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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

Essential digital skills for Scotland - charter briefing part 1

Currently one in five people in Scotland lack essential digital skills. These are the skills of communicating, handling information and content, transacting, problem solving and being safe and legal online This equips everyone to fully participate in modern day to day life. The people more likely not to have these skills are older, poorer and facing other forms of disadvantage. In order to tackle exclusion and inequalities, our work focuses on equipping everyone with these skills.

Scotland’s Digital Participation Charter encourages organisations (public, private and third sector) to pledge their commitment to improving digital inclusion across Scotland.

Organisations that sign the Charter are asked to commit to the Charter’s five pledges, and to contribute commitments of their own before being accepted as signatories.

Signatories are asked to:

  1. Skill up: ensure staff and volunteers have the opportunity to develop essential digital skills
  2. Support staff: support staff and volunteers to help others learn essential digital skills and embrace digital tools
  3. Support Scotland: support the nation by contributing resources and practical support for Scotland wherever they can
  4. Know the Essentials: support a common language based on digital participation and essential digital skills to make our thinking and actions as clear as possible
  5. Come together: channel their efforts through the Digital Participation programme so all activities and actions are coordinated and built on one another

Currently 654 organisations have signed the Digital Participation Charter, which also makes them eligible to apply for Charter funding. The Charter fund has funded and supported 48 organisations in the last three years to create a wide variety of digital inclusion projects across the country.

The digital team at SCVO offer light touch relationship management to organisations that have signed the charter. Information is requested about ongoing activity and advice and support offered on an informal basis.

Examples of Current Charter Signatories

Lairg and District Learning Centre, an energy saving project operating across Sutherland in the north of Scotland have used the Charter as an opportunity to develop essential digital skills within their workforce, which has improved the way they communicate, problem solve and how they handle information and content.

They said: “We've developed our own digital skills over the last few years - embracing Trello, WordPress, Slack, Canva, Twitter and other tools which all help us to work more efficiently and share our message. We also work with tutors to encourage them (staff and service users).”

Over in Glasgow, SCVO have also been working with Govan Housing Association. Since signing the Charter in October 2017 their digital inclusion work has gone from strength to strength.

When they signed they pledged to create local digital hubs, facilitate a digital forum and offer improved digital services, training and support to their tenants and wider community. They have also met their commitments and have reported improved confidence and an increase in Essential Digital Skills in their tenants since signing.

Essential Digital Skills Framework

SCVO are building a picture of what digital inclusion looks like across Scotland, and to what extent organisations are using common/shared language following the launch of the new Essential Digital Skills Framework in 2018 (see diagram below):

The Framework outlines five key skills and provides examples of tasks that people should be able to complete to demonstrate each skill. Each skill has a distinct focus – but the fifth – being safe, legal and confident online – is also embedded across the other four.

Digital inclusion projects often focus on the skills of citizens, but equally important are the skills and confidence of staff. The charter aims to help organisations increase the Essential Digital Skills (EDS) of both groups.

Increasing skills and confidence takes time and repetition. By taking an embedded approach staff are skilled up and can contribute to developing the skills of the wider community on an ongoing basis.

As part of our Digital Participation agenda we wanted to learn more about our Charter signatories, their commitments to digital inclusion and whether signing the Charter has supported them to achieve these commitments. We also wanted to know which signatories are using the EDS Framework to support staff and service users to improve their skills.

What was done:

We ran the ‘Essential Digital Skills for Scotland’ project across a self-selecting sample of Charter signatories. We aimed to reach a sample of 5% of charter signatories, and achieved this with 33 responses.
To collect the data we asked organisations to complete a standard question set (appendix 1) to allow us to compare and analyse the results.

What was the learning for the participants and for SCVO?

Participants were asked whether or not they had met the commitments they made when signing the Charter.
Signatory organisations were asked if they had provided Essential Digital Skills to their workforce and service users since signing the Charter.
Participants were asked if they felt digital skills within their organisations had improved following signing the Charter.


The results paint a positive picture. It’s great to see such high figures around the improvement of digital skills within organisations since signing the Charter, whether that’s within the workforce, volunteers and/or service users.

In part two of this blog, we'll look at some of the examples of charter commitments and essential digital skills being embedded.

For more information about the Digital Participation Charter, you can go to the website or contact Claire at

Last modified on 24 January 2020