Ross and his colleagues have created the Open Working Toolkit to help charities, funders and other organizations share their work openly. As their toolkit states “Great things can happen when something is made open… more people can reuse it, often cheaply. People can learn from it, even if they don’t use it. And there are almost always wonderful unintended consequences.” I love this project, and even just the idea of it. The toolkit provides a simple, practical, and replicable model for anyone to use. And it focuses on both organizations as well as funders. It starts with the idea of sharing what you’re working on, in the open. Just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The format doesn’t matter. But share a bit and share often.
Ross provides a great overview of the Open Working approach, where it came from and how it’s going now. We talk about the kind of effort it takes, what you should do if you’re interested in exploring Open Working, and why so many great ideas and initiatives focused on non-profit collaboration seem to be coming out of Scotland! If you’re wondering how to build awareness of your work, connect with others, and learn from your efforts, I think you’ll find this introduction to Open Working of interest.
Some questions we discussed:
- What is Open Working?
- How is Open Working significant from an organization perspective, from a funder perspective?
- How have charities and funders reacted to the idea of Open Working?
- What type of effort does it take? For example, according to a Catalyst article, Open Working Lineup folks coached grantees through six months of open working?
- An outcome of that coaching work was the creation of the Open Working Toolkit. What has the uptake been?
- What advice or suggestions would you have for folks who want to embrace and encourage Open Working in other places, such as Canada?
Some useful resources:
- Open working toolkit – This toolkit gives charities and funders the best resources for learning why and how to work in the open, share work and reuse work from others.
- Open working at Catalyst – Re-use other organisations’ work: assets and other useful resources created by charities, groups and agencies working in the open.
- Funding open working – Funders around the world are starting to be more transparent and ask that their fundees be open about their work so that the benefits of the funds are felt more widely across the sector.
- Opening Up: Demystifying Funder Transparency – This report explores how transparency can strengthen credibility, improve grantee relationships, facilitate greater collaboration, increase public trust, reduce duplication of effort, and build communities of shared learning.
What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation using Otter.ai. The transcript has not been edited. It may contain errors and odd sentence breaks and is not a substitute for listening to the audio.
Marco Campana 0:00
Welcome to Episode 39 of the technology and human services podcast. In this episode, I speak with Ross McCullough, director of the third sector lab in the UK about open working. Ross and his colleagues have created the open working toolkit to help charities, funders and other organizations share their work openly. As their toolkit states, great things can happen when something is made open, more people can reuse it often cheaply. People can learn from it even if they don’t use it. And there are almost always wonderful unintended consequences. I love this project. And even just the idea of it, the toolkit provides a simple, practical and replicable model for anyone to use. And it focuses on both organizations as well as funders. It starts with the idea of sharing what you’re working on in the open, just start, it doesn’t have to be perfect, the format doesn’t matter. But share a bit and share often. Ross provides a great overview of the open working approach, where it came from and how it’s going. Now, we talked about the kind of effort it takes what you should do if you’re interested in exploring, open working, and why so many great ideas and initiatives focused on nonprofit collaboration seem to be coming out of Scotland. If you’re wondering how to build awareness of your work, connect with others and learn from your efforts, I think you’ll find this introduction to open working of interest. Welcome to the technology and human services podcast. Thank you so much for joining me to talk about open working and can you maybe start by telling us a bit about yourself, your background and your work around the nonprofit sector in particular, open working?
Ross McCulloch 1:24
Yeah, so I run organization called Third Sector lab. And so there’s a team members here. And we’re really focused on a tape forget, and particularly within the charity sector, across the UK, we’ve got a small number of public sector clients, but 95% of the people we work with our charter is a lot of our work has shifted quite a lot since the pandemic. And we’ve actually really quite focused now on trying to deliver as much work as we can free at the point of service for charities themselves. So one of the things we found during the pandemic was people were reacting very, very quickly to digital, which was great, but actually a lot of the time that was coming with its own pitfalls, whether that was about safeguarding the service users, whether it’s about making the right technology decisions. And so we’ve we’ve kind of put quite a lot of work in that kind of a three strands of work that we’re doing as part of the catalyst, which is the wider UK Tech for Good network. So one of them is the current training program. So we’ve trained the relevant 5000 people, since the start of the pandemic working in third sector across the UK. And we run a workshop once per week. It’s our 90 minute format. And we previously bring an expert speakers to run training session where the queen is powerful for the sector as the powertrain and but what they’re certainly not is people coming along and just kind of listening a PowerPoint from the minutes with a lot of charities has given them access to someone who’s an expert in their field and they will ask the right questions. So we’ve had different ones recently on a building data dashboards and data analytics, we’ve had ones in SEO,
Ross McCulloch 3:03
a few really well received ones in accessibility with drill down specific tools like MailChimp and Canva. We’ve covered that can a really broad spectrum of digital and helping sector understand it’s not just you’ve spoken with before, where people become fixated and online fundraising and marketing. And that’s a core part of any nonprofit but actually seen this as as more than just those kind of small parts of what you’re trying to do. And the other work that we’re doing. We’re doing some work called Digital trustees, which we actually used to do pre pandemic as well as physical matchmaking events. And we’re loading them online. So once someone’s bid on those, anytime they can come along, and they did really simple is that basically zoom a bit of Heldens in for 60 minutes or a 5050 split between people in the tech sector who want to join J boards, and Charlie syndicate expertise in the board to asset one this morning, which we specifically ran with the YMCA network in the UK. So there was a bunch of local YMCAs some of them did amazing stuff with digital around youth works all the really cool stuff around a given particular younger people access to Raspberry Pi’s and running code classes, and really interesting stuff using augmented reality. But actually that recognition that they need strategically than their stuff that they’re really going to push the boundaries of what’s possible and often the best services because young people that are coming along to IMC every week. And then so we’ve kind of done the hard work of recruiting the people who come along with it everything from service designers to data scientists to web developers, they’re kind of cybersecurity specialists. And what is allowed a lot of guys to do is broaden their horizons in terms of what a digital trustee may look like. And again with stuff you’ve touched on, we tend to find that people feel with tech that digital trustee box but they’ve got a kind of IT specialist people at Microsoft reseller or they’ve got someone who works in online cons and that might be what they need. Actually, for a lot of organizations. If someone’s YMCAs today, you’ll be better served have services already.
Ross McCulloch 5:00
Get a scientist or someone who’s working in AI or augmented reality, to really thinking about who they push what’s possible as an organization. So we run them once a month, they’ve been really successful helping people start that journey and get digital embedded that much more strategic level in the organization. And in particular, if you look at things like the chatty digital code, which so EMR and her team have been working on one of the big findings over the last couple of years, there’s been a real lack of digital knowledge at the board governance level things like 65%, of boards, rank or a digital skills is very, very low. And actually, that’s a critical part and potentially, where you’ve got passionate staff coming aboard to investment or to make changes. But there’s nobody in the board champion that stuff, what does that look like in the future. And then the famous strand, which we’ll talk with you that we’re about today is around open work and reuse. And more recently, we’ve delivered a thing called Open working program, which is an eight week program to get fast tracked, is to work more transparently and more agile way. And we’ve got a fairly simple framework, which we can talk through in this call, and then draw on some of the resources, more than LeKan open working Toolkit, which we’ve produced in collaboration with cast.
Marco Campana 6:14
Awesome, and how did you come to this work? Have you always worked in the in the third or the charitable sector? Or is it something that’s kind of you’ve shifted away from somewhere else?
Ross McCulloch 6:22
So I’ve worked in the charity sector for over 15 years I was hated comes with a national charity prior to that. And yes, I was working working freelance, but we also, yeah, photo lab has existed for over a decade now. And we’re going to read the infancy of what this looks like. And it’s interesting that a lot of the stuff that we were banging on about for years and trying to persuade people have made it as soon as the pandemic humans like can a penny drop woman hat and people realized, actually, this isn’t an external, this is not a thing that will push them away and be explored in six months or 10, cut edges. It’s fundamental how people live their lives and 2022 and how to meet people’s needs. How do we broaden diversity for the services we offer, how important diversity in terms of our volunteers and our staff. And so getting people to think of it digital as more than just that social media marketing exercise, or just our own fundraising exercise, or the kind of the electronic tools that become an office and use or the server that sits in a cupboard and getting to think about it beyond that. So yeah, I find that quite difficult talking about the pandemic as a positive thing, because it’s just not. And so like, you know, although there’s the positive element old Chinese have taken digital Mercedes, I mean, that’s a massive tool for society and the people that they work with. So just, it’s definitely,
Marco Campana 7:43
ya know, I I’m totally along the same line to do, we had the same kind of, I guess, revelation here, in the sector that I work in was that there was a lot of organizations who, for years have have resisted digital service delivery, in spite of all the evidence, like in our case, for example, we have lots of evidence of newcomers being much more digitally literate, and with the preference, then even the Canadian born population, but it unfortunately, kind of took the pandemic for people to realize it. Now. I’m curious, because we were starting to see the flip side of people wanting to kind of go back to how things were, from a leadership perspective, and some organizations, but the frontline workers are like, no, no, this is we’ve always been talking about digital because they’re at the front line, they, you know, they’re they’ve been using their personal devices and their texting. And you know, because their clients demanded it. And so now, they, they recognize that this new normal is gotta be can be quite positive, even though we’ve also learned a ton about digital equity and digital divides in digital inclusion, which I think that’s kind of one of the positives as well is that we’ve realized that, yes, there’s a lot of people who are who can access this, but we also know that there’s a lot of people who can’t. And I’m curious, if you’re seeing something similar around that sort of, you know, people want to go back to how they did stuff, you know, pre pandemic, even though we’re not really out of the pandemic, can make an argument about that, but that they’re like, I want to return to the in person only, and not looking at it from kind of what we’re calling a blended, or a hybrid model where you kind of, you know, you mentioned that, you know, you start with the people you’re serving, and you figure out, you know, what they want and then you you know, figure out okay, so some of these are our clients that will want to access our services through technology, and some that will want to do it in person. So I’m just curious where that conversation is for your sector.
Ross McCulloch 9:25
Yeah, no, that’s, that’s really interesting. I think. I think there’s there’s just a huge variety. I think there’s also the nuances within it. So one of the things I think is probably the most interesting thing that’s come out of the pandemic, in terms of the sector and where it goes next is this notion of a charity being specifically for a local area was turned on its head really quickly and you asked economics and quite small channel is based in Scotland Erlich. We’re delivering our services online and this week, someone from Brazil joined a session that we had and or someone in Manchester joined us Action Group based in Edinburgh and Lee If this has never happened before, because the logistically it just wasn’t possible. And none of these channels were beloved and digital services. And I’ve actually spoken to quite a few small charities that were set up to, you know, no local area. And just specifically because of their use of digital. That’s who they were serving, it was never necessarily in the memorandums of article looked at taking the decision that was just geographically, that’s where we are. And they’ve now to sign on taking a strategic decision, say granola, which are anywhere we are a national charity, because we’d have a really good quality services, and actually, anyone can access them, it would be silly for us to just provide the community that said, I don’t think every child needs to do that decision, because lots and lots of charities are based in Baden communities for a very good reason. And I think that, for me has been one of the most interesting conversations has come over this is like what is which I didn’t realize the nature of that versus national data in inverted commas. And we’ve always thought of it being, you know, a huge course or brand with lots of staff split on all across country, but actually, you can be really hyper focused on doing something incredibly well. And the one that I always like, the chatty chin, and I always think actually pronouncing the name wrong, but the other relatively a small chat, I’m just gonna get a link that you can be up share with, with listeners afterwards. But they provide a lot of support to women, or even things like the events online sexual harassment, they had a really interesting partnerships with quite a small charity, but it’s kind of grown, like exponentially during the pandemic, chatty with a charity partnership with I think it was Bumble have also to check this was one of the huge dating platforms. And basically just because the retreating these amazing women led resources about staying safe and updated environment. And actually, the deep platforms like well, we don’t need to recreate this stuff, because someone else is doing and we can support them. And for me, that was like, wow, that’s really amazing, relatively small in terms of staff numbers, jadie, is able to kind of like do something at scale. Because they’ve been really clever about how they’re delivering that and really thought through like, how do people have the leaves, which are responsible, and word of women have these questions of how do we operate in that space? And that from easily just be so interesting to see more and more Chinese thinking of digital in that sense? That is not just, we will do our thing we’ve always done but no, we do it on Zoom. But actually, fundamentally, how are people living their lives? How do we fit within those digital spaces? And what’s the thing we’ve got a value to offer. And actually, the thing that’s interesting about that is that organization from the the way they approached it have a sort of wrinkle, to seen who runs the organization have felt like equal partners in some of their dialogue with corporate entities, the reality of that leave that behind closed doors, it just feels like it’s less of a differential relationship. It’s about both sides bring value to us. And that, for me is like watching the excitement in the sector and being able to see more of those types of partnerships come,
Marco Campana 13:01
I feel that that’s a perfect segue to the discussion about open working, because I assume it’s because that that small charity shared the work that they were doing that it then got on the radar of Bumble, and that those connections were kind of made is so I mean, that and yeah, what a great example of the impact that just knowing about something instead of replicating it, you actually work with the organization that’s created it and it raises their profile, it raises their work, but you’re also not duplicating the worksite. So I guess that’s a great, let’s talk about open working. So how did what is open working? And how did that sort of model come about?
Ross McCulloch 13:36
Yeah, so we we’ve been working in a space for a while. So I mean, I’ve been working in around charity comms for a long time. And one of the things that I’ve always talked about in charity comms is this notion that, you know, you may have someone who’s at the center or a team at the center, but their role is simply to facilitate columns that comes from your organization. And what I mean by that is not just you know, someone who works in frontline service emails, your 12 page PDF, and says, Make that a Facebook post this week, please. Actually, how would you empower staff who are either experts in the field? Or who are people doing the actual work that people are giving their charitable donations to? How do we empower them to tell their stories and talk about that stuff in a way that’s open and transparent, and been relaxed about it? That wouldn’t always go perfectly. And that is okay. So that’s some, I guess, third sector life have always spoken about. So we’ve been working in a space for well over a decade. It’s not always have a guess, a formalized approach from us, because it’s always been kind of woven into kind of how we talk about online cons. Gov. The UK have kind of led a lot in this stuff. So and we’ve worked really closely with Amazon called jails from Google that JL Collins handbook. And so jails was kind of one of the advocates within gov.uk about the need for their work to be transparent and open. and actually moving away from this narrative that I think hasn’t been that helpful in the charity sector, when it’s seen as being a very altruistic thing. Like, we’ll share our work so that other people can benefit from it. And actually, if you share your work and these your work better at positions you, as a leader in that space, if you share your work, your funder knows what you’re doing in a really open and transparent way. And they’re more likely to give you more money, people are more likely to give you donations, your border will let it understand what you’re doing. And so for me, it’s that a big part, I feel open work and as moving the narrative away from this is a nice thing, because we’re really altruistic sector. And we should really work in open because it’s very model important. And that’s an element of it. And of course, that’s key batch again, just understand that this is a huge competitive advantage. So if you can work transparently and open your differentiate yourself from everyone else as your fast track to collaboration, that’s your fast track to getting a broader staff team internally on board with what you’re trying to do. And let’s move away from, you know, giant PDFs that we give to our board before the meeting, no giant PDF reports that we give to our funders, or change chief exec updates that come in our newsletter internally for staff and audit, it’s how do we get people to engage with content and questions in an open and transparent way, but over a long period of time, and also, you have to do those reports, like your annual report and things, it becomes very, very simple, because you’ve written out your revenue over the last six months and your weakness through the work in open. So for me, that’s, that’s probably the big educational pieces, getting people to think this isn’t a nice to have as they if you can do this, well, you’ve got a huge competitive advantage. And it actually is going to save you time over the long run. And so yeah, I mean, when we get into talking like a program that we run some approaches and that kind of toolkit we’ve got as well. Yeah, before before
Marco Campana 16:49
we dive into that, I’m just curious, like, there’s a lot of benefits, obviously, from the the person who’s sharing the organization that’s sharing, one of the things that we hear about, from sort of the recipients of of information, I mean, we’re still dealing with creating a culture of, of sharing, and I’m hoping, calling it open working might be useful, in particular, being able to share the model and the toolkit, but we hear a lot from from folks, and especially frontline workers that they can hear about information, but they don’t have the time to reflect they don’t have the time to figure out how to incorporate that maybe into their own work, which I think is a benefit of open working as if someone shares something else, and I’m working on something, maybe I can use that tool, or maybe I can I’m working on something similar, and we can come together and create something bigger or better. Is that an issue that’s come up? When when you’re dealing with this with with organizations as well, that notion of like, yeah, it’s great that I can get it, but I don’t have the structural institutional time in my day to two, you know, really sort of sort of, you know, not just receive it, but also kind of analyze it and, and reflect on it.
Ross McCulloch 17:52
Yeah, I mean, I think the biggest challenge that we face than trying to level up and working with teams and charities is cultural is not the logistical bit is not about actually being able to write orally, where do you publish early and the kind of technology that’s of its cultural and the cultural that might be, there is no time set aside in my organization for any form of reflection. It’s just like a culture of constant busyness. And some things that you know, depending on what channel you work in, if you work in a small, Frontline, chatty work in a very difficult area, this stuff can feel like a luxury. And I think it’s getting people to understand that, you know, yes, it’s not as important as the hot phygital oven and someone or the counseling session you’re delivering, but I can make those things better. And I think from the years well, culturally, there needs to be and again, speaking before about the need for kind of the job leadership, the biggest blocker that we found to be delivered some work through a kind of quite a major funder in the UK, and their grand holders came along and often come along, people run in with frontline projects. They weren’t necessarily chief execs or trustees. The biggest blocker was not the person in the room common didn’t work in the buttons. They got it, they could rate pretty well, we could ask the right questions. The big problem was the Bosco and all I don’t know, we should probably will maybe if you send me that, I will check it and we’ll publish it maybe on the blog later, or we don’t we didn’t work in the commons. I’m not sure we should really do that. Or if we talk about stuff and other charities will steal our ideas, we wouldn’t be able to do it. And that’s
Marco Campana 19:30
that’s like the constant. Oh, yes. The fear of our idea will be taken. Yeah, that happens all the time.
Ross McCulloch 19:36
Yeah, yeah. I think I mean, some things haven’t oblique it to boards and chief execs that you probably don’t have a huge amount of new ideas, and that’s okay. And actually, being vulnerable and transparent and open is much, much more powerful, and much stronger signal to send to your funders and your supporters than trying to squirrel everything away. And I’ve worked in organizations. I’ve done that before. I’ve worked in Oregon. stations that are culturally quite restrictive and tight. And so all that happens is there’s another organization who’s very open and transparent, and who talks to the media and uses their own channels to do this stuff effectively. And the other ones government comes in, and we want advice. They’re the ones that funders approach first. They’re the ones that journalists pick up the phone to. So that stuff is not a nice to have, we can move away from that narrative of trying to persuade people, but ultimately, only really practical terms, we need to champions and organization to get this stuff and have a simple framework to deploy it and understand that other people are doing it and the world hasn’t broken. But actually those organizations helps you to benefit from doing.
Marco Campana 20:39
So let’s talk about practical terms. Because you’ve, you’ve helped develop a toolkit, and you mentioned that you’ve got to actually coach people if I think it’s eight weeks now. And and so what does that look like? So someone so again, like someone in Canada is is hearing this conversation, they’re looking at the links that I share in the in the in the podcast notes. And they’re like, Okay, this is this is really interesting. So what does it take to really operationalize this and to to commit to it as an organization? How do you walk someone through that process?
Ross McCulloch 21:05
Yeah, so our I mean, our program, I can kind of talk about that. And then you can talk a wee bit about, I guess, what some of their stuff looks like with an organization. So already, the program is front loaded with some initial training to get people up to speed with open work and get them to grips with the practicalities of what this may look like for them and their organization. And so for example, we have an open working overview workshop, which I lead on. And, and that is really taking people through some of the core principles that are in the toolkit, and some of the more practical elements and helping people think through some of those cultural questions that they’ve got as well. Now, workshops, usually within minutes long, we also have a rating for the web workshop, usually run by Rosie McIntosh has done lots of work in this space over the years, given people whose skills that’s great, because that we’ve done, we’ve done quite a lot of kind of user experience work and less, and that’s one of the big fears is like, putting pen to paper for people as terrifying. And how would you give people the confidence to do that, which led people to know that, you know, going back and editing something later on, and that is okay, or actually getting a bad first draft is fine. But actually, some of the best open work is 70% finished and the rest of it as the question that you can’t quite answer, and moving people away from this notion that writing for the web as essentially an online version of a press release. And actually, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’ve also got a we run a master class, which I was tambul, who I mentioned who JL Collins handbook, and everyone who comes along to the open working program gets a copy of the handbook and the access token working toolkit open working toolkit is, is free and open source, anyone can get that on link. So we give people that I guess that kind of confidence and equip them early on. So we can frontline for all those workshops. running alongside that. We have, we can sessions every week, and they start from with one of our programs, we get people like we pretty much drop them in the deep end after they’ve done the rain for the way of workshops that we’re trying to allay those fears. But what we’re not doing is hypothetically talking, talking about open working, and then you’ll go back to your organization. And we’ll hope that you’ll do it, the way that you can do it is by doing it. And so one of the things that we get at the start is we get them to pick a topic to focus on. So we had someone from my local UK, who they were going through a website redesign process. So they were talking openly and transparently in the bank kind of audience for that was internal teams, but also their supporters. Were going through a journey of user testing that exists and say, we’re thinking about making some changes have been really open and transparent over an eight week period about what that incrementally looked like. Rather than just like at the end of eight weeks, dumping a report on on the staff and telling them what we’ve made these changes, it’s like staff can actually be part of that, that journey as well for people who maybe just got new funding, talking about how they’re implementing that some of the decisions are making them into launching a new project. So the program has been been really successful. But the kind of minimum commitment per week has been half an hour or so that the shortest treatment sessions happen are usually some tiny tiny template that can fit with a once a week and we find people can rate pretty good stuff. So we’ve got a we’ve got a medium I can set up sort of on medium a few people often work in toolkit or open working program, you’ll find it quite easily. We’ve we’ve given people a kind of shared safe space to do that stuff open and transparently equal some equally. Some people want to use their own charities blog. Culturally, we kind of found that like setting that up on our own space and letting them use that and then they didn’t have to spend lots and lots of thing getting that internal buy in before they were a part of it. And we’ve also encourage people to think about doing this stuff in different ways. So if someone a use Twitter threads to do it, so you’d started blogging, but also found that like, breaking everything down into like five things you need to do over x. So she works in a really difficult project on a kind of financial control and abuse channel, it makes them Glasgow. And she was using really effective Twitter threads to work and open a bit some of the work that she was doing some other people using Instagram to do it. And I think that’s one of the things is like the medium is not that important. So I think people get obsessed in the space of you have to read week notes, they have to work in a very specific format. And actually, for me, it doesn’t really matter a huge amount every week not so good vehicle because it provides structure, and it’s been clean. But if you’re more comfortable taking that format and doing a video on a piece of audio content, then that equally has made it as well, on next and up. And I think from you that regularity is the main thing, whether it’s be clear whether it’s fortnight, maybe monthly, I think that’s maybe maybe a too big of a gap between right and that regularity is really kind of key to what that looks like.
Marco Campana 26:01
Sounds like a really interesting model. Is that a model that you mentioned earlier that the charities and geographic boundaries, in particular, during COVID have exploded out? Is that something you’re interested in exporting? So for example, if charities here were interested in going through a process with with your organization to become you know, open working literate, as a whole put it? Is that something that you’re you’re open to replicating or sharing?
Ross McCulloch 26:24
Yeah, I mean, we, we’d be keen to work with Mod organization, right, because we’re in Cubase, that tends to be UK based charities that we work with. But yeah, we definitely be open to working with other people across the globe. And there are things, which I didn’t mention that as part of that. So we usually have a cohort of around about 20 people. And they’re also part of a Slack channel. And the big thing that we found was actually that kind of peer support is key to people giving each other feedback or, you know, in a session, we will say, Look, my dear friend, this week as x or I’m having this challenge, because my boss doesn’t want me to read this thing. Have you have you had this problem, how to get in this, and actually build in that kind of peer support community, and people become part of our collective open working program, Slack channel that we’ve got. So as those cohorts grew, they become part of a kind of bigger community in there. And I think globally, a lot of governments are doing open work, and it doesn’t seem to be happening, a huge amount the charity sector, or when it does, it’s not necessarily spoken about as open work. And it’s kind of still very traditional online comms, but it’s kind of needed more than to be open and transparent, it would be really nice to see, I guess I kind of collective terminology and stuff is quite important as well, I think like trying to destroy a lot of the jargon that’s been sitting around open working, because I think a lot of it’s quite unhelpful, and just getting people to understand some kind of core principles. And again, that’s where the manifesto in the toolkit is quite useful. And we kind of send shape that we create a big group of people through the catalyst. So just, you know, getting people to just start being intentional about your writing, using it as a tool to build relationships. And it also ties in you mentioned previously, I think the service recipes that the catalysts have got this notion of, if we want technology to be open, we want other people to learn from successes globally or UK wide, or in Canada, that only happens by working open and transparently. So you don’t, you can’t possibly know that Charlie’s had a really successful time of the youth council service and actually up, take that in time service and deploy it really quickly. Unless they have spoken about open and transparent. And I think that’s another big cultural thing is to really shift the juillet scale within the sector, we need to open work, and it’s the thing that’s going to make it happen, because otherwise, we’re kind of like everyone is trying to fund tiny pockets of activity over and over and over again, or we’re at the whim of technology companies are going to come and try and solve it for us. And actually, for me, the solutions are in the sector itself. And some things that will be an off the shelf commercial product that solves it might be a community based technology solution. But getting charities to understand that the real difficulty is understanding your user needs and the challenges people are facing, and then thinking about the technology that’s going to solve
Marco Campana 29:07
that my wheels are spinning. But I see so much potential in exporting this model globally into Canada, because we have this conversations in different ways here. But I think people are trying to figure out what’s the right way. So I love that for example, you have a community that keeps growing with each cohort that can support each other and build that out and be supportive. And I when I was reading through the toolkit, one of the things that just strikes me is that the practicalities like just start, just start sharing and like you said earlier, it doesn’t matter which format doesn’t matter which medium, but get into that habit of like just talking about your work talking out loud, you know, just thinking about it and not feeling like you have to have all the solutions because again, someone might read something and say, Oh, I have this other thing that I can connect to your work and we can build something up together. So yeah, I just I feel like it’s we’re ripe to bring it to bring your model to to Canada and to build that as well. Maybe hit you up later. For some of the links around your core, but I guess, in your training cohorts, are you open to having our international participants? And is that something? Or would you be more interested in kind of trying to replicate a model? Like, you know, in another country?
Ross McCulloch 30:11
Yeah, I mean, I probably make more sense to replicate the model. Part of it is just I guess, so we have a fully funded program that’s funded by UK funders. So there’s probably some restrictions around that stuff. And then about the GDPR stuff, and all the complications of that as well. But I mean, I think, I think it’s fairly easily replicated. And we’re not. And we’re not overly precious about it, you know, so the delivery and one of the things that we’ve been doing, actually, as we’ve been offering support organizations to try and deploy their own version of working program internally, so at the end of the last quarter, we ran at a meeting with the Chief Exec of one of the people who had attended and was like, This is amazing, the staff members come on this, it’s totally transforming the way that we use our comms channels, which had felt really stagnant and one dimensional. And it was just this kind of this moment of clarity, they were like, well, this is how we should communicate online. This is culturally what we’ve wanted to do for a long time, we’ve just not had the mechanism to make it happen. And what they are now looking at doing is kind of implementing a smaller version of that internally led by that champion, who now knows, you know, how to roughly pull together a good blog post, the rhythm of what needs to look like how they can support other members of staff. And so for that, for me, again, it’s another thing. You know, chorus of 20 are good. But again, how would you do this stuff at scale, and that’s one of the things that I’ve always been interested in, in the sector is that there is good support in individual organizations, and you need to make change and provide that something’s quite intensive support. But for this stuff to happen quickly, it needs to happen at scale. And that either means lots of delivery, or it means thinking about how you build champions within the sector and within individual organizations and sales to really make this stuff grow. Because what I don’t want is I don’t want like 20 charities come along. And now we’ve got 20 individuals and 20 charities who want to do or put work in, but actually, they’re fighting an ongoing battle culturally, internally to make this stuff happen. What amazing to see between the people that can pair me at that to 20 new people in their own organization. And that kind of snowball effect kicks. And as people move jobs, they keep that kind of culture and that approach with them. So that for me is like that, that needs to be a key part of it is how do we how do we make this snowball? And how do you grow
Marco Campana 32:24
up quickly? I wonder if you see any any role for funders? And that you mentioned, for example, that funders react well to this whole idea? What about them, making it part of service agreements, or contracts or grants or whatever you guys call them necessarily, but saying like, you will share your work. And here’s the model, you’ll follow with that? That’s a bit of a stick, but it might kind of help with that scale it so what’s your What are you hearing from funders around the ideas? Yeah, yeah.
Ross McCulloch 32:47
So I mean, we’ve been quite lucky here in Scotland to to, to Scottish funders have come on board and been part of the working program. So a William Grant Foundation and inspire in Scotland, as well. And we’ve also had conversations with some of the other funders based years, if you will, like the National Lottery, corner Foundation, edition, Scotland, Community Foundation for Scotland and a few others as well. And there’s, there’s an appetite for this stuff. And what I don’t think I don’t think open working feel feels to the kind of funding space, and not necessarily as if it’s a proven thing. Because accountability of public money, or money that’s been donated is really critical. And I totally get that. So that’s a really tricky thing to scare off. And what I guess what I’d like to see is maybe like, is there an approach where you could kind of chip away that we’re not a support and build that into open working. And over time, there’ll be this shift where everything can be much more open and transparent. And we’re giving people the vehicle to do it, rather than necessarily mandating it, but also still having a very rigid, formalized structures. And then it’s just yet another thing for that charity to do. So for me, it only works in a mandated we have some other stuff as and if this other stuff is there, all we’re asking guys to do is yet another onerous thing, oh, that’s what it feels like in their head. But one of the things we did with the last cohort as we prioritize that kind of group of funders that we’ve worked with, we prioritize grant holders in those funders. And there was like clear message to those grant holders from the funders that we think this is a good thing. And that for me is like that’s that’s a powerful starting point. Because a lot of the things that that in itself is not there. We talk about openness and transparency. But we don’t often go well, here’s the way you’re actually going to do or here’s what we’d like you to do. And that’s the kind of messenger and if we can start people on that journey, that’d be really powerful. But I think you’re right, and funders are the critical bit of all of this, because if if a funder saying to you, I’m gonna give you money, the reporting process is actually not very big at all. And then do you one Google doc at the end of it, but what I’d like you to do is I’ve linked to rate open and transparent Like every week or fortnight about this, we’re going to give you some genuine support didn’t get happen, that was incredibly powerful, don’t think it’s in abundance, as well as like, they are all struggling to, you know, to have really good content to communicate the impact that they’re having. But now suddenly, you got, you know, 30 charities who are working in the open and talking all the time about the difference are making with the money that your grant has given them. That’s, it just feels like a new beta. And that moves those funds in a space where they become curators for that open content, rather than thinking like we need to kind of get all this stuff entering people we’ve given money to is actually stops happening. It’s good. It’s happened open and transparent.
Marco Campana 35:40
Yeah, I can think I’m thinking about, you know, a foundation that just pulls in a bunch of RSS feeds from these blogs that just show up on their site. And it’s like, impact impact impact of the work that we’re doing, it doesn’t it’s no more extra work for them. They don’t have to just go through and just still, you know, have quarterly narrative reports and things like that, because the narrative is just constantly screaming to them. sounds really interesting. I love it. I love it. I feel like I’m gonna follow up with you. And I want to bring this to Canada in some meaningful way. So we’ll have that discussion in a different form. But is there anything about open working that, that I haven’t asked you about that you think, for people considering it that they should know more about it? Or, you know, again, like the first step is just take the step that’s, like, practical, you know, share one thing a week and do and don’t feel compelled to to make it perfect. But is there anything that we haven’t necessarily talked about that you think would be important for folks to know about the approach?
Ross McCulloch 36:31
Yeah, I mean, I think I think, for me, giving yourself giving yourself regular and to write badly, initially, just as important. So, you know, some people would come along, a cohorts have never written anything like this before, they will never written kind of a formal reports, some people are a bit more confident. But giving yourself that ability to rate some fairly average content initially, as Okay, people I mean, like, you know, by the end of the weeks, people are writing really good, coherent stuff that is SEO friendly, that, you know, ask questions builds community, and it doesn’t take long to get to that point. And the other thing for me is just going back to that cultural bet, like if you want it to stick in work to work, how do you get buy in from senior people know, the buyer may be my Chief Exec is going to commit to that. And they’re going to do it as well by inmates simply be, the chief exec shares the blog post that you write once a week as a junior member of staff so that other people can, can see it. But that that cultural bet, where leadership, gets this stuff and sees the value, and it’s built into those values of openness and transparency, I think is really important. And that, for me, is critical. And yeah, I think keeping, keeping an eye on some of the really good work that’s happened and as part of the catalyst network, and the UK, because some other interesting stuff going on. So I’ve been doing quite a bit work with a CDO, they have a monthly call called digit shift where they bring together and people who are doing interesting stuff in the technology space, we’ve got one this week actually, specifically focused on community tech. So there’s a big one of the funders has committed, like 400,000 pounds to kind of a support and community technology. So we’re grassroots organizations have created their own tech solution, then how do we bolster that? How do we share what that looks like? And then within that, like, you know, that only works if those Community Technology organizations are working and open so that other people can build on it and work with each other. And so I think that’s one of the things that isn’t to be like and Pandemic was kind of less than a definite pre pandemic was missing. And is this notion that, yes, open work is important, or getting a digital trustee is important, or thinking of a digital service library, but they’re all part of a much bigger ecosystem. And we all need to be thinking about how we work with each other. And I think that kind of the global work and stuff has never really happened a huge amount part of that against culture. You mentioned before, you know, in the states have such a heavy focus on fundraising and philanthropy. And that’s when people think of it digital assets. And that’s when a lot the kind of chat goes but I’d be interested in like, how do you how do you play music and amazing project that’s happened and deliver digital services in Canada? And how does someone in Britain learn about that and deploy that really quickly? What does that look like in practical terms?
Marco Campana 39:23
No, I love it. And I mean, I have to ask, it’s like, there’s something cultural about Scotland, because there’s your work. There’s SCV Oh, there’s the more collective which works on Digital Champions, which, by the way, there is an organization that’s bringing them in to Canada to teach about Digital Champions, so that it’s starting to kind of happen. What is it about your culture that makes this openness in this sort of collaboration happen that that we could learn from?
Ross McCulloch 39:45
Yeah, I mean, I think another another one, I guess dimension as well as connecting Scotland seven was lucky enough to be part of the strategy group and that right at the start of the pandemic, and that’s poor. I mean, like, I mean, maybe not now in terms of scale because Scotland’s a small country, but certainly when that that started, that was probably the most ambitious Digital Inclusion Project from any government globally. It was certainly the quickest response, I think to that. And the premise behind that was was basically given data devices and basic digital skills to people who are disconnected for a number of reasons. And the scale of that has been hourly phenomenon through some of the workplace if you’re a little more collected, Scottish government have been doing all of that has worked, because grassroots community organizations taking ownership. So basically, people apply to a fund to have, you know, advice to get in Digital Champions training, to get access to unlimited data. It’s not done by like, a centralized, a person or organization who’s deploying it as leader. And I think for me, that’s one of the things we’re Scotland’s quite powerful as the third sector isn’t necessarily always dominated by these kind of colossal charities. Actually, most of this stuff has been delivered by volunteer aid, long run organizations. And there’s some amazing stuff happening digital in that space. There’s a closer proximity to government than probably that, as the rest of UK turns approximately to Westminster and decision making stuff can happen more quickly. And yeah, I don’t know, I don’t know what the magic formula is. But I think people people talking to each other and not being too precious about their work as well. And also trying not to duplicate work. So I mean, but you’re talking about work like that we don’t deliver anything that is around basic digital skills, or Digital Champions work, because an organization like that does it incredibly well. And a CBO is really skilled at doing things like the amazing tools of like digital audits for charitable organization, digital skills audits, we’re not trying to deliver that work, because they did incredibly well. And that, for me is like that, that ability to kind of move really quickly. And I think a lot of a lot of the sector is unfortunately still bogged down by governance, even if we put a kind of shady label and processes over there. It’s like decision making takes far, far too long. And that’s Steve looked in JSON, or impactful happen quickly.
Marco Campana 42:14
Yeah, there’s there’s a cultural impediment right there, obviously, that we need to work that way. We have that here as well, for sure. The governance and the auditing and things like that. It just yeah, it takes away from the ability to be flexible and nimble. I love it. I love this conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time. You know, it’s been great. And I feel inspired. I want to, you know, like I said, I’ll follow up and we’ll figure out a way to bring you bring you in your model to Canada because I think we’re right before it. I think there’s some of us who really think that this is the way to go. But I really appreciate you taking the time today to have this conversation
Ross McCulloch 42:43
going. Thank you.
Marco Campana 42:44
Well, thanks. Thanks so much for listening. I hope you found this episode interesting and useful for you and your work. You can find more podcast episodes, wherever you listen to your podcasts are also on my site at marcopolis.org I appreciate you listening and if you have any tips, suggestions, ideas or want to be interviewed or know someone who wants to be interviewed, please drop me a line through my website, or firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks again.