Reflections from a makeshift office

By Maddie Stark on 19th Aug 2020

SCVO Director of Development David McNeill recently wrote:

We know the sector has been ‘Never More Needed'. Now is an opportunity to ‘build back better’ and not return to the status quo.

Now is an excellent time for us all to pause, take stock and appreciate how far we have come. It is an opportunity to embed and consolidate your recent super-fast progress, look at what worked and what didn’t, consider what you will keep.

SCVO and Third Sector Lab recently hosted our 28th DigiShift call in three months. Our guest speaker was Gareth Ford-Williams, Head of User Experience Design and Accessibility at The BBC. Gareth covered a wide range of accessibility issues, including some more technical points involving coding.

Our audience was very engaged and it really struck me that, if this session had been delivered in February at The Gathering, the fear and lack of understanding about the more technical aspects would have had people running for the hills. The topic would have ironically felt inaccessible to most of the audience. The session would have bombed and we would have alienated many of you!

After Gareth had finished, the community were asked to highlight the biggest things they had done to help make their services more accessible since lockdown. Responses came flooding in through the chat box with the main theme being ‘not much - we moved our service online’.

Pre-pandemic, the idea of possibly moving even a few parts of service delivery online, never mind the whole lot, was the stuff of nightmares for many a charity CEO. Now here were people talking about it like it had been no major feat!

As a result of the pandemic, responses showed that digital service delivery is no longer the stuff of nightmares but was, in the main, far less difficult than you ever thought and has in fact helped to make your services more accessible.

At the same time, we’ve seen service users get used to digital channels really quickly. A wake-up call for some organisations. Many people now expect some kind of digital provision as a default – if some charities can do it, why can’t the others?

It is clear that you and your organisation are now in a much better position to figure out what it is that you don’t know; you are better placed to decide if you need to know it; and you are able to confidently ask questions to find out more about moving your services online.

Reflecting on this dramatic change, it has been really inspiring to see voluntary organisations reach new standards of capability and set your sights even higher.

A small word of caution though. We should all keep in mind that we've undertaken this dramatic change rapidly and in a context of crisis. In the months to come, many voluntary organisations are facing a triple whammy: loss of income, challenges to their operating model, and a massive peak in demand for their services. Any digital changes must deliver real and immediate value if they are to be adopted.

As David said the sector is ‘Never More Needed'. Now is an opportunity to ‘build back better’ and not return to the status quo.

Book some time in your diary now for some retrospection with your team. Here’s what to put in your agenda.

Retrospection meeting - to celebrate our recent super-fast progress

  • look at and celebrate what worked
  • identify what didn’t work – does it need modified or thrown out
  • embed and consolidate (consider what we will keep and plan how we will hone it)
  • plan how we will involve service users in further development
  • celebrate how we have come through a time of global crisis