A radical new UK collaborative has launched today (Thursday 11 July 2019) in response to the clear call from civil society groups to increase and improve their use of digital tools and techniques.

Catalyst– incubated by the Centre of Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST) – is a partnership between major foundations, digital design agencies, civil society bodies and the UK Government. It has been created with the aim of revolutionising how we tackle social and environmental issues in the UK by enabling voluntary organisations to adapt to our digital world and make better use of technology.

The collaborative is backed by a network of founding partners – the National Lottery Community Fund, Comic Relief, Esmée Fairbairn, City Bridge Trust and Paul Hamlyn Foundation – that are supporting the project with an initial investment of £3.5m over two years. This will support voluntary sector organisations to embed user research in their service design, develop strong digital understanding among their leaders, access trusted digital skills and expertise, and develop new products and services.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is one of many voluntary sector umbrella organisations involved in the network alongside counterparts from all over the UK. Sally Dyson, Head of Digital and Programmes at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) said: “Our ‘Call to Action to Create a Digitally Confident Third Sector’ inspired hundreds of charities to explore and respond to the benefits digital technologies can bring. SCVO is delighted to be part of Catalyst and work collaboratively to strengthen the digital progress of many more organisations and transform the voluntary sector in Scotland.

“We’re fully aware that charities are regularly being asked to do more with less. Increasing the appropriate use of digital knowledge and technologies can help reimagine how people are supported and importantly free up time and resource to work face-to-face with those who need it most.”

According to the 2019 Charity Digital Skills report, 52% of charities have no digital strategy despite 62% believing that digital skills could help them develop better services. Research by SCVO’s own digital team through their engagement with more than 100 sector leaders highlights that digital leadership isn’t just about using new technology, it’s about understanding people’s changed expectations and responding to these in an innovative way. Their work has shown that change requires workforce skills development, new ways of working, courage to stop doing some things and the enthusiasm and energy to take risks.

The Catalyst is open to all charities with a turnover of more than £100,000 and will focus on organisations looking to use digital tools and techniques to transform their services, strategy or culture. As the network evolves, it plans to galvanise a sustainable and collaborative cross-sector network to drive sector change, increase the quality and uptake of tools and support, and scale up the delivery of digital training, leadership and service design programmes.