Why we don’t need a charity digital code.

Today saw the announcement that a new charity digital code of practice is to be developed. Lots big names from the charity digital sector involved, significant funding (I assume) from Lloyds Banking Group and the Co-op Foundation.

There will be a consultation in the summer – digital/online? There will be versions for big and small organisations, it will set out good practice. It will make no difference to the majority of groups we at CCVS work with, or to the vast bulk of charities or community groups across England and Wales.

Look at who is involved

“The Charity Digital Code of Practice will be developed by a steering group of charity leaders (in consultation with the wider sector) including representatives from the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), The Small Charities Coalition, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Office for Civil Society, and the Charity Commission.”

I say as a critical friend, NO.

I say as a believer in the importance of small (my version) charities and community groups, NO.

I say as a local infrastructure organisation, NO.

Digital is important (See yesterday’s blog) I really believe that. I am not against the idea that we need to invest nationally in digital skills for charities and community groups, in fact the more investment the better! But I do not think that we need to spend money on this piece of work, that money would be better spent on useful things that will make a difference. So what do we need.

Firstly, some assumptions.

  1. Most local infrastructure organisations will have a pretty good idea of the needs in their area, after all most ask in one form or another (see our annual survey reports here )
  2. Most of those not engaging with digital do so though a lack of understanding or apathy (this was highlighted in the Lloyds report UK Business Digital Index)
  3. Many of those who want to do more don’t have the funding to do so even if they can see the benefits. Again it was in the Lloyds report and we know that.
  4. The best way to engage local groups is through local infrastructure. I am biased but it is true; and even more so for those groups that think that email is the highest form of digital worth bothering about.
  5. The big organisations (say income over £500,000) are big enough and have the resources to find their own solutions, even if it means engaging with their local infrastructure.

So what should be done?

  • Investment – lots of it at local level. To include
    • Grants for small groups to access tools and training
    • Investment in local infrastructure so they have the skills to help those in their area (does anyone else remember the SKILD programme run by NAVCA for development workers).
  • The development of free training tools and resources for groups to adapt and use. (This would be a great national product).
  • A bank of exemplar case studies for groups with no staff, low incomes etc.
  • Tools that were free to use for small organisations that replicate some the more expensive and useful tools.

If we are to get charities and community groups to embrace digital and benefit from it we will need to do two things. Give those that know a bit and want to learn the resources and skills to do it. Give those that don’t see digital as useful a set of compelling reasons why they need to change their mind, and then the skills and resources to act on it.

So YES, local exemplars to help change minds.

YES, more investment.

YES, more digital.

Let us build digital from the bottom up and not the top down.

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