Innovation on the cards

Innovation on the cards

Innovation on the cards

Governance | John Tate | 1 Apr 2007

John Tate challenges charities to embrace a culture of change to benefit from new technology.

On Mother’s day last month I was dispatched by my temporarily unwell daughter to buy a traditional Mother’s day card. Or so I thought. The Richmond branch of Clintons had hundreds of cards to choose from but one stood out. It allowed you to record a voice message for your mother, which is played back when the card is opened – all for under £5. My wife was suitably bemused when she opened the envelope.

That got me thinking. Here was an example of a computer chip with a microphone and speaker for personal use, the sort of thing that we have read about being attached to home devices such as fridges, freezers and washing machines. How is that going to affect our lives in the coming years? If a chip and mothers day card costs less than £5 presumably the device itself will be available for a few pence tomorrow. How long before this includes a simple screen?

This question was put into focus earlier in the month when I gave a lecture to postgraduate students at Cass Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness. As always the group was lively, engaged and full of ideas. We held a breakout session for the students to look at and report back on the key technologies that will affect charities in the next few years. The feedback was fascinating. The dominant area of interest was new media including blogs, podcasts, Wikis and using the internet and email to communicate and work with stakeholders of their charity. Many of those present were already using this technology in interesting ways. Some to campaign, some for video conferencing, some to deliver new services to beneficiaries and some to improve the efficiency of their day-today jobs and transaction processing. Further examples included mobile working, with the ability to connect to an office and other staff wherever you are based, and the whole issue of collaboration, where different groups of people can work together on projects via the internet. All recognised that the web and new media is already having a huge impact on charities and this is going to grow over the coming years.

So what are the hot technologies that your organisation should be looking at and when is the right time to engage with this? Too early and the technology may not take off. Too late and you may fail to get the benefit of a new idea and lose competitive advantage to other organisations. When talking about new technologies the students at Cass highlighted that for many of them introducing the new technology was a voyage of discovery with many unexpected benefits and pitfalls along the path. Legislation adds to the complexity and challenge as it is often unclear what the rules are, for example, over monitoring content posted on discussion forums.

Innovation and regulation 

There has been much media coverage recently on television quiz shows that allow people to call/text their answers to a premium rate number and hope for a prize. The recent growth in this commercial activity has generated considerable revenue for the television companies but has also created much unease about the potential lack of regulation of what many regard as home gambling. Last month viewers discovered all sorts of underhand practices and the lack of transparency caused uproar. Even Blue Peter got embroiled in the scandal causing much loss of face and potential longer term damage to its brand.

So change is going to happen. Are we up for this and can we carefully manage the process to get maximum benefit? Again the Cass students provided an interesting insight. Most of the sixty or so people present at the lecture were keen to explore change. However, when asked how many of their colleagues below senior management level were also excited about change the answer was concerning. Only a few students put their hands up to this question, demonstrating that in their view charities have a long way to go to create a culture of change to get the benefit from new technology. If people are not keen on change they are likely to resist it. The chances of a project going well in this environment are limited. I await Father’s day in June with interest to see what card my children get me. If my wife has a hand in the choice I suspect it will be good old fashioned paper without a computer chip in sight. Some things are perhaps best left as they are.

John Tate is a leading IT analyst in the charity sector and chair of Citra


[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear


  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

John Tate

John Tate is a qualified accountant and entrepreneur. He is a columnist for Charity Finance, a visiting lecturer at Cass Business School's Centre for Charity Effectiveness and Trustee of Eduserv. He also non executive chair of Civil Society Media.

Tesse Akpeki (55) Martin Farrell (46) Robert Ashton (38) Tania Mason (23) Andrew Chaggar (23) David Ainsworth (20) David Philpott (14) Making Good: The Future of the Voluntary Sector (13) Vibeka Mair (11) Ian Allsop (11)
Niki May Young (11) Dorothy Dalton (10) Kirsty Weakley (10) Leon Ward (10) Celina Ribeiro (9) Gordon Hunter (9) David Davison (8) John Tate (8) Neal Green (5) Jeremy Swain (5) Rowena Lewis (5) Andrew Hind CB (4) Daniel Phelan (4) Belinda Pratten (4) Suzi Leather (3) Stephen Lloyd (3) Pauline Broomhead (3) Rosie Chapman (3) Andrew Purkis (3) Ingrid Marson (3) Alexander Swallow (3) Alice Sharman (3) Sir Stuart Etherington (2) Adrian Beney (2) Joe Saxton (2) Jesper Christensen (2) Paul Gibson (2) Andrew Scadding (2) Anne Moynihan (2) Rosamund McCarthy (2) Kevin Carey (2) Garreth Spillane (2) June O'Sullivan (2) Dan Corry (2) Paul Emery (2) Simon Steeden (2) Andrew O'Brien (2) Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE (1) Victoria Cook (1) Claris D'cruz (1) Peter Gotham (1) Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett (1) Justin Davis Smith (1) Kate Sayer (1) Alison McKenna (1) Paul Palmer (1) Anne-Marie Piper (1) Jo Swinhoe (1) Karl Wilding (1) Richard Williams (1) Mike Hudson (1) Sir Christopher Kelly (1) Martin Brookes (1) Simon Hebditch (1) Lindsay Driscoll (1) Jo Coleman (1) Cedric Frederick (1) Jonathan Lewis (1) Dame Mary Marsh (1) Jill Pitkeathley (1) Nick Brooks (1) Linda Laurance (1) Suzie Who (1) James Thompson (1) Stephen Hammersley (1) John May (1) Julian Blake (1) Malcolm Hurlston (1) Andy Gregg (1) Beth Yorath (1) Paul Amadi (1) Caroline Beaumont (1) Judith Davey (1) Diane Lightfoot (1) Douglas Rouse (1) Jackie Turpin (1) Lynda Thomas (1) Tom Flood (1) Dan Sutch (1) Jenni Cahill (1) Jonathan Crown (1) Ruchir Shah (1) Katy Wing (1) George Ames (1) Jenny North (1) Sir David Varney (1) Liam Barrington-Bush (1) Mairéad O'Reilly (1) Tobin Aldrich (1) Michael O'Toole (1) Lisa Clavering (1) Jamie Ward-Smith (1) Ian Joseph (1) Sarah Atkinson (1) Jonathan Bruck (1) Rachel Short (1) Dr Debra Beck (1) Andy Rich (1) Ian Leggett (1) Leigh Daynes (1) Tim Willis (1) Richard Caulfield (1) Emma Callagher (1)
Less +++ More +++

The long and unhappy saga of the Local Sustainability Fund

29 Jun 2015

Last week the government announced a £20m pot of funding for charities. This sounds like good news, says...

Government can't ask charities to compete for contracts while savaging council spending

15 Jun 2015

The government cannot tell charities they must compete for contracts in a market while slashing the spending...

'Northern Powerhouse'? Almost as clearly defined as the big society

4 Jun 2015

Ian Allsop talks tomatoes and why charities should look north for income growth opportunities under the...

Join the discussion


Attending our one day courses is a highly effective way of ensuring new and existing trustees fully understand their role, responsibilities and liabilities.

>> Find out more <<