A new Call to Action from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) reviews how the third sector in Scotland has developed digitally since 2016.

Based on the learning from work with leaders from over 80 organisations, the report states that organisations should not start by seeking to adopt the latest technological innovation, but instead understand how they can respond to the changed needs and expectations of people and communities in a digital world. It encourages organisations to challenge the status quo by being curious and bold.

David McNeill, SCVO’s Digital Director, said: “New technology and the internet continue to transform the way we live, work and learn. Since the launch of the Call to Action two years ago, new themes have emerged as important considerations for third sector organisations.

“The Cambridge Analytica scandal, the growth of fake news and conversations around the impact of screen time on mental health highlight that organisations must take the time to understand the potential harms of the internet on the people and communities they serve. The growth of cyber crime also makes it crucial for organisations to better manage the risks of operating in a digital world.”

The report highlights the progress that has been made, with examples from organisations that have implemented successful digital changes, and from stakeholder bodies such as OSCR and the Big Lottery Fund.

Rory Gaffney, Head of Operations for Downs Syndrome Scotland, said that an internal cultural shift towards digital has boosted his organisation.

He said “We have changed our approach to how we do things. We have made a move to be more agile. Now with a culture of ‘ask forgiveness not seek permission’ staff are better able test approaches and try new things out.”

Sarah Hammond, Chief Executive at East Ayrshire Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “We have looked at a range of ways that digital can be used to enhance our core services and ways of working. Our advice services have traditionally been delivered face to face, but in response to the needs of our customers we are trialling advice giving remotely, via Skype.”

The report highlights six tough questions for third sector organisations to ask themselves, related to leadership, culture, service design, cyber resilience, being data driven and using flexible technology.

There is also a strong call for third sector organisations to continue to explore the implications of operating in a digital world, adapt, be willing to invest in change and to share skills, resources and technology.