DigiShifting gears

By John Fitzgerald on 3rd Sep 2020

SCVO Digital and Third Sector Lab have run 34 DigiShift calls since late March, reaching well over 2,000 organisations. We knew demand for advice and expertise on digital topics would be strong as lockdown hit. But we had no idea just how many people would take part, and how quickly charities would run with new techniques and services. 

We spent much of the spring and early summer working in a very agile way, rapidly responding to needs as they came up and trying lots of new ideas in a short space of time. Here are some things we have tested and learned along the way. 

  1. Being open is great, but registration is important. 
Graph showing Google trends with search for Zoombombing rising sharply from zero to 100 around 12th April
        then gradually tailing off to low numbers in July and August.

For about a week and a half in late March, open Zoom meetings were OK. Then as the world got onto Zoom, we needed to keep out the mischief-makers. We found a simple email registration system worked fine. It also gave us a way of letting people know about our future call topics. 

  1. There’s an amazing (and generous) community of digital experts out there 

I’ve been consistently amazed at the willingness of digital experts to come on our DigiShift calls and share their expertise with the wider community – for free! Another angle to this is the way that organisations have moved from being hesitant to supremely confident about digital ways of working. More on that in Maddie’s recent blog. Before March, no-one was an expert in digitising charity services in the midst of a pandemic. Now, thousands of people have that expertise and are continuing to learn and improve. 

  1. Seeing people’s faces is important 

One week we switched to a ‘webinar’ format as this helped us with some admin processes. This went down like a lead balloon! Using a formal webinar was much more of a one-way broadcast format. It turned out that our DigiShift community really valued seeing one another’s faces. 

  1. Save it for the Q & A 

Although our DigiShift speakers brought huge amounts of expertise, the calls that seemed to go really well had quite short introductions. This meant that the call participants had a nice long Q&A session to go into depth about the topics they found most relevant. 

  1. Accessibility 

One challenge we had right through the DigiShift process is that live video meetings are not the most accessible format. We’ve tried to make good use of in-meeting chat to help keep people on board. And we came up with the DigiListen podcast to share highlights from the calls with a wider audience. We’ve also been experimenting with live subtitling from MyClearText. In the months ahead, we’ll be thinking more about how to bring the DigiShift experience to people who weren’t with us ‘live’ between March and August this year. 

What’s coming next? 

Organisations involved in DigiShift have come a huge distance in just a few months. We’re now spending time looking at more in-depth resources to help them make lasting changes. On 24 September, we’ll be having a reflective call where we look at the top 15 Things voluntary sector organisations need to do to get ahead with digital.

If you’re after some in-depth support, check out our own How To guidesThe Curve training from Third Sector Lab and Service Recipes from The Catalyst. To give us some time and space to work on these, we’ll be spacing out our DigiShift calls to fortnightly from October, then one per month. We’ll also be pausing our live subtitling for now, and thinking more about the best ways of making our content accessible to a wide audience. 

If you think of anything you’d like to see in the next few months, please let us know digital@scvo.org.uk