‘If you have people who are not adaptable they need to leave’

21 Nov 2016 News

Mandy Johnson, chief executive, Small Charities Coalition

Charities need to be prepared to sack people who are not prepared to embrace new ways of working and delivering services, delegates at the Charity Technology Conference heard last week. 

Speaking in separate sessions at Civil Society Media’s annual Charity Technology Conference on Thursday, Julie Dodd, director of digital transformation and communication at Parkinson’s UK, and Mandy Johnson, former director of partnerships at Change.org, told delegates that digital was now so important that if staff would not, or could not, get behind it they should not be there. 

Dodd said that most people will adapt to the introduction of new technologies and increased automation of routine tasks, but that there will be a small proportion “not prepared to go on that voyage" and that they would have to leave. 

“We just need to be ok with that,” she said. “If you have ‘no’ people get rid of them - they are damaging your organisation.”

She also said that digital teams need to work closely with human resources to change the culture of the organisation to be more willing to adapt to technology. 

“Trying to do this without involving HR is at best difficult and at worst completely futile,” she said. 

Digital disruption

Johnson said during a panel discussion on digital disruption that: “If you have people who are not adaptable then they need to leave the sector – we don’t want them anymore.”

Tris Lumley, director of development at NPC, added that this principle of rooting out those unwilling to change should be extended to the board, because “governance is the single biggest challenge we face”. 

He added that to benefit from the opportunities of digital there needed to be more investment and greater collaboration. 

“We have got to approach this together,” he said. “We need to stop thinking we can do this in our silos.”

Sam Sparrow, associate at the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology, said: “It can be very hard to get charities out of their individual mindsets - they feel like they’re giving something away. 

She added that the current structures in the sector “doesn’t necessarily allow for deep collaboration”.

Challenges from individuals and start-ups

Johnson also warned that digital has changed how people support organisations, and is in some cases taking resource away from traditional charities. 

She highlighted the number of crowdfunding campaigns from individuals in reaction to the Calais migrant crisis, including some who were being offered support from corporate partners. 

“Digital means that individuals feel more empowered than before,” she said. 

Damien Austin-Walker, chief technology officer at the Do-it Trust, added that in some cases charities were competing against start-ups with a social purpose who have “access to different financial income streams that perhaps charities don’t have access to”. 

And he said that charities “need to disrupt themselves before others” get there first. 

“The other thing that charities need to be very aware of is what they bring to the table,” he added. 

“We do have a headstart,” he said, because charities already have a large network of supporters and beneficiaries. 

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