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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.

Agile Working and Risk Management

It won’t come as a surprise that at SCVO we’re passionate about agile working. Our teams work this way to deliver projects at multiple scales including Connecting Scotland. We feel that it gives the flex and structure to deliver projects that meet the needs of communities within tight timescales and challenging circumstances.  
The goal of agile working is to create more responsive, efficient, and effective organisations based on more balanced, motivated, innovative and productive teams and individuals. 

Part of the success of agile working projects is taking stock of potential risks and this something we’ve been exploring with our Charter Development Fund cohort this month. Covid-19 continues to be the most prominent challenge to projects planning digital inclusion projects, in no small way because of the many unknowns: will we go back into another lockdown? Will we have a return to a more normal operation or will we have restrictions again in the future?  

In our session we’ve looked beyond this and explored the theme “What risks do you think your project might face?”

Here are some of our key take aways:

“Our participants might be afraid to come back to face-to-face services.” 

For projects that were moving back to physical spaces such as libraries, schools, and digital hubs, this was a big worry. Taking time to build individuals’ confidence in returning to face-to-face working, creating safe learning spaces and having trusted relationships is key here. Our Digishift on developing a post pandemic digital strategy provides some helpful tips here too about planning for digital inclusion in communities.  

“Our Digital Champions might suffer from stage fright.” 

Collaborating with volunteers to build their confidence is important, I don’t think anyone wants them to be uncomfortable or out of their depths. Some of this takes time and trust, with the organisation that is supporting them, with the learners they’re working with and by starting small.  

FutureLearn and Google Garage have some useful resources for building confidence and public speaking which might help with guiding volunteers. Just remember, being nervous is natural. We’re asking people to work out-with their comfort zone, after all! If in doubt, reach out to Volunteer Scotland for more support and resources. 

“What if no-one shows up to our event?” 

The old phrase “if you built it, they will come” doesn’t always apply and this is where knowing your community and responding to their needs is key. Participants engage with things that interest them, that benefit them or that they’ve asked for. Our How to Guide for Digital Inclusion is a great resource for this!  

“How can we manage staffing shortages caused by Covid-19?” 

There will be times when staff, volunteers and participants can’t come in. They might be isolating, there could be extreme weather or other issues and managing this can be challenging, especially for smaller organisations. We think having space where you can track who’s doing what and how far along tasks are helpful. We as a team love using the free version of Trello which allows us to keep tasks to deadlines, assign them to staff and keep each other updates on their progress.  

“We might need more devices or funding for our project” 

Devices and connectivity continue to be an issue for some of our projects as they look to grow. With Connecting Scotland not taking applications currently, we have created a handy list of other options for applying for devices and data, and our Funding Scotland page has all the latest funding opportunities. 

“How do we identify and track these risks?” 

A useful tool to help projects identify what risks look like, when they can occur and what they need to put in place is a risk register. They are often used in health and safety but building one into a project plan is a wonderful way of being able to respond to challenges in an agile way. There are some great examples of these from Asana, Indeed and Atlassian if you’re interested in exploring how to structure one.  


This session was a great opportunity for our Charter Development Fund cohort to share their concerns and build mechanisms to manage and mitigate challenges they might come across in the delivery of their projects. Our reflections from the discussions are that:

  • Risk is inherent in any project however those that are successful can anticipate and navigate those risks because they plan well and can therefore adapt quickly.  
  • Although the approaches might be different; the risks and challenges that project face rarely are. Take the opportunity to speak to other projects and hear their wisdom 
  • Although the pandemic continues to be an ever-changing risk to projects, using Agile principles allow organisations to adapt and pivot services quickly.  
Last modified on 6 July 2022