Howdy! I’ve picked up the CAST Capacity Team weeknotes baton, stepping into Molly’s shoes while she has a well deserved lie down.
Remember 2020? Thought so…I joined the CAST Capacity Team back in August 2020 as Partnerships Manager alongside Ellie, Debby, Reem and Molly. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, with a few steep climbs and some thrilling loops (possibly a bit of dizziness along the way…no vomit…yet).
This week was a ‘loop-the-loop’ kind of week. And we all felt a bit giddy by the end of it. Here’s why…
What was so exciting about this week?
We’ve just wrapped up the 1st edition of our 10-week Development Programme — 10 charities carefully matched with digital partners, collaborating to improve their services. It’s been intense. Fast-paced. A bit messy. And the best.
We like word clouds in our team. Here’s one with some nice words from the amazing charities that took part in the programme (who needs KPIs?!):
What did we learn?
It’s the journey that truly matters, not the destination.
I last used this quote (can’t remember who from) in a travel blog when spending weeks on the Trans Siberian railway exploring Russia. The destination was grey Eastern Siberia so the quote made a lot of sense then.
In the case of our Development grantees, it’s not as straightforward but it still resonates. We’ve been blown away by how quickly these charities have built confidence and learnt in the space of 10 weeks — they’ve pivoted their services at pace, picked up user-centred design approaches and embraced agile practices…and boy can they rock a Miro board! (we’ll all be out of jobs soon, that’s our destination!)
You can build good stuff in 10 weeks
A new website to support young people with mental health issues, a digital skills assessment tool for volunteers, a smart data analytics dashboard, a suite of resources to support LGBT+ young people. Just to name a few examples. All with accessibility and inclusion at their core. So much. So rich. In just 10 weeks. We’ll be sharing all the products coming out of this programme soon so they can be reused by others, watch this space.
‘Collaboration’ and ‘tangible’ are words that can work together
“Yeah yeah, collaboration — that word again, we get it!”
It’s true, it’s such a fuzzy word. But what we’ve learnt from this programme is that when you combine ‘collaboration’ with terms like ‘reuse’, ‘no code’ and ‘open source’, we can start envisaging long-term tangible impact for the sector. Not just our words, words used in our wrap-up session by one of the programme grantees:
“Some really good work being developed by all of us here — I can honestly see how each of the development projects could be used wider — especially by our consortium member organisations”.
Check out this talk on developing for reuse from Chris Thorpe, our Head of Tech & Digital Strategy (aka Reuse Guru) to find out more.
What about the challenges?
It’s not all plain sailing. While we’re buzzing now, it’s also been a bumpy ride at times. In our retro with the group, we also asked everyone what had been missing during the programme. And the board had plenty of post-its!
Here are some of the top comments that came up in our group feedback session:
- More time! 10 weeks was short and intense.
- Establishing clearer ‘ways of working’ from the beginning.
- Fewer parties involved — the CAST/Catalyst/OWLS/consultants collaboration can get confusing!
- More support for sustainability — how can we ensure the products being developed don’t just fall off a cliff?
It was great for us to hear grantees share openly and candidly what they had missed during the course of the programme. (This actually came through more in a peer group setting than in our 1:1s with them so some really useful learning there!)
The great thing about working at CAST is the willingness and dedication to actually take criticism and feedback from our users/partners/grantees fully on board. A huge amount of energy is spent on refining and improving something which for many other organisations would be ‘good enough’. I was slightly taken aback by this when I started, but in a good way. It’s challenging to do when we’re working at speed and focused on imminent delivery. It’s even more challenging in the current Covid-19 environment. But it’s essential.
The good news is that we can address some of these challenges right away as we dive into the second edition of the Development programme — this time with 18 charities. We’ve actually got an info hub set up for this programme so some good progress made already! Molly also reflected on some of those changes we’ve made to the new Development programme last week. More on how all that’s going next week…
Enough reflecting for now — time to get to work!