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Chief Executive February Blog

Chief Executive Blog – Chris on Digital Skills

From the government, to the classroom teacher, everyone agrees that digital skills are vital for our future.

Whether you’re a child setting out on your education pathway, a university graduate about to step into the world of work, an entrepreneur, or a managing director, there’s a need to know how technology and data can be applied in the right way for a fast-paced world.

And that requirement is equally true of the voluntary sector..…so why are we seemingly lagging behind?

While it may not be true that every organisation in the sector battles with digital skill comprehension, we do know, from our regional research and from data collated nationally, that charities and voluntary organisations do feel somewhat left behind, uncertain – or out of their depth.

Last year, we asked the Community Action Suffolk network for their input into this question as part of our membership survey. What we found is that only 72 of 182 respondents felt entirely comfortable with their current management of digital activity – suggesting a level of anxiety about fulfilling their needs.

The issue is echoed in national statistics.

Charity Platform recently revealed the results of its Charity Digital Skills Report. In it, it says that over 50% of charities do not have any digital strategy at all (and that’s an increase on the figure 12 months previously).

Meanwhile, late last year, Lloyds Bank’s Charity Digital Index highlighted that many charities and voluntary organisations are missing out on reaching their audiences because of a lack of digital expertise.

Their figures suggest only 56% of organisations have the necessary skills to deliver as they need to.

So why, apart from the obvious issue of people feeling lacking in necessary skills, does this worry me so much?

Several reasons.

1 – We know that this is the way of the world and that to communicate digitally is crucial in a time-poor society

2 – The sector has ALWAYS needed to be articulating its message louder and more clearly, in order to get seen and noticed for its great work, so being able to do so in a modern efficient channel is obvious

3 – Recipients of our sector’s messages will sometimes be digitally proficient themselves, and in other cases, will not. We have to understand and tailor our approach to ensure we reach all parties in a way they can manage (and educate where possible)

4 – Perhaps the most important of all…..WE NEED HELP TO ACHIEVE DIGITAL UPSKILLING.

This latter point brings me on to a determined and impassioned plea to the Suffolk business community, to private businesses and to public sector organisations.

What the voluntary sector in this county needs – to enable it to deliver its great work in a time of more demand on its services than ever – is probono and generous tailored support in the digital area, from those who can impart skills and help organisations grow and communicate.

In Suffolk we are celebrated for some incredibly powerful and successful technology companies, and yet we can’t find ways of using these skills from within those organisations to help our VCSE members achieve their goals.

If you’re reading this and are part of such a private or publicly run business, then please, let me urge you to contact me and offer just a small proportion of your time to help our community of voluntary enterprises.

What I would also ask of any of you reading this today from within the sector, is to take just five short minutes to help us understand better what you really need to improve your digital skills.

For four weeks, we’ll be hosting a survey at the following link, which asks you what you want from any training, what gaps are obvious, and what you most vulnerable to.

Please take a look and complete the survey here

In the meantime, do by all means send your queries, or your pledges of support to me privately at chris.abraham@communityactionsuffolk.org.uk</