more confident about the future as the app is ‘making us ready for the future and the different kinds of needs we’ll have’.

What can other SVOs learn from Chilli Studios’ experience? ‘We have lots of big ideas… We could be throwing money into something that is a waste of time. So, my advice would probably be understanding what the need really is and researching it first’; ‘Collect in a simpler and often more powerful way.’


Response to change 

We’ve collated the findings from our report on our key insights page here, as well as links to download the full report. Visit it to find tips and advice for SVOs; more stories of SVOs embracing digital as a response to Covid; suggestions for how funders can support the use of tech, and challenges facing both SVOs and funders. 

Image credit: Meghan Schiereck on Unsplash

How Integrate UK are working towards digital inclusion

Integrate UK shared their story with us for our latest report Response to change: how small voluntary organisations are using tech. Their case study demonstrated how they have used tech to bring young people together virtually and creatively during Covid. 


Integrate is a youth-led charity based in Bristol. They aim to empower young people to actively transform the society they live in and to take an equal role in a cohesive and representative society. Topics the young people work on include racism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual harassment, extremism and homophobia. Tech is embedded into their work at Integrate; ‘Tech plays a huge role in opening access… It’s using all these tools to discuss sensitive, deeply engrained topics and empowering young people’.

Lockdown exacerbated inequalities: ‘Children we work with are faced with multiple socio-economic challenges as well as other challenges’. Some of the young people they work with didn’t have access to IT equipment: ‘We managed to secure a grant for 17 digital kits so that those young people who didn’t have equipment were able to engage’. Not only did the equipment help young people with their school education, but it also opened up access to an array of resources and services that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

Knowing that young people had internet access, Integrate then offered a range of online activities. For example, weekly pastoral calls, online music recordings, adapting their school workshops to be delivered online, and online creative workshops. Integrate also launched a tutoring scheme: ‘We found university students and matched them up with young people’. One participant went from a 4 to a 9 (D to a high A*) and another went up two sets.

Integrate is seeing significant benefits from greater digital inclusion. Delivering their services online has enabled them to continue bringing young people together from different backgrounds: ‘Relationships form between the young people – from opposite ends of town, different races and backgrounds – all meeting on zoom as if they were old friends’.


A short animation by Integrate UK 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.

Knowing that they can overcome digital exclusion, Integrate plans to sustain the use of tech: ‘We will continue using Zoom as this means the workshops are more accessible to those who can’t come to the centre. There will now be the option of both: to join remotely or join the workshop in person. We’ve become more familiar and accustomed to using online platforms – that will never disappear’.


Response to change 

We’ve collated the findings from our report on our key insights page here, as well as links to download the full report. Visit it to find tips and advice for SVOs; more stories of SVOs embracing digital as a response to Covid; suggestions for how funders can support the use of tech, and challenges facing both SVOs and funders. 

How RASASC embraced a blended service model using tech

Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) North Wales shared their story with us for our latest report Response to change: how small voluntary organisations are using tech. Their case study shows how a blended service model supported their service users; they also share their plans for using digital to improve their reach.


RASASC is a support centre for victims of rape and sexual abuse. The charity offers specialist therapy, counselling and support to people who have experienced sexual abuse. The organisation has been running for over 35 years, with its main office based in Bangor and counselling outreach centres located across the whole of North Wales.

Before Covid-19, RASASC started piloting an online counselling service. North Wales is a large area with limited transport connectivity, so providing an online option helped RASASC reach more people. When Covid-19 restrictions were put in place, they continued developing their service, which included email support and online counselling. Although referral rates dropped at the beginning, it offered another access point for service users and limited possible disruptions to the therapeutic process’. RASASC sourced additional training and supervision for staff members to ensure that services could continue safely online.

Some of RASASC’s service users were initially reluctant to go online: ‘A lot of our clients deferred and wanted to wait for face-to-face again. Those who wanted to go online did and data suggests that they still experienced therapeutic benefits as those who accessed therapy face-to-face. Clients also reported that they benefitted therapeutically from our online therapeutic intervention. We then contacted those that had deferred after two months and most came back as they realised they wouldn’t be able to continue with face-to-face for some time – they also reported the positive benefits of RASASC online therapeutic intervention.’

At the same time, RASASC was aware of the limitations of online services. Not everyone in the region has the necessary computers and webcams at home, and some lack broadband and Wi-Fi access. There were also safeguarding issues to consider: ‘We had to stop our children’s work as it wasn’t ethical to continue working online with young children. We had to source funding to reconfigure our centre so we could continue face-to-face services with children and high-risk clients in a safe manner’.

A therapy room at RASASC North Wales.

A therapy room at RASASC North Wales.

RASASC plans to continue to offer both, with face-to-face delivery in the future: ‘We’ll be offering choice to clients moving forward, acknowledging the fact that both online and face-to-face delivery of services is of benefit for the organisation and, most importantly, our clients’. They are also challenging themselves to improve their services further by exploring online group therapy. In addition, they are looking at how they can use social media and online services to reach the hard-to-reach and marginalised survivors, such as male, LGBT and disabled clients.

Overall, RASASC has realised that digital has to go hand-in-hand with face-to-face service delivery: They have to coexist together’.


Response to change 

We’ve collated the findings from our report on our key insights page here, as well as links to download the full report. Visit it to find tips and advice for SVOs; more stories of SVOs embracing digital as a response to Covid; suggestions for how funders can support the use of tech, and challenges facing both SVOs and funders. 

Image credit: Christin Hume on Unsplash 

How Saving Lives repurposed existing tech

Saving Lives shared their story with us for our latest report Response to change: how small voluntary organisations are using tech. Their case study shows how they repurposed their existing software to cater for a new need. 


Savings Lives is a national charity based in Birmingham, with an income of less than £0.5m in 2019. The charity aims to provide easy testing for blood-borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis. They aim to reduce the stigma around these tests and ensure the testing process is as uncomplicated as possible; ‘Tech is short circuiting the stigma and bringing accessibility’.

Saving Lives developed a software and database system that enabled service users to request a blood test kit online which is then delivered by post. The system manages all incoming tests, processes test results and delivers the test outcome to the service user. The software provides efficient and effective end-to-end management of the testing process.

When Covid-19 emerged, Saving Lives quickly realised that their software and database system could be repurposed to manage Covid testing programmes. ‘We had created a system for requesting postal tests and then delivering the results. The laboratory we worked with deals with public health issues. We repurposed the system to deliver their Covid screening programme. They needed something quick that they knew already worked with their lab systems. We flipped and moved quickly into that size of a thing… So, we’re a sexual health and blood-borne virus charity, but in the context of the pandemic, we switched to respiratory virus work in the context of Covid. It kept us busy but, at the same time, sexual health clinics have closed so some of our clients have increased their [online] tests 10 fold’.

Saving Lives found that the system they had developed for their own needs could be adapted to become an off-the-shelf system for someone else, exceeding their expectations of the software’s usefulness. ‘Our experience demonstrates that if you build a system to do a specific thing, it’s likely it will also be helpful for other things that are similar’. For the labs, the Saving Lives product was an established solution and was effective enough to run their Covid testing programmes: ‘We didn’t build a system that only did what we wanted it to do. We built a system that could do what other people might want it to do as well. It’s not a Swiss army knife, but it can be built in a variety of shapes’.



Response to change 

We’ve collated the findings from our report on our key insights page here, as well as links to download the full report. Visit it to find tips and advice for SVOs; more stories of SVOs embracing digital as a response to Covid; suggestions for how funders can support the use of tech, and challenges facing both SVOs and funders.