While I was attending and presenting at the UK nonprofits technology conference Pathways to success yesterday, the UK government announced the invitation to bid for a £1.2 million programme to help third sector organisations innovate by exchanging experience online and off. This further fuelled coffee-time conversations about what might be needed to support any technology-related change. General conclusion: culture shift before tech adoption ... so keep it simple, small steps, focussed on real needs.
The conference was organised by the ICT Hub, which is one of six hubs funded by government under the ChangeUp programme. Others cover finance, governance, performance, volunteering, and workforce.
There were great workshops in the morning, and as the day went on I rather regretted agreeing to keynote after lunch on the role of social media. As I said in my presentation, I much prefer workshops, and chatting in groups, to from-the-podium presentation. More in line with the conversational benefits of social media too.
Anyway, you can see the presentation here, and come the time I enjoyed giving it. I'm not entirely sure how it went down with the audience, because there was such a wide range of experience in the room - some people familiar with blogs, wikis, social networks and so on, and others much less aware.
One of the slides was an update on this post which asked Are you Yes 2.0 or No 2.0 ...
- A human voice
- Willing to share
- Open source thinking
- Share responsibility
- Basics covered
- Ready to experiment
- Tell good stories
- Official voice
- Anxious to control
- We own it
- Central vetting
- Audience not online
- Unwilling to invest time
- Publish reports
.... the point being that if were No 2.0 then you probably wouldn't get on with social media. One chief exec who was present responded by saying that she want to be Yes 2.0, but the climate in which she and her organisation operated meant she has to compete for funding, keep tight control on operation, doesn't have any slack, and has to satisfy a not-Web 2.0 set of interests. It provided a very honest reality check.
I had based some of my presentation on the excellent Third Sector Foresight report on how nonpropfits can best use social media and social networking, which was helpfully available on people's seats. At the end of the conference I was able to bring together report author Megan Griffith with Head of the ICT hub, Nicola Thompson, and Paul Webster, who works on ICT support at the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action.
I asked them how - from different local, national and future perspectives - they saw nonprofit use of social media. They all reckoned there was great potential, but as Megan in particular emphasised the challenges will come as senior staff in organisations consider how far they want to control messages centrally, and how collaborative they can be in a competitive environment. Nicola and Paul said that many organisation were still struggling with the basics - though they could make progress once this was fixed and they saw the benefits. Click the thumbnail to play in Quicktime, or here at Google video.
This led me to think more about the proposed Innovation Exchange, which ties in with the Government's desire to see third sector organisations delivering more public services, set out last December in a Cabinet Office action plan. The invitation to tender summarises the requirement:
The innovation exchange will pilot new approaches to fostering, exchanging and replicating third sector innovation, ensuring that public services benefit from the approaches they pioneer. The innovation exchange will seek to connect innovators to one another, to those who might benefit from their work, including public service, commissioners and third sector organisation, and others who might invest in their work.
It goes on to explain:
The innovation exchange will be set the following objectives: (i) Enable third sector innovators to identify possible collaborators, build networks and come together to engage in collaborative development work. (ii) Bring together third sector innovators and those who might benefit from their work to develop and prototype innovations. (iii) Support the best innovations to develop their work and to grow or to spread their innovations to other areas and organisations. (iv) Help third sector innovators to access the investments they need to support their work. (v) Develop learning on how to achieve(i) to (iv) and help generate a momentum for enhancing the role of third sector organisations as catalysts in public service improvement.
It looks as if, for the Innovation Exchange to succeed on and offline, it will have to overcome exactly those cultural barriers I heard much about in conversations at the conference. It assumes that third sector innovators are naturally keen to collaborate - and move from No 2.0 into Yes 2.0. I'm sceptical. Individuals - like the chief exec who spoke - may well be, but the current third sector climate is against them. Prior-to-contract issue for the Cabinet Office: what innovative changes might be needed in funding and other procedures to help create a more innovative environment.
(P.S. - nothing's perfect. Who wants to develop a consortium bid?)