A new hope

Happening, something wonderful is.

— by Chris on 10 June 2015 #digital #participation #platform #product #userneeds

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One month in, and things are starting to get exciting. In the very near future we’ll be launching a work-in-progress product for you to start exploring. We’ll post an online sign-up form for pilot users in due course, but if you want to register interest early then drop us a line at labs@scvo.org.uk.

In the meantime a lot of people have been asking us to elaborate on what it is we’re building. We don’t have a detailed specification for what things will look like in year or 18 months, so if that’s what you’re after then you’re in for a disappointment! What we do have is a candidate digital solution for an identified user need, which we are rapidly crafting into a minimum viable product. Where we go from there will be driven by repeated cycles of build, measure and learn.

In a nutshell

We’re building a place for people to share their stories about charities and good causes in Scotland.

Sounds awesome, tell me more

Scotland has a long and proud tradition of voluntary action, charitable giving and community engagement. And over the past year or so, we’ve seen a huge surge in civic participation and interest in our country’s future. SCVO has always stood up for charities and voluntary organisations, and this role at the heart of civil society isn’t going to change. All the same, we are but a hundred people in a country of 5.5 million - so if we want to shift our impact up a gear we also need to find new ways to help people and communities connect with each other and the causes they care about.

Make it digital

This is where digital comes in, and in particular platform thinking and open feedback.

Platform thinking is about taking a fresh look at how we operate, with a view to providing a supportive space where people and communities can connect, rather than trying to be directly involved in every individual connection. I had a conversation recently where someone described working across civil society to me as “like herding cats”. My response: perhaps it’s time to stop chasing the cats, and start looking after the park they’re playing in. In fact, let’s make it such an attractive park that ten times as many cats want to join in. Right here, in 2015, the internet is our park.

Open feedback isn’t new, but digital tools make it far easier for people to share their stories, celebrate success and change things for the better. Many of us regularly leave reviews or comments about things we’ve bought, places we’ve stayed or experiences we’ve had. Some of this happens on the big social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and the like), and some happens on topical platforms (for e.g. shopping, holidays or healthcare). Either way, many more of us find this feedback hugely valuable: it helps us to discover things we might like, and to make better decisions about what we do. Enabled properly, feedback is satisfying to share and a huge force for good.

Meeting user needs

Our early work on discovery suggests to us that there is an unmet user need for sharing topical feedback on experiences with charities and good causes. So we’re developing a platform where people who want to share their stories - anything from saying thanks for help given to a friend or relative, to suggesting better ways to improve the experience as a donor or trustee, and a million things in between - can do so quickly and easily. And because feedback is always more useful as part of a conversation, we’ll also be making it easy for people to respond - whether it’s a simple thank you, or a longer reflection on ways to improve.

That, for now, is about it.

We won’t know how to improve the proposition until we start testing it with real people. That bit will start in the very near future, so if you’d like to register interest then do get in touch.

Postscript: discipline is everything

It’s easy to dream up additional features (we have a whiteboard full of “wouldn’t it be cool if…” notes), but all of those are for another day, after a rigorous prioritisation against user needs. And although the basic proposition itself is simple enough, there’s been plenty of work to do behind the scenes to get the data and web infrastructure right, and we’re doing the hard stuff now to make things simple for users later on. Happily the bulk of this is nearly done, and alongside the upcoming call for pilot users we’ll also blog a bit about the technology that’s holding it all together.