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Nathan Baranowski: Take stock and getting real – top learnings from lockdown

09 Dec 2020 Expert insight

Nathan Baranowski looks at how the sector's relationship with digital technology has developed during lockdown

This content has been supplied by a commercial partner.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and we can all look back and think about what we could change – the good, the bad and the ugly of Covid-19. There have definitely been some positive outcomes, here are the top observations for 2020.

Technology is fundamental to our future, we are in a digital first world.

The world is complex, and despite uncertainty and the unease we have felt this year, we have all learned to adapt and change, adopting technology and picking up new skills along the way, mostly because we had to. We have been on a change curve since March, and tech has played a significant role in making things easier. The cloud, anywhere access and connectivity have found their way to the centre of our worlds. This looks set to remain as we embrace digital as part of an on-going blended approach to a better physical and virtual way of life. We should use this as a building block and keep the momentum up.

We can all innovate. It has been staggering to see how it’s possible to deliver MVP (Minimum Viable Product) through a more agile approach, to deliver solutions at pace and refine and develop through iterative continual improvement thereafter.

This year could be viewed as a great pause or an incredible accelerator. To survive, and thrive, being a charity in name is not enough. That is why it is heartening to see many civil society leaders allowing their teams space and freedom to be creative, make mistakes, and celebrate successes

A #weareallinthistogether approach really has been seen, and the power of community shone through like a beaming light to ensure the spirit and positivity remained from the outset. The ability of social media to connect those in need and enable real-time communication as a way to support or simply ask for help. It also helped to highlight such important conversations, such as Black Lives Matter to really harness the effect of coming together for good. Doing the right thing – be it virtual fundraising activities, participating in events or volunteering - has pushed many charities to engage, be bold and ask directly. 

Data is the new oil. However big data doesn’t always mean big intelligence. Data needs to help us drive our understanding, guide our attention and inform our decisions - but not necessarily make them for us. Specifically, in the charity sector the role of transparency in where my money is being used and how my support is impacting are key questions supporters and donors want to know. The role of blockchain to support this is likely to return.  

We are on a digital roller coaster and should not get complacent. We in this for the long game. We need to recognise some are further ahead than others and we don’t have all the skills to do it all right now.  We need to recognise where we need to learn and give time by pacing change to ensure we embed and sustain the future and enjoy the ride.  

Digital should be, and needs to be, at the centre of your organisational operating model. The basics of IT need to be firmly behind and attention moving to adopting and maturing fast. With two years of advancement in two months we need to recognise that what was thought to be longer term ambitions will be arriving in the short term.  

From leveraging AI and machine learning, maximising cloud and data intelligence and security, to consuming and delivering services through platforms as a service and apps, we need to think about our charity in a digital first world that is virtual first and physical second. Now is the time for us all to leap forward and develop our own digital future.  

If Covid has shown us one thing it is that anything is possible. The only limit to our ability to realise our dreams is our own thinking of what is possible.  

Nathan Baranowski is managing director at digital wonderlab 


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