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Charity Commission Reform Vital for Civil Society Strategy to Work

The Government has just closed consultation on its plan to help create a stronger civil society in the UK. It’s an opportunity for the social and charitable sector to make demands of legislators while looking at itself and being honest about what it can do better for the causes, people and places it serves.

New Philanthropy Capital have made 21 recommendations on the civil society strategy across a wide range of topics, but there are a couple of key things the government could do to make a massive, positive impact on the sector.

First, reform the Charity Commission. It is an organisation full of dedicated people, but is straining under the weight of limited resources and an increasingly conflicted remit. It should be the regulator the sector needs, not its cheerleader. The sector should investigate whether the support it offers charities should be spun out into a new, independent organisation dedicated to sector-led improvement.

They also think what the commission regulates should change. It is too focused on financial stability and organisational survival at the expense of whether charities are having an impact for beneficiaries. They want to see a toughening up of annual impact reporting as part of the commission’s processes. Many charities already do this, but many don’t – if we can get them seriously thinking about their impact, the people they serve stand to benefit.

To read the full Guardian Voluntary Sector Network article click here.

Source: Guardian Voluntary Sector Network


Five Ways Charities Need to Assess the Ethical Impact of Digital

Data, Digital and Technology (DDT) continues to rapidly transform the ways in which business, government and civil society operate. There is no doubt that it has brought many benefits –  it’s harder to get lost when you have a mobile device with access to Google Maps! But there has been increasing recognition that the consequences of applying DDT without proper review can lead to harm, entrenching or exacerbating existing societal biases.

This has led to an explosion of codes of conducts and principles on how to develop ethical tech products and services. Though this is a good sign that the tech industry has recognised the importance of ethics, this proliferation has created a bewildering landscape for charities wishing to understand the key considerations needed for digital ethics.

So how can you navigate the maze? Here are our five top tips, based on our work with the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) to help their members to discover which ethical principles are relevant to them and how to ask questions of tech partners to ensure they are on board.

1. Understand your environment

So we want to build an ethical digital product or service. How we get there requires us to understand the context in which we operate, so we can tailor our principles to that context. For example, for AMRC members, the context is data and digital health research, by charities and their partners, in the UK. It’s less catchy than just saying ‘digital health’ but it provides a useful frame to explore where other ethical work has been done and what might be different to this particular context. What is the context that you are working in?

2. Don’t reinvent the wheel

AMRC sought to assess what was out there already – rather than simply add to the ever expanding DDT ethics field. In the absence of a perfect fit to the specific context, we aimed to signpost to the most relevant high-level principles. This meant acknowledging what was distinctive, and also common about their context, identifying relevant principles, and connecting them to best practice and existing requirements. Can you use an existing framework?

3. Plan your route

With a clear understanding of our environment, we identified the relevant ethical principles for AMRC members through undertaking a review of literature, speaking with experts working in the field of ethics and AI and speaking with AMRC members who have the deep expertise in the fields they work with and quickly. The field of digital ethics is still evolving and we found people were willing to discuss and share their work. One key finding is that more guidance is needed to help all organisations really embed ethics into practice. Who should you involve?

To read the full Charity Digital News Article click here.

Source: Charity Digital News


Office 365 vs Office Desktop: Which is Really Best for Your Charity?

Software and services of all kinds have been moving to a cloud-based subscription model, and Microsoft have been no exception. But many charities and non-profit organisations are still assessing the benefits and risks of ditching their traditional desktop-based versions of programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint and embracing Office 365 – Microsoft’s cloud-hosted version. In this article Charity Digital News takes a step back and weigh up some of the pros and cons of Office 365 for charities.

Pro: You can access all the main apps

With Microsoft Office 365 you’ll be able to access all the core productivity apps that belong to Microsoft Office, including Word, Powerpoint, Excel and Outlook, plus some extras. Even the free donated versions of Office 365 (Business Essentials and E1) have access to web-only versions of these apps, along with document storage, sharing and collaboration services like OneDrive, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams. For more on what you get with the different Office 365 Nonprofit versions,  go to the Microsoft website.

Con: You don’t get downloaded apps with the free version

With the free (donated) version of Office 365, all the apps included are browser-only versions, so you may not get access to the full features (plus you will need to have a decent internet connection at all times). You will need to invest in one of the paid subscription Nonprofit plans to be able to download the full version of the apps to your computer.

Plus, the free versions of Office 365 don’t include Access and Publisher. If you need those for your charity, PC users will be able to use Access and Publisher via a paid Office 365 subscription, or you can purchase Access separately through the tt-exchange catalogue.

To read the full Charity Digital News Article click here.

Source: Charity Digital News

 


Charity Commission Issues Cybercrime Alert for Trustees

The Charity Commission has published an alert for charity trustees with information on how to report cybercrime.

The regulator said the alert comes “amid ongoing prevalent threats, particularly around phishing emails”.

Its alert says that “all charities should be vigilant to the threat of cybercrime and make sure appropriate defences are in place, including raising awareness with their staff and volunteers”.

It adds trustees of charities which have fallen victim to cybercrime, or any other type of fraud, should report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040, or by visiting the organisation’s website.

The Commission recommends that charities should also report fraud to them as a serious incident.

“We require prompt, full and frank disclosure of incidents. Serious incident reporting helps us to assess the volume and impact of incidents within charities, and to understand the risks facing the sector as a whole,” it says.

“Where appropriate, we can also provide timely advice and guidance, either to assist individual charities and get them back on track, or to warn the wider sector about prevalent threats.”

The alert directs charities to other sets of guidance already published for charities to help prevent cybercrime.

It says the cost of a cyber breach to a charity can range from £300 to £100,000.

Last month, the government published its Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2019, which revealed that one fifth of charities had experiences a cyber breach last year.

Source: Civil Society


A result for Sandwell Visually Impaired!

Sandwell Visually Impaired (SVI) recently asked us to canvass for under-desk pedestals and the loan of a gazebo.   We are pleased to report that SVI have managed to secure these units.

Does your organisation have items that are surplus to requirements, or, do you wish to acquire/loan an article?   Email support@scvo.info or call 0121 525 1127 and let us know.


Revenues and Benefits Spring newsletter

Sandwell Revenues and Benefits service have released their Spring 2019 newsletter. This includes important information on the new rules for Council Tax Reduction (help for Sandwell residents with their Council Tax bills), Discretionary Housing Payments, private sector housing news and Universal Credit.

For more information about the Revenues and Benefits Service, please contact Oliver Wright at oliver_wright@sandwell.gov.uk


Talent Match Black Country Tender Opportunity

Talent Match Black Country invites applications to tender to conduct the project’s social return on investment evaluation. The successful organisation will be working alongside young adults.

To download a copy of the Specification, Invitation to Tender and sample Service Level Agreement and Appendices click here.


Rebalancing the Relationships Between Large and Small Voluntary Organisations

NCVO are embarking on a new piece of work in partnership with ACEVO and Lloyds Bank Foundation to explore how the relationship between large and small voluntary organisations can be rebalanced, in order to deliver better services, strengthen communities and ensure equity of opportunity across the voluntary sector.

Although the project will consider the wider commissioning environment, it will focus on organisations themselves taking action and ownership over what they themselves can do.

Many providers and experts in public service design have called into question the effectiveness of competitive tendering processes and cost driven outsourcing. The National Audit Office has repeatedly raised concerns about the lack of evidence and risk management in decision making, the impact of cost-cutting contracts on patient safety, and the appropriateness of payment by results. Furthermore, public trust in outsourcing has been seriously damaged by high-profile failures of large providers – most recently including Carillion.

The commissioning environment presents challenges for voluntary organisations of all sizes, but evidence suggests that smaller organisations have a particularly tough time. Due to commissioning and bidding practices, as well as the move towards fewer larger contracts, larger voluntary organisations are more likely to receive government funding.

To read the full NCVO article click here.

Source: FSI and NCVO


Free Impact Measurement Guides Launch for Small Charities

The online set of guides and tools has been launched by sector bodies including New Philanthropy Capital and NCVO.

A National Lottery funded website run by sector organisations has launched to offer a suite of free guides to help small and medium sized charities measure the impact of their work.

The website combines a raft of resources available through the Inspiring Impact and Impact Management Programme, which merged last year and are run by sector groups including New Philanthropy Capital, NCVO and Social Value UK.

On offer are free how-to guides and self-assessment tools specifically designed to help small and medium sized charities evaluate their impact.

This includes research reports, outcomes frameworks and surveys, designed and complied together with around 200 charities and social enterprises.

Diagnostic Tool

Also included in the impact measurement resources is a data diagnostic tool, which is a five-minute questionnaire offering tailored recommendations about what data to collect.

Already more than 110,000 people have used these resources and the groups involved in their launch hope it will be even more accessible being consolidated into one place.

The Inspiring Impact programme launched in 2012 and is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, Access – The Foundation for Social Investment and the City Bridge Trust.

“Thanks to National Lottery players more community organisations and charities will be able to better plan, measure and improve their impact with Inspiring Impact’s new website and tools,” said Joe Ferns, UK Funding Director at The National Lottery Community Fund.

“By creating a culture in civil society of continuous improvement, with the help of peer learning networks and free online resources, more and more communities across the UK can thrive.”

Judith Rankin, development and delivery manager at sports charity Sported, which has already been supported by Inspiring Impact, said: “Inspiring Impact’s network, support and resources have massively helped to develop both Sported’s own impact practice and that of our members.

“Our staff team have benefitted from the opportunity for peer-learning with other Inspiring Impact Champions across the UK, and many of our member groups have utilised the Measuring Up assessment tool which provides an excellent framework to identify priority areas.

“We look forward to exploring the new website and resources to build upon our work developing the evidence base for the Sport for Development sector.”

Source: Charity Digital News


Consultation: How The Government Should Take Account of Social Value

At the Social Value Summit the Cabinet Office and DCMS launched a consultation on how the Government should take account of social value in the award of central government contracts.

They welcome your engagement, and engagement with the organisations you represent, with the consultation process. Any responses should be sent to Domestic-policy-queries@cabinetoffice.gov.uk. The consultation will close at 11:45pm on 10 June 2019.

Check out their short animation.

Source: FSI


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