“I think we may have reached peak transformation,” Jo Wolfe, assistant director of digital at Breast Cancer Care, said on stage last week at the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology.
“Yes, we need a response to digital in charities, but change can be more gradual. It needs to be sustainable, meaningful and long-lasting, because there are so many people who rely on us.”
Wolfe is one of the growing number of advocates of “digital maturity”, an idea touted by author of The New Reality, Julie Dodd, as an alternative to “big bang” IT projects.
“Most organisations are doing great things in digital in some form. The first thing to do is recognise that, then give more voice to the people doing this work, then maybe investment, ensuring gradual and sustainable change,” she says.
Wolfe and her team set out to understand exactly where Breast Cancer Care was at, digital-maturity-wise, but in suitably mature fashion, have ended up creating a tool for anyone who wants to do IT better.
The Digital Maturity Index was a humble spreadsheet, but is now a web app that takes you through a super-simple set of questions around your current tech capabilities. That’s so you understand your starting point and then so you can measure change over time.
When creating the index, the team identified four stages of digital maturity, from rejecting to experimenting, organising to evolving.
Wolfe said that most organisations are at the organising stage, where they’re trying to work out exactly what they already have and, then perhaps, what else they need.
“The last stage, evolving, is about decentralising. In an organisation like this, everyone knows that digital is a part of their role, it cuts across the whole organisation, but still has a core strategy.”
Evidence of digital maturity, she explained, is an organisation that can measure its current state, make cost-neutral improvements and then make the case for gradual investment.
Wolfe says that charities like hers have a great set of USPs when it comes do digital change, or an unfair advantage, as she calls it.
“We’re close to our beneficiaries and their needs, we have great networks and loyalty, our staff are passionate and, of course, lean comes naturally to charities.”
Breast Cancer Care is currently part of the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology’s Fuse accelerator programme for socially good startup ideas.
Here, the team is building a new digital product called BECCA, a community support app with a human name, not least, because they want it to “be something people will get behind and fall in love with”.
On hearing Breast Cancer Care’s story, it’s clear the lean startup model has made its way to the charity world, vital for times when more organisations are having to do more with less.
Luckily, in the third sector at least, it also comes with a commitment to working collaboratively.