You may have seen SCVO’s Digital Call to Action in the news recently, which aims to get the Scottish voluntary sector behind the aim of going digital first.  We asked Sally Dyson, Head of Digital Participation at SCVO, to tell us more about it the Digital Call to Action and the One Digital programme, where it was developed. 

  1. For those who don’t know, can you tell us a bit more about what one #onedigital is?

In Scotland One Digital is a test and learn project to help understand how to make a significant and sustainable improvement in the Basic Digital Skills of the people most in need.  Our project has spanned three areas of activity:

Making digital everyday – training, support and guidance to help those working and volunteering in third sector organisations to embed passing basic digital skills on – digital participation

Making digital work – training, support and information to help organisations make the most effective use of digital across their organisations – digital evolution

Action Learning Sets for Senior Leaders in the third sector – a process for small groups of CEOs and Senior Leaders to work together, drawing from expertise from each other, the facilitator and the wider support team to have the confidence, skills and resources to lead their organisation in its digital journey.

This activity is part of a wider Big Lottery Funded test and learn One Digital programme, which has been developed by a consortium of organisations including SCVO, Digital Unite, Age UK and Citizens Online.

  1. Why do you think digital is important for the charity sector? What do you see as the main opportunities and risks?

The way in which people expect services to be delivered across all elements of life has changed dramatically in recent years.  Access to information, advice, support and services round the clock are becoming the norm.  The way in which many people expect to be able to engage with a range of organisations has changed.  Slick processes such as those offered by supermarkets, eBay and Amazon are changing people’s expectations in all aspects of life.  Charities and other third sector organisations are not exempt from this.  Why should researching and booking a holiday be easier to do than researching symptoms and advice about a particular illness?  In some respects shouldn’t the latter be easier and more accessible?

Third sector organisations are operating in an environment of continued and increased scrutiny with less capacity and resources to support people with increasingly complex problems.  This stretched landscape could be seen as reasons to entrench – what enlightened organisations are doing is taking this as an opportunity to look for new solutions.

  1. Can you tell us more about how #onedigital has progressed to date?

#OneDigital has been on a massive learning curve.  In its 9 month delivery phase it has delivered:

  • 21 Making digital everyday sessions to 405 organisations
  • 29 Making digital work sessions to 265 organisations
  • 3 Action Learning Sets to 20 Chief Executives & Senior Leaders.
  1. What was the Digital Call to Action and what was the response like?

The Digital Call to Action was created by the Chief Executives and Leaders who participated in our first three #OneDigital Action Learning Sets.  Recognising that the culture change demanded by digital technologies isn’t one which a single sector can undertake in isolation, it calls on key stakeholders to work together to create a ‘Digitally Confident Third Sector in Scotland’.

A number of themes developed within the call alongside a recognition that the sector has to ‘do things differently’ in recognition of the changed world we now live and work in. Effective leadership is the starting point from which four further themes flow:

  • Digital Culture – which is about understanding that change is about people not technology.
  • Service Delivery – focusing on service users and beneficiaries being at the heart of everything that organisations do – but really understanding what types of services and support are needed and how people want to access those services in a digital world.
  • Data Driven – collecting the right data and using it all the time to inform the way in which organisations work
  • Flexible Technology – moving away from bespoke and ‘big IT’ to being confident about cloud and the plethora of free web based tools which can be used now instead of legacy systems.

The Call to Action has really struck a chord.  It was launched at an unconference on 2 November to an audience of 100 Chief Executives and Senior Leaders. Funders and OSCR (Scotland’s Charity Regulator) were also represented. There was a huge amount of discussion around the opportunities and challenges – as well as how to overcome them. Crucially, people did focus on the strategic issues, rather than getting overly caught up in the practicalities related to fundraising and marketing which can often dominate digital discussion in the third sector. All the leaders took away practical ideas to enable them to support their leadership and begin or continue their organisational journeys.

  1. What would you like to see happen next?

The ‘Call’ asks for Leaders to work together to create a digitally confident third sector in Scotland.  There are three audiences identified to do that with specific asks of them all. Representatives of OSCR and Big Lottery Fund have stepped up and agreed to deliver on their asks over the next twelve months. We’d hope to see more interest in the sector from a new audience of trustees and Chief Executives interested in doing things differently in a digital world.

The specific asks were:

Charity trustees, chief executives and other third sector leaders

  • Ensure that you have the knowledge you need to drive digital change and engage in networks to support your professional development
  • Understand the digital skills of your staff, volunteers and end users and invest in training and support to development.


  • Encourage charities to recruit a trustee to their board who understands digital and can support organisational change
  • Highlight best practice in digital adoption in charities to inspire and motivate other organisations


  • Make explicit statements about the importance of digital and advocate for consideration of a digital approach in the work you fund
  • Train grants officers to understand how to assess and evaluate digital initiatives

At the launch of the Call do Action we were really clear that we would be working with these groups over the next year to help them to make the asks a reality and to report back and to create a second call to action towards the end of 2017 with more challenging asks.

  1. What do you think the charity sector in England and Wales can learn from #onedigital?

Effective leadership is crucial to ensure the sector is fit-for-purpose in a digital world.

Leaders need to understand that the opportunities provided by new technology and the internet extend beyond fundraising and marketing. It is not simply about having a good website, making an app or using social media effectively. This is about the sector understanding that the world has changed massively in recent years and they probably shouldn’t be delivering services in the same way as they did 10 years ago.

Leaders do not need to be digital experts to drive change. They do need to understand the opportunities and challenges and be confident in challenging the status quo, redesigning services and changing the way they work. They will also need to explore what skills they need in the workforce to deliver the change that staff and service users want to see.

Peer support is important. We can bring in experts to support us with different aspects of digital change, but fundamentally this is about organisational change and culture. There is no single roadmap and sharing success and frustration with peers can help along that journey.