Examining Digital Innovation and Collaboration in the Third Sector
This Wednesday, SCVO organised a Digital Innovation event. As one of SCVO’s developers, I was asked to sit in and share my thoughts on the event.
Our world has started to change very quickly, this change brings with it challenges. In order to use technology effectively, modern organisations not only need find resources to implement this technology, it also changes so quickly, that this is increasingly an ongoing task, rather than a one-time problem.
Young Scot work with people aged 11-26 to give them information to help at key points in their lives. Young people are early adopters when it comes to social media so it’s vital that Young Scot keep up to date. They have created an impressive and fast-developing platform to utilise the newest apps to engage with their audience. New social media apps come out often, and their platform needs to stay up to date. They’ve hired an agency to provide ongoing development of the platform.
When asked if they had considered hiring their own developers, Kirsten Urquhart from Young Scot replied that they’d thought of it, but that hiring developers has the problem of continuity. Developers write their own code, occasionally badly, and this can make it hard for a new developer to pick up the project. An agency like the one they use provides the continuity they need, although it does mean they potentially lose greater agility from an in-house team.
What followed was a discussion on how we might work to improve collaboration and sharing of resources, and some of the tools available to do this. We talked a bit about OneDigital, a collaboration between a number of organisations (including SCVO) trying to spread digital learning between staff and users in the Third Sector across the UK. We also had a look at the Technology Trust which provides massively discounted big-name software for Third Sector organisations. Finally, we looked at CITA, an organisation who provides Digital advice, support and volunteers to help organisations with their IT and Digital issues.
It was noted that there is a tendency to think about how to develop software for one’s own organisation, but increasingly collaboration is the way forward. It would be good if rather than many organisations finding their own solution, increasingly, organisations share the burden, making software which works for numerous organisations. For example, housing associations all do similar work, is there a way we could provide software which works for all of them, but is customisable to individual needs?
Harvey Wheaton from Code Clan gave a presentation on their work. They have been funded by the Scottish Government to train up software developers from scratch. We talked to a couple of their alumni, who had written a simple, but fully working online version of the dice game “Bang!” as a two-week project. They weren’t from any sort of development field whatsoever initially, but had clearly learned a lot in the previous few weeks. There are quite a few new developers coming out of Code Clan, and Harvey wondered if there was any way that we could bring their resources and our problems together.
We explored the idea of a prospective solution, a new type of collaboration for digital development. The aim would be to utilise the many young developers coming out of places like Code Clan and universities. Developers could pick up innovative projects from Third Sector organisations, with a particular eye to projects which could help numerous different organisations. The developers would publish this code as open source, and be encouraging of other organisations to re-use and add to the code. Continuity would be helped by using shared technology, standards and codes of practice, and a few long-term senior developers provided code review.
It’s an exciting idea, and I’m very interested to see where it goes!