The Gathering 2017

‘Do not fear the digital world, it will not kill us all’

Theophilus London

This week I had the opportunity to attend 2017’s ‘The Gathering’ hosted by the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO). Alongside the numerous third sector organisations (TSO’s) in attendance, there were a number of social enterprises and an extensive variety of information sessions, workshops and presentations, which really did resonate with me.

As I wandered around the exhibition between workshops, learning and mainly chatting (professionally, of course) to those in attendance, I noticed a common theme that was a significant focus among TSO’s today. And that was the revolution of the digital world. In a world increasingly ‘going digital’ from products and services, to impact reporting to funding opportunities, to name just a few, how does the ever changing and dynamic third sector evolve and keep up with their clients and communities digitally?

David McNeill, Digital Director of SCVO, posed the question ‘has the third sector evolved the way we deliver services to support individuals and communities in response to the digital world we live in?’ And from my experience I would say no, the sector has been quite slow in adopting the digital era, but from today’s event they are sure taking the steps to change this.

I attended OneDigital’s session on using digital tools effectively and it was a very practical set up. A little like speed dating with industry experts. With 18 tables of experts and only four half hour slots it was almost impossible to decide who you wanted to speak with, but they all provided you with what you wanted to know regarding their contribution to revolutionising the digital world in the third sector, and how this can support you and your organisation. It was exciting to see not only new software, but information databases, updated websites, streamlined search engines, even information regarding cyber security (highly debated among social enterprises, how safe is the cloud?), and these were great. But developing and providing better and more efficient systems is all well and good, so long as you have the technology acceptance of the staff…..

There was a brief mention of this and significant information regarding providing training, software and hardware, it was very inclusive of teaching the staff first, to then deliver to clients and the community too. But from previous research, a significant problem faced regarding anything digital is technology acceptance, it’s preconceived, and learned attitudes towards ‘all things digital’ that can have a significant negative impact on moving things forward. So, I’m not saying that what the sector is currently doing isn’t right; it’s influential just how far they have come, even just in the past year or so. But how do we address the culture, the attitudes and the guards that we know are already up?

The refreshing thing was to see just how many participants were in attendance at the digital sessions, showing the want to be more digital with their organisations but how can we ensure that this filters down effectively throughout the organisation?

In the coming years being digital will have a significant impact on third sector organisations, it will become a need for survival. You are unlikely to exist if you do not have a significant online presence, clients and communities need to have you right there, in their hands, for you to be noticed. And today’s event evidenced that there is significant support and commitment out there to help organisations do just that.

So as a social enterprise, voluntary organisation, charity, whoever you are in the third sector, are you ready to ‘go digital’? The help and support is there, but we need you on board. Let’s take the leap and continue to evolve the way in which we deliver services.

Melanie Liddell

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