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Digital transformation by pandemic

12 May 2020

The current pandemic has changed everything. Both our work and personal lives are now being lived out online – digital transformation is happening in real-time. And in particular, exciting digital things have been happening here at the Scouts.

Now I’ve talked before about ‘digital transformation by stealth’ which also translates as ‘ask forgiveness not permission’ and this motto has helped me push forward much digital change in previous years and previous roles. But we’re in different times. And as someone who believes so passionately in the power of digital, I have been genuinely blown away and truly inspired by the rapid digital transformation that is happening around us – and how it’s genuinely making things better.

Just take a moment to think about how long things used to take. All that stuff that previously took digital transformation teams weeks of planning, workshopping and sprinting; all those hours persuading colleagues who ‘just don’t get it;’ all those ‘one step forwards, three steps backwards’ moments. Suddenly transformation is happening everywhere – without us digital people having to do very much at all.

It’s great to have the job of selling in digital made easier and thrilling to see more and more people enthused by digital transformation.

If someone told me six months ago when I joined the Scouts that any of this was possible, I would quite honestly have thought they were joking. But here are just a few things that our teams have enabled in the last few weeks which I am very proud (but equally in awe) of and which hopefully will inspire other teams to try themselves:

  1. The launch of #TheGreatIndoors social media campaign to support families at home, helping young people continue to learn skills for life, even in lockdown. We used this campaign as an opportunity to link to curated web content we’d already developed and to date, it has had over 750,000 views. Set up in about two days, it shows how existing assets can be quickly repurposed to provide real benefit to audiences at a time when they need it most.
  2. Trialling remote working for a day in the very early days of the pandemic – including supporting the Payroll team to run payroll remotely for the first time ever. Little did we know at the time that this would be a long-term thing but the trial day got extended and we haven’t been back to the office in eight weeks. Being proactive and reacting quickly to a  developing situation was essential, but we also learnt quickly and ensured that we were set up for the longer term remote working as well, and we review our setup regularly.

  3. Setting up a Zoom Leadership Team briefing with live Q & A for 14,000 Scout volunteers. Again, we set this up in just two days  –  trialling something new and quickly was important, but it has allowed us to create a permanent direct communications tool from national to our members, which we have never done before.

  4. Pulling together a digital fundraiser #HiketotheMoon, which got Scouts around the world collectively hiking to the moon (and back). Raising over £320,000 for BBC Children in Need and Comic Relief, this fundraiser enabled us to curate amazing user-generated and celebrity ambassador content while with badge sales and match funding means, we’ll be contributing nearly £700,000 in total. The success of this has shown how thinking creatively in the digital space, whilst focussing on our core values in the physical space (in this case ‘helping others’ and ‘going on adventures’) really lands well and resonates with both current and new audiences.
  5. Rolling out Microsoft Teams securely to the entire organisation in two weeks, as opposed to the originally planned four months. The speed of turnaround here has demonstrated to the rest of the organisation the value of truly agile working, as well as bringing many people up to speed with digital collaboration tools and enabling us to jump many steps forwards in our staff digital skills journey.
  6. Onboarding five of our new Digital team starters virtually, because they’ve all joined since lockdown – what a way to start a new job. Being a digital person doesn’t mean that working only digitally is always easy!
  7. And probably the most exciting of all – 81% of our local Scout volunteers have helped over 200,000 young people meet digitally through virtual Scout sessions; helping them continue to learn skills, to speak up and play their part; showing that our values of care, co-operation and ‘giving it a go’ are as relevant today as they were to our founder, Robert Baden Powell back in 1907.

These initiatives demonstrate many of the things that make working in digital so exciting and highlight why it’s so important that we help share digital skills too. It is also a reminder of how truly creative, innovative and adaptable most people are. And this is just the start, it will be exciting to see what massive digital shifts are going to happen as we come out of this. So as a sector let’s keep sharing what we are doing and use what we are learning from our digital work to help each other.

Image: Pixabay on Pexels

Lara Burns

chief digital officer, The Scouts Association

Lara is Chief Digital Officer for the Scouts, The UK's largest coeducation youth movement, helping over 460,000 young people speak up, play their part and gain the skills they need for life. #SkillsforLife