VONNE’s digital programme – what is it and why should you take part?

As the regional support organisation for the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector in the North East, VONNE has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund to encourage and support the development of digital in our sector. We do this through three strands of work – Innovation Workshops; Design Hops and Social Tech meets.

Since joining VONNE in December I’ve been lucky enough to attend two events from our programme and I wanted to tell you a bit more about them. Now, before I go on, I think I should share a couple of concerns I had about attending digital events:

  1. I’m not remotely techy – I have a mobile phone and use a computer, but the word tech sends a chill down my spine and conjures up images of people talking about code.
  2. I always thought of digital projects as big, shiny, intimidating things that cost a lot and take a lot of work to develop.

Apparently I was wrong on both counts.

Developing Innovation

First up was one of our workshops designed for organisations that have already been to one of our Introduction to Innovation sessions; both are led by Michael Coates, MD of Protostar. Developing Innovation, the one I attended, teaches techniques you can use to improve your services or introduce new ideas. The workshop gives a detailed explanation of ‘Systematic Inventive Thinking’, which, rather than a baffling bit of business theory, turns out to be a practical approach anyone can take to introduce new things into their organisation.

Despite having lots to cover, the session was supportive, with plenty of time for questions. Michael’s broad-ranging professional experience means he can help with suggestions and ideas, whatever type and size of organisation you’re from. Another bonus of attending is that eligible organisations can get further, free, innovation support from Michael.

Next steps

Second stop on my voyage of digital discovery was a Design Hop – a brilliant, interactive workshop that supports attendees to work through a specific challenge they’re facing and come away with a plan to address it. The key messages from this one really struck a chord with me. Firstly, good digital design is not about apps, software and processes; it’s about people. Secondly, good tech solutions start small and don’t need to cost much.  

Facilitated by experts from CAST – the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology and Consult & Design and supported through The Catalyst - this half-day event takes attendees through a design process exercise, a tried and tested method for exploring problems and beginning to develop solutions. One benefit of working through this in a group setting is the input from fellow attendees; it’s a great way to get a new perspective on the thing you want to address. By the end of the session I had a completed template and plan for next steps, as well as loads of new ideas and a great deck of digital resources. Attendees can also benefit from follow-on coaching telephone calls with the team.

These two workshops really opened my eyes to what’s possible with digital and the impact it can have on our sector.

Why should you take advantage of our digital programme?

  1. The events are free
  2. They’re provided by experts
  3. They’ll help you improve things at your organisation, starting with small, affordable steps
  4. You’ll build new relationships with people in a similar situation
  5. Attending opens up options for further free support.

Find out more and sign up for our digital programme of events on the VONNE events page.

By Laura Elliot, VONNE's Membership and Communications Support Officer