I leave SCVO this week and have been reflecting on the remarkable evolution achieved by myself, my team and the Scottish voluntary sector over this past year.
All my knowledge of the term evolution is based around that first definition. I have a background in science & data and a keen interest in natural evolution. Last spring it was my intention to jump back into Science Communication and start specialising in plant evolution.
In late March lockdown showed that charities needed immediate help and support. In one of those weird juxtapositions in life, this completely changed my plans and catapulted me into that second definition of evolution.
In the natural world rapid evolution does occur sometimes, but is exceedingly rare, and is usually the result of catastrophe. Our sector’s response to the catastrophic disaster of corona was five years of digital evolution in five weeks. It was humbling to watch the exceptional journey charities took.
And so I do believe the Scottish voluntary sector has created a third definition!
It was not only our charities who were learning and evolving, I was too. I have learnt a vast amount on a wide variety of topics that I knew very little about just one year ago.
When I joined the team, I didn’t really know what we were trying to achieve. Help charities adapt, evolve, and continue to operate during lockdown. Yes, fine. But how? It was all about low-cost, off-the-shelf solutions, requiring no coding and that could be implemented quickly. Our Digital Evolution manager John’s recent blog gives a brilliant summary of exactly this with his 10 no-cost, high impact digital changes you can make today.
I learnt that my disabilities (hearing loss, memory impairment, chronic fatigue) fade away to nothing when I work remotely. Lockdown has shown me the truth that it is societal models that disable us, not our own impairments.
We have adapted quickly within our fast-moving team this past year as our work plans changed, often daily. I have learnt how to work in an agile way using constant iteration, sprints, standups and my personal favourite retrospectives.
It all starts with your people! Start with the digital tools your users already know and use the Scottish Approach to Service Design model when completely designing a new service.
It was exciting to get to work on the digital section of the SCVO website. I helped with user testing, so we understood how people used our site, then I was let loose with my ideas for restructure.
Like many of you Zoom has been integral to my life this past year. From security to how to make meetings fun to how to create an engaging network through our Big Charity Zoom Calls, which eventually became known as DigiShifts.
I have also had a huge amount of personal evolution, growth most people call it. I learnt to believe in myself more; that my skills are unique and of value; and my opinions are valid and insightful. I learnt that my writing is good enough for other organisations to develop into something new. I learnt that my passion for inclusiveness and accessibility is inspiring. I learnt that I adore being in a support role, using my skills to enable my outstanding colleagues to do even better work. Remember that NASA cleaner who said he had helped them land on the moon? I have channeled his spirit!
Life had ground me down for various reasons before I joined the team and I had forgotten how to have unplanned fun. Team digi is the best, most supportive, curious team I have ever worked with. I’ve had an awful lot of fun, never laughed so much at work, and every day has been an absolute joy. There has been fun in many of my projects too! I have designed and made animations and have sourced suitably silly gifs for the DigiScot twitter account, which I managed this past year.
I am exceptionally proud of myself and of team digi. We have all done amazing work this year. My own evolution team and the participation team who have delivered the fabulous digital inclusion programme Connecting Scotland.
Most of all though I am fiercely proud of all of you, the Scottish voluntary sector. You have stepped up to the ridiculous challenges this past year has thrown at you. Your rapid evolution has, quite frankly, been outstanding!