Launching the Catalyst in Scotland

By John Fitzgerald on 25th Feb 2020

Last week we brought together a roomful of people at The Gathering to launch The Catalyst in Scotland. It was a great event with some thought-provoking reflections on where the sector could get to if we amplify the impact of our work by making proper use of digital.

There was lots of audience interaction in the session. This was deliberate – we want organisations and people to actively take part in the Catalyst. One question stopped me short though:

“What are you actually launching today?”

A brilliant question, and great that the questioner felt empowered to put it so directly. If you didn’t hear the answer to that question last week, this blog is for you.

What is Catalyst?

Ambition for the Catalyst

Catalyst is a charitable initiative which helps make sure voluntary and social change organisations are as fit as possible for a digital world. It’s incubated at CAST, the digital charity, but it has partners through the charitable, public and digital sectors. It’s going to be doing a number of things to build a stronger infrastructure to support charity workers across the whole of the UK. Starting with research, developing best practice, and putting together resources to help charities build digital skills.

Catalyst will be working with partners to develop training for charities interested in improving their digital skills, and to find ways for charity workers who are interested in digital to come together to share knowledge and support one another. And we will be identifying tools and services that will help charities make better use of digital technology. Catalyst is a new initiative, with a lot of projects under way, and we’re very keen to hear from charities what their primary needs are, so we can develop responses to meet them.

Yes, but what will actually happen in Scotland?

Great question. At SCVO, we’ve been supporting the voluntary sector to make better use of digital for over five years now so we’re not starting with a blank slate. We have some tried and tested resources that we’ll be continuing and scaling up. For example:

  • Our Digital Checkup, which around 300 charities have used to self-assess their digital capability. Around 80 charities have gone on to receive tailored one-to-one support to take their next steps.
  • Digital Roadshow events where people with a non-technical background can get a sense of what digital means and how they could make use of it in their organisation.
  • Mini accelerators’ – bringing together groups of charities with shared missions to identify ‘game-changing’ next steps that make a strategic difference in their area of work.
  • Topical workshops on a host of issues, from service design to database development, helping charities get ahead of the curve on key topics.

So expect to see much more of this – a wider range of topics, and reaching more charities in more parts of the country. Alongside Catalyst, we’ll also keep running our Senior Leaders Programme, offering intensive training and peer support to CEOs and Directors to help them become capable and confident digital leaders.

But Catalyst also gives us a chance to do much more with networks, and to grow the range of support available to charities. To build on this we’ll be looking to work with established geographical networks with partners such as TSIs, and thematic networks like groups of Carer’s Support organisations to multiply our impact.

And as we learn more about what specific support charities need in order to make strategic use of digital, we’ll be adapting and improving our programme. And later in the year, we’ll be putting the best bits of our training content together into an online learning programme so that charities can develop at their own pace.

How do I get involved?

  • Sign up to our e-bulletin and follow us on Twitter to hear about the roadshow events we will be running around the country in May and June. These events will give you and your team an overview of the potential of digital to enhance your impact. They’re an excellent starting point for your digital journey, and to get your colleagues excited about the way ahead.
  • Take the digital checkup anytime to benchmark your digital capability.
  • And send us an email if you have a specific request or idea about how to accelerate digital change across the sector.