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Update from Mid-May 2020

Welcome to the Mid-May 2020 issue of Digital WM News and our sixth issue of 2020, a fourth special issue dedicated to information from trusted sources, largely from and about the internet, aimed at supporting mainly small charities around their use of digital technology at this time.

**4th COVID 19 SPECIAL ISSUE #Covid19***

In this 4th Covid19 special issue of Digital WM News we continue to bring together resources aimed at helping those who are helping others in their community.

In this 4th special issue we include:

  • News including new Dr Tech show w John Popham, new Charity Meetup in Birmingham, Funders news, Office for Civil Society update, School of Code Demo Day and Open Tech 2020
  • Links to each CVS in your region Covid19 website pages
  • Some upcoming events, all happening online, including Social Media during social isolation, TNLCF Digital Fund event, Intro to  the UK Data Service, Cyber Security for TSOs, Be More Digital Q & A, Boost Your Virtual Fundraising w digital and What the Hack
  • People: John Popham, Chief Executive at Civic Story Factory and Independent Civic Storyteller
  • Reading & Resources: Links to resources for charities about using technology better including Charity Commission Covid19-related financial difficulties guidance, Digital Service recipes, How to write to your employer about not returning to work yet, and the importance of standardised funder data
  • Vacancies: CAST is hiring (1st June deadline) 
  • Covid19 Digital Stories from youthwork project Aptitude in Coventry and digital skills project Digikick in Birmingham
It is easy to become overwhelmed with all the information available right now so we're only including one post in the Vacancies section in this issue.

We continue to increase digital skills and knowledge in the VCSE sectors, as part of Project 2020, by curating the most useful items we see on the web during the month.

We'd love to hear your stories of increasing digital skills and knowledge too. Please email them to Pauline at, marking them for my attention.

For our new subscribers to mid-May, we welcome you!

We'd love to hear from you so please email or tweet us at our new and growing Twitter account Digital WM News

Please note that this issue of Digital WM News and all previous issues can be found on our website here

In 2020 we aim to reach at least one person in every small charity, non-profit and social enterprise in the West Midlands. 

You can help us increase our reach and increase digital skills in the West Midlands by encouraging your colleagues and friends to subscribe to Digital WM News in 2020. 

They can SIGN UP HERE to ensure they receive the latest issue as soon as it is published.

Regards and please keep well,

Pauline Roche,
Editor, Digital WM News

Photo on Unsplash in Covid-19 collection

Launch of 'Dr Tech' show - with some help from Pauline Roche

Chief Executive at Civic Story Factory and Independent Civic Storyteller John Popham (see this issue's People section) says "...on Monday 18th May 2020 marks the first episode of the Dr. Tech Show. With the help of some friends, namely Sweyn Hunter and Pauline Roche, I'll be broadcasting a live tech surgery on my YouTube Channel every Monday at 12 noon UK time... 

...The initial target audience will be people who want to get their digitally excluded friends and relatives online but are struggling to do so.

To this end, I’ve been collecting stories of people’s efforts to get their digitally excluded relatives and friends communicating digitally during Covid-19 using the hashtag #LateAdopters on Twitter.

And Pauline’s “Digital WM News” newsletter has lots of inspiring examples of how, in particular, voluntary organisations are using digital tools at the moment.

So, please join us for the first live Dr. Tech Show on YouTube on Monday 18th May.

Click here to join the show. And please get in touch if you’d like to be part of the show..."

Full post

New Charity Meetup in Birmingham

Mid-May saw the launch of a new Charity Meetup as the Birmingham group met, virtually, for the first time.

The theme of the event was ‘Wellbeing in Uncertain Times’ and the aim was to create a welcoming, relaxed session for those working in the sector to come together and support each other.

Charity Meetup Founder and Birmingham co-host, Dawn Newton, said: “People working in the charity/NFP sector are facing unique issues. We wanted to create a supportive event to help anyone feeling isolated and uncertain about the future.” 

Dawn and fellow hosts Vicky Kangurs and Claire Colvine chose the wellbeing theme to help anyone feeling isolated and uncertain about the future. 

Speakers at the event were Debby Clayton from Total Spectrum and Chris Golby from Lumien who covered the formula for lockdown success and tips for remote working. 

Also on the agenda was a fun ice-breaker (pictured) where attendees were asked to think of one word which sums up their charity or organisation and create a piece of art around their word. The most artistic drawing won a round of applause and a free ticket to the next event.

You can follow Charity Meetup on social media for updates:

Facebook group:
LinkedIn Group:


Funders responding to COVID-19 in the West Midlands

Funders and infrastructure organisations reps pictured on the call

One of the 5 breakout groups during the call - Top to bottom: Mel Connelly, BBC Children in Need, Pauline Roche, RnR Organisation, Sharon Nanan-Sen, Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council, Tina Costello, Heart of England Community Foundation, Debbie Pippard, Barrow Cadbury Trust and Stuart Ashmore, SCVO Sandwell 


This West Midlands funders and infrastructure organisations Covid19 online roundtable on 12th May was well attended with 18 funders and 12 infrastructure organisations represented. This included specialist organisations such as the Migration Policy and Practice project

The event was chaired by WM Funders Network chair Pauline Roche and notes from the roundtable have been circulated to the attendees.

WM Funders Network is hoping to host another similar event in the near future in order to monitor the effects of the post-Covid19 recovery.

Funders Collaborative Hub announced 

Office for Civil Society
Covid-19 Support Update

This is a regular update from the Office for Civil Society as part of our commitment to keeping civil society stakeholders informed of the Government's response to Covid-19 and support to the sector.

We will continue to send these newsletters whenever we have relevant key updates for the sector.

Content includes: 
- Government Funding opportunities
- NHS Volunteer responders updates
- Defra guidance on Accessing food and essential supplies
- Department for Health and Social Care guidance on coronavirus testing including for frontline workers in charities
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extension to end October

Full update

School of Code Demo Day 2020

The West Midlands School of Code, started by Chris Meah when studying for his PhD in Computer Science, presented its third cohort in its first ever remote Demo Day on 14th May. The Demo Day had to be remote because of the Covid19 pandemic and all team members rose to the challenges magnificently. 

It probably helped that Chris had managed to make a clone of himself - see the YouTube presentation for more on this!

Our editor Pauline Roche was pleased to join the Demo Day presentations online and see the presentations of the team projects first hand. 

Team Jomellen - Bootcamp Community App

Team Buump - Game App

Team Energise - Energiser app

Team SLA-ckers with their Volunteer App

Team Stretch Goals - TuitionManagement App

Team MealThings - Meal Planner App

We reported the recruitment of this cohort in the December 2019 issue and here they are already, after only 16 weeks, all qualified coders.

The coders are now looking for their first developer roles so companies are invited to check out the raw, diverse talent now available to jump into tech

To  find out more, visit the School of Code website or email 

OpenTech 2020 — Now, Next, and Beyond

"For those who’ve not been before... OpenTech is an informal, low cost, one-day conference on slightly different approaches to technology, problems and democracy.

You would have been guaranteed a day of thoughtful, thought-provoking talks leading to lively conversations with friends… but for coronavirus..

Target audience

The target audience is always a technology interested generalists – and we’ll take talks that are of interest to some of that group. Since we don’t have physical time/space limits, we can take talks that might only be of interest to a dozen people on the planet – if you think something might be interesting, get in touch.

We want talks on:

Talks will still be about 15 minutes, and we can help you refine your idea if you like. Quirky talks on things that you find interesting are extremely welcome. But our starter list includes:

  • Things that changed and things that didn’t?
  • Things that should change and things that shouldn’t?
  • Coronavirus – what works and what doesn’t?
  • Open hardware?
  • Bad ideas revisited?
  • Fixing everything else on the risk register? (Inc climate)
  • Data, Equality, and the Rule of Law?
  • What can’t we currently do, and what we can?
  • Is there a use for blockchains yet?
  • All the talks you’d normally want to see;
  • ... and anything else you think might be interesting

If you have a talk that you'd love to give, that you have no idea what conference might be interested, we're probably that conference. Fill in our form or send us email"

All details are on the Open Tech 2020 website 

Pay for food or pay for data? DCMS update


Councils for Voluntary Service

A Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) is an umbrella body for voluntary and community organisations in a local area.

CVS and Covid19 in your local area

Each CVS in the various parts of the West Midlands has a link to information about the local response to the Covid19 pandemic. Each CVS's Twitter feed should give you their latest information.

Something missing?

Please let me know if I have missed an area or organisation by emailing me at 

Until further notice, all events will be online and can be based anywhere in the UK


1-2pm, 18th May

Business and Local Government Data Research Centre

Social Media During Social Isolation

Join social media researcher Shaaba Lotun for a lunch and learn discussion, as we explore the changing role of social media during COVID-19.  

Join the debate live, share your tips for using social media and taking care of your health.

15.30-17.00, 18th May

Digital Fund online learning event

18.30-20.30 19th May

Open Data Manchester

An Introduction to the UK Data Service

The UK Data Service holds the UK’s largest collection of research data. This introductory webinar is for anyone with an interest in social research who wants to hear about the vast array of resources we offer.

Participants will learn about the different types of quantitative and qualitative data we hold, how to find those data collections using our online resource discovery tools, and how to register to access datasets in various formats.

10am 20th May

DigiShift : Cyber Security for Third Sector Organisations


11-12, 20th May

Be More Digital

Digital Q&A for charities

A space for people working in the charity sector to ask questions about their digital projects and learn from peers. A response to the urgent need for us all to work from home because of Covid-19 and the UK's lockdown 

How do charities create a digital service quickly? How are others working and collaborating remotely?

The monthly Digital Q&A is a safe space for people to share their learnings, share what's been difficult and ask for advice from Bobi Robson, and some of her friends specialising in digital.

Monthly event - other dates available on booking page.

11-12, 21st May

ODI Leeds

#OpenDataSavesLives  & Covid19 meeting

There is a lot of coverage about the impact of the virus nationally but a majority of citizens' concerns will be focused locally. They want to know how their local area will be affected - businesses, education, social care, transport, even green space and parks. Where is the data about the local perspective? Who is working on what, and how can others get involved?

This is a semi-regular meeting to connect with new people, share work, get project updates, and more. For context of the very first session, please watch/listen to the recording or visit the Google Doc.

Weekly event - other dates available on booking page.

11-1, 21st May

Institute of Fundraising West Midlands

Institute of Fundraising West Midlands Warwickshire & Coventry Fundraisers Meetup

Your opportunity to meet, network, share ideas and unwind with other Fundraising Professionals including Fundraising Managers.

1-2pm, 21st May

Charity Digital 

Adopting digital experiences to boost your virtual fundraising

In this webinar, we will examine how charities can use personalisation and marketing automation technology to promote outreach activities, drive fundraising campaigns, and more importantly, make sure you’re being heard.

30th-31st May

What the Hack


A hackathon to help small businesses in their post covid19 recovery.

Organiser Sophie Benoit says "We know the virus isn't going away any time soon, but we want to anticipate and find solutions to help small businesses to overcome their challenges. Because the topic is broad, the project will cover many goals of the 17 sustainable and development goals set by the UN"

Regular Meetups

*new this issue*
Birmingham Open Code - no sessions scheduled
- weekly (Tues) open study session for folks who program or those who want to get started
Birmingham Settlement IT Club - For more information please contact Rob on or 0121 250 0764.
- weekly (Wed, 1-3pm)
Brum SMC - next one TBC
– monthly (last Fri) social media meetup
Coding Wednesday - 22nd Apr session cancelled
- monthly, last Wed 
Digital Skills courses (Fircroft College) - dates TBC
– semi-regular - improve your digital skills
Lock picking (fizzPOP) - no session scheduled
– monthly (2nd Wednesday)
*Maker Monday* - next one TBC
fortnightly slice of inspiration from the creative and tech worlds
Net Squared Midlands – regular #techforgood meetup - latest 
- Net Squared Midlands meetups will be restarting with our 1st online meetup - date TBC!
Tech Wednesday – 20th May [online]
- monthly meet up for like-minded individuals in tech industry in Birmingham area


Digital and IT - All of our courses up until July 2020 have been postponed until further notice due to the college's partial closure.
Fircroft College, Birmingham

John Popham, Chief Executive at Civic Story Factory and Independent Civic Storyteller

Civic Storyteller, Social Entrepreneur and "20th Most Influential Person in the World on Digital Inclusion" John Popham has pioneered the use of Digital Storytelling for non-profit organisations to tell their stories to raise their issues on the national agenda, and change public perceptions of the clients they work with. John's latest venture, a show entitled Dr Tech, launches on his Youtube channel on 18th May 2020

John has a national reputation as at the leading edge of working with social media and new technologies in (principally) the non-profit sectors. He arranged the first ever live broadcast of a village cricket match (#twicket) in 2011. This achieved widespread media coverage, including a 30 minute interview on Radio New Zealand. In 2014 he was voted 2nd in both 24 Housing Magazine's list of UK Housing Digital PowerPlayers, and The Guardian's list of best tweeters on Digital Inclusion.

John works with a large number of organisations to help clients tell their stories, help clinicians and other professionals understand the need for storytelling, and to raise the digital skills of staff. He has worked with patients' groups both to increase their levels of digital skills and to help them tell the world what it is like living with their conditions and document their treatment regimes.

John is recognised as a leading practitioner in working with older people to break down their resistance to new technologies and to help them use digital tools to improve their health and wellbeing.

John ran AgeCamp, the first unconference for people working with older adults and has run the Campaign for Free Wifi for Hospital Patients for more than 10 years.

Most of all John practices what he preaches and uses social media and digital tools in his daily life to document his work and other aspects of his life. He is John Popham on Twitter



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COVID-19 related financial difficulties in charities: Charity Commission guidance

Digital Service recipes


Template: "How to write to your employer about not returning to work yet"

DigiListen Podcast

The importance of standardised funder data

CAST is hiring

We've started asking our networks what was happening for their charity during #Covid19? We specifically asked "Are you using the internet, social media and technology more?"


Here are some more stories we've received and gleaned from the net in the last few weeks - from a youthwork project in Coventry and a digital skills project in Birmingham.


We heard from one of the Directors of Aptitude, Laura Evans.

"Aptitude is a social enterprise, established in 2017 which aims to improve life chances of young people in the West Midlands via the medium of youth work. We predominantly operate in Coventry. We employ 10 part time and sessional staff and engage with around 50 - 100 young people a week depending on what we have running at any time.

We offer youth work sessions, girls empowerment courses, music and sports courses. Our commercial arm consists of a professional training offer including nationally accredited courses in youth work and mental health.

During Covid19 we have furloughed about 50% of our staff and are trying to keep an offer on the table for young people with the remaining 50% of staff.

Screenshot of one of the Aptitude video lessons made with a mobile phone
Has your charity had to change its objects to deliver different services than usual?
We still exist to provide support to children and young people and also look to upskill other professionals in the sector. We are still offering this and meeting our organisational objectives - albeit in a more scaled-down and a very different way.

What tech and platforms are you using most now and is this different from before the pandemic?
We are running some of our group sessions with young people via Zoom - none of our staff had ever used this before now.

We are also delivering training via a combination of Zoom, a WhatsApp chat group and pre-recorded videos. We made these at home with a mobile phone as soon as lockdown happened and we upload them to our website each week. We had never run online training sessions beforehand.

What is the most useful tech tool or system you have learned about since the pandemic started?
Zoom has been incredible and has practically saved us. It allows us to actually see the young people who engage with it and this is vital for safeguarding as well as retaining that relationship and connection.

We have also shifted our training commitments to online delivery which has allowed us to continue to deliver and stabilise this income source.

How will your charity be different with technology from now on?
I think we will continue to use Zoom for things like staff meetings after the restrictions are lifted. It was previously always very difficult to get our part time staff in a location all at the same time and we have had nearly 100% attendance at any meetings since holding them via Zoom.

We will also continue to offer online training as opposed to just face to face. This has worked very well for us and not something we had considered as an option at all until we were forced to look at it.

Do you have any technology-related questions which I or my readers might be able to answer for you?
We used Zoom because it was just the first thing we stumbled across.

I would welcome some feedback as to what the difference is between Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Are we using the best platform or should we be looking to switching to Teams? Is Zoom secure enough? We have developed new policies and done online training for our staff to ensure we are delivering as safely as possible but are hearing a lot of media reports questioning the security of Zoom. Are these reliable reports we should be listening to? 


Digikick, based in Birmingham, aims to use technology as a tool to bring community together.


We heard from one of the Directors, Chris Laband.

Through the Heart of England Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Resilience Fund, Birmingham-based Digikick was awarded a grant of £1,500 which has enabled them to support those who have been isolated during the pandemic. Improving people’s tech skills during this time can be crucial to people’s happiness.

Nothing could be truer than Chrys’ experience:

“I’ve just lost my husband, just got cancer so my stress levels are sky high. I’m not computer literate at all. I’ve got an iPhone, but I don’t know how to use it really. I’ve been hacked on the computer, so I won’t use them anymore.


“I feel more in lockdown than ever now because I haven’t been able to access things from the cancer centre, I was getting all the therapy but, rightly so, all that has suddenly stopped.”

Chrys has only had a few sessions but thanks to Digikick’s individual approach she’s been able to explain her priorities and start working on what’s important for her life:

“I said ‘can I tell you my absolute priorities?’ – They take it step by step, it’s my first time so it’s hard but they’re really good at explaining and giving me the time to get things down.


“We’ve gone through accessing YouTube, which is great, I’ve been able to get onto the yoga and the tai chi. I’m really pleased that I can access that, and apparently I can access it at any time which is great!”

Chatting over the phone with Chrys she makes it clear how important this service has been for her:

“This is my life saviour [sic]; I’ve been trying to get help like this for 2 years. I’m so pleased, I felt so different, I was getting so down, thinking ‘I really don’t want to live, it’s not worth it’.


“Without Digikick I think I’d be at the crematorium, it was honestly that bad, I’m not a depressive person but it was honestly that bad. I just thought I wasn’t going to get any help.


“I’ve really picked it up and I’m feeling really positive, I’d never be able to access those things before. It makes me very excited I tell people it’s absolutely fantastic, it’s clear and concise and they’ve got a lot of patience! I can’t believe how good it’s been.”

Chris says that since lockdown started "We are supporting people 1-1 over the phone. We are running a call in every day where we can help guide people through internet processes from the ground up, We have kept our ethos of individual and fun teaching, we don’t use computer jargon, we work with people at their level and we focus on the things which are important to them. 

We have also developed a beginners internet access course which people can use remotely. The course can be accessed free of charge and holds a wide variety of different topics. Each topic is made up of a video introducing the topic and explaining any computer language, a step-by-step guide and a challenge to test your new found skills!

We do miss our community sessions as we believe the group aspect is a really important part of our sessions, but we are proud to be doing our small piece to help keep people connected

We would love to help people who do not have their own device or internet connection learn to access the internet.

Digikick's biggest question now is whether anyone knows of an organisation which can help provide people with devices or internet connection?

Parts of this post first appeared on the Heart of England Community Foundation website and these have been reused here by agreement

Do you have a story to tell about your charity's use of digital technology during the Covid19 pandemic?

Digital WM News will feature more West Midlands charities Covid19 digital stories in future issues - please send us your answers to the following questions for your charity's story to be considered for publication:
  • Has your charity had to change its objects to deliver different services than usual?
  • What tech and platforms are you using most now and is this different from before the pandemic?
  • What is the most useful technology-related tool or system you have learned about since the pandemic started?
  • How will your charity be different with digital or technology from now on?
  • Do you have any technology-related questions which I or my readers might be able to answer for you?
Photo on Unsplash in Covid-19 collection

Hi, I'm Pauline Roche. I'm a freelance journalist with a special interest in data journalism.

I'm also M.D. of RnR Organisation - we're a social enterprise and we aim to increase digital and data literacy amongst smaller non-profits, including by running the Net Squared Midlands meetup and the VCSSCamp unconference for voluntary sector infrastructure organisations.

If you've learned something through this newsletter, or you just think DWMN is great, you can read back issues here. You can also encourage others to subscribe.

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RnR Organisation is registered as a Company Ltd by Guarantee in England and Wales,
Company Registration Number 9140623 
Copyright © 2020 RnR Organisation, All rights reserved.

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