Yesterday's Foresight seminar on new technologies - lets keep talking!

Yesterday we re-started our popular series of Foresight seminars with a seminar which explored the impact of new technologies on the VCS. It was a well attended event with over 40 participants. This was just right for the interactive format we used and according to the feedback we've received, seems to have gone down well. Some of the participants have been already putting into practice some of the issues we discussed on the day via their own blogs - see Paul Henderson from Ruralnet's I-see-T developments blog.

As well as an overview from Megan of how new technologies may change the way individuals and organisations behave in the future, we had a panel of 5 ICT experts who discussed the impact and importance of new technologies on 5 different areas for the VCS:

The speakers then joined the participants to discuss the topics further. We used an informal rotating format, which I think kept everyone awake as they moved around according to the topic they wanted to discuss! Participants discussed the implications of new technologies for these areas of the VCS, thinking about the opportunities and risks for their organisation.

Membership - Some of the main opportunities and challenges discussed around membership were the changing structures, stages and nature of membership, what this means for organisational models and what members get out of it. What is the point of membership in this new virtual world of new technologies?

Collaboration - We also discussed how new technologies can best facilitate collaboration between organisations. There are clear advantages to using technology to collaborate with partners but people aren't using them due to fears of being open and concerns around information ownership. Technical know-how is also still a problem.

Campaigning- There was a lot of discussion around the ways in which collaboration can be harnessed to achieve successful campaigns. The possibility of the potential to reach, not only more, but different people and also some of the difficulties for organisations in letting go of their campaigns and allowing users and partners to develop their own conversations. However, the mainstream media are still important in raising awareness even if issues gain momentum via new technologies.

Transparency - In relation to transparency and accountability, we discussed some of the risks around reputation management and losing control of your message. Organisations are now much more visible so how can VCOs manage this? How can new technologies be used to improve the information you share about your organisation i.e. video clips?

Fundraising - We also discussed the ways in which fundraising could change as new technology allows donors to become more engaged with VCOs – at times actually doing the fundraising themselves and through peer to peer fundraising. Therefore throwing up the possibility for organisations to reach a wider range of people. One major challenge discussed was the difficulty for the non-sexy charities to get out their message out there but then also the benefits for them of the longtail and the opportunities that online communities have created for smaller more niche organisations.

A couple of final overall points mentioned during the day were: lets make sure we don't forget the tools we've already been using successfully. And new technology needs to be used for a reason; VCOs must be strategic in the way they do this.

Of course the discussion was very varied and wide-ranging and there are many more issues that came up around the use of new technologies in the VCS, so I would like to encourage you all to please use this space to continue all the interesting and stimulating discussions you were having but couldn't finish in the 2 and a half hours! Pick up on some of the points of discussion I've highlighted above or add new ideas.

We will also be producing a seminar report of the day in a couple of weeks, which will be especially useful to anyone who couldn't attend. This will summarise the main discussions, drawing out the key implications of new technologies for the VCS with some practical tips of how to maximise opportunities and overcome some of the challenges.

Last updated at 15:08 Mon 18/May/09.
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Dave's picture



It sounds like a fascinating seminar. Is Paul right in saying it’s the last one? Shame!

I’ve always thought that one of the risks of Web 2 (how I hate that term) to existing membership organisations is the ease of bootstrapping new communities and groups.

In particular I’m thinking of Facebook groups and Pledgebank. Does anyone have any stories about harnessing these two?

Megan 's picture


Third Sector Foresight

Hi Dave
It was unfortunately the last meeting of the panel which was formed for the ICT Foresight project. Funded by the ICT Hub and initially also by the Vodafone UK Foundation, the panel have collaborated on four ICT Foresight reports (two published and two on their way) but as with everything, the funding has come to an end so we’re winding down. However, a really strong and committed network of people have emerged and we’re thinking about ways of carrying on the work in some other form and working together in different ways.

On another point, what do you mean by bootstrapping???

Megan 's picture


Third Sector Foresight

PS Meant to say that its not the last in our series of seminars. The next one looks at the future of citizenship in January and then we’re exploring migration in March.

Dave's picture



I understand bootstrap to mean set up and grow an organisation without using large amounts of external help or going through traditional institutions.

For example, the Open Rights Group first raised income through PledgeBank, rather than applying to traditional external funds. Of course, one of the reasons that worked for them is that their natually supporter base is technically-literate.

Megan 's picture


Third Sector Foresight

Ah yes, I use the open rights group as an example of the long tail working, and pledgebank as a type of new online organisation dedicated to bringing together these new groups/communities of interest. It’s true that their natural supporter base is likely to be experimenting with the new sites, but presumably it will broaden out over time.

Karl's picture


Third Sector Foresight

My personal opinion is that there is much more to do around thinking about ICT will change the sector. I find it quite disappointing that so much discussion tends to be around back-office support or, where it is about the wider environment, how we can use websites to get people to click to give.

The focus needs to broaden so that we think about how ICT is changing the institutions and communities around us: this then leads to a focus on what the sector can strategically plan for. The other part of my rant is that we are still hearing all the time that the cost of kit is a huge barrier. It’s not, or it is if you have a PC-centric view of the world.

I would love to see someone produce a vision of what their organisation would look like in 5 years time if it responded to some of the ways in which people are now using new technologies to communicate and collaborate!

Hi Karl

Just seen this after writing this:

Email’s broke and it ain’t worth fixing

OK – it’s not a whole vision but I think we are getting there.

I think we now need to revisit the processes we are wanting to encourage and refine . . . more later!

Natalie's picture


Third Sector Foresight

The report for this seminar is available to read online or download as a PDF here

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