My digital work: an interview with Gareth Jones

We have been working with volunteers from across our movement to develop our new digital tools, like the beta website and the programme planning feature.

Gareth Jones is a member of our Board of Trustees and has been in Scouting since he was 10 years old. He has been working with the Digital team, helping to ensure our tools are user-focused, allowing volunteers to focus on giving young people Skills for Life.

We spoke to him about his work and the future of digital in Scouting.

Planning a ‘firebreak’ – beta website development

We are starting our first ‘firebreak’ – a short break in a development cycle to rejuvenate and reset the team. Because this process is new to us, we thought we would share the thinking behind it. 

To develop our new website, we have been using the iterative development approach known as Agile. This means you build software in small, incremental stages, called sprints, working to achieve a series of goals that can be released as features or fixes periodically. In contrast to other approaches, Agile encourages the development and release of individual functions as opposed to a whole, finished product. This is what has enabled us to release our website in its “beta” stage. 

Each Agile development is unique, and we have chosen to work in three-week sprints. During this time our development and technical teams deliver features, bug fixes and infrastructure changes. 

This is a very intensive way of working and the team can quickly burn out if the cycle is not broken. We looked to the Government Digital Service, Google and other tech organisations to see if they had any solutions, and they did – a ‘firebreak’. 

A firebreak is, as the GOV.UK team describes it, a time to “investigate new ideas”, allowing developers to “scratch their own itches”. We decided that a two-week firebreak once a quarter would help to maintain development pace and morale. The break would help the development and technical teams to reflect and recharge by working on their own ideas for the Scouts. We could also use this time to reflect on our work, meeting with key stakeholders to look at the year ahead and plan for the next quarter. 

We also decided, to ensure we were maximising value from the ‘break’, that we would set some rules. 

How it works 

Just as in a normal sprint, the team comes together to discuss issues. In this case, they also discuss ideas they have had, to see whether it ‘has legs’. As individuals, or in small groups, team members then pitch their idea, explaining what it is and why they feel it’s important. 

To ensure pitches are relevant to the development of our website, they have to fulfil these criteria: 

  • the idea must be related to the overall direction we are moving in; 
  • the work must be completed within the firebreak and take no longer. 

The team then votes on ideas they want to work on and those they feel will positively impact the Scouts. From this, our firebreak work is decided. Development work then begins and is presented at the end of the two-week period. 

We can’t wait to share the outcomes of our first firebreak with you.

Digital Transformation Programme – Programme Sponsor

The Scouts are recruiting for a volunteer Programme Sponsor to join our new Digital Programme Board, overseeing the organisation’s Digital Transformation Programme.

The programme is one of twelve areas of work developed to deliver Skills for Life, our organisational strategy, and focuses on creating and supporting delightful experiences for our members and young people through simpler ways of working and improved engagement and information sharing.

From providing advice and guidance to our adult volunteers in support of them planning and delivering weekly programmes for young people, helping young people record their journey through Scouting, the Programme Sponsor will play a part in improving how we deliver technology across the organisation.

We have already launched our beta website, providing visitors with a more joined-up online experience with features such as programme planning and POR, all in one place. With the creation of our Digital Programme Board, we are looking to radically reshape the delivery of services we offer, and the Programme Sponsor will sit at the heart of it.

The Programme Sponsor will make sure the Digital Programme delivers the capabilities, outcomes and benefits that meets the needs of the Scouts and help us to deliver our strategy. This involves co-chairing the Programme Board alongside the Senior Responsible Owner, a staff member and ensuring that the interests and needs of members are represented.

The ideal candidate will have knowledge of Scouting, with skills in leading a complex programme and knowledge and experience of delivering Digital Transformation.

To learn more about this opportunity and to apply for this exciting role, please download the candidate pack here. If you have any questions or queries regarding the role, please email digital@scouts.org.uk.

Please note: the deadline to apply for this role has now been extended to Friday 26th July.

End of year roundup

It’s been a busy year for us in the Digital team. More of the projects in the Skills for Life plan are starting to get up and running, and we’ve been planning in Digital supporting them with a clear, volunteer-focused direction.

As we head into the Christmas break, we thought we would produce a short roundup of what we’ve achieved this year and what’s on the cards for next year.

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Digital Day: building connections

Like the rest of the Digital team, I’d like to express my thanks to everyone who showed an interest in the Digital Day, and especially to those who attended the event.

Digital Day workshops

Together with Malcolm McKee and David Kitchen, both District Commissioners and members of the Digital Advisory Group, we ran several workshops at the Digital Day focusing on ‘Tackling Technology Together’. We thought about the three main themes of the Digital Strategy but quickly decided to focus on ‘Getting the Basics Right’, since there’s so much to talk about on that theme alone.

Both workshops featured robust, passionate discussions, which I think we all enjoyed! We weren’t just there for fun, though, we wanted to come out with some concrete proposals from attendees on two questions: what should we fix first? and how can we work together?

What should we fix first?

We asked participants what they considered to be the most pressing problems in Scouts technology and to rank them by priority. After considerable debate, the results that emerged were:

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Digital Day: Helen Murray’s presentation

At the Digital Day we were joined by a diverse range of volunteers, staff and partners to help drive forward our digital work at Scouts. Thank you to everyone who joined us.

On the day, Chief Digital Officer Helen Murray shared our new digital strategy and roadmap for the next five years. If you couldn’t make it, check out her presentation in full:

You can see Helen Murray’s presentation deck here.

Digital Day: Building Scouts Digital with Raspberry Pi’s Olympia Brown

We’ve had to keep it secret for weeks, but with today’s announcement of our partnership with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we are happy to share their contribution to Digital Day. If you are not already familiar, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity dedicated to teaching computer science skills to young people. They are best known for the small and affordable Raspberry Pi computer. This basic and customisable PC is the best selling British computer ever. They also host seminars and workshops across the world to teach people of all ages about computer science.

They were a big part of Digital Day where we announced our partnership with them on the Digital Maker Staged Activity Badge and they led workshops about teaching digital skills. The Scouts are working with Raspberry Pi on several projects, from those workshops at our Digital Day to the full redevelopment of our Digital Maker Staged Activity Badge. The new badge requirements move away from computer science to using digital skills to solve problems, build resilience, help their communities and express themselves. The partnership is bringing a whole new set of activity resources that leaders can use with their group as well as innovative ‘How-to’ videos. The design of the badge has also been updated to reflect the essence of the partnership. Much more is to come as the Scouts and Raspberry Pi are working to ensure the badge is accessible to all members. Talks about training leaders and development of kits are happening, so stay tuned!

Below Olympia Brown, Senior Programme Manager for Youth Partnerships at Raspberry Pi, talks with us about our partnership, the Digital Day, and Scouting.

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Digital Day: Making a new homepage with and for volunteers

From next Tuesday, 15 May, Scouts.org.uk will have a new homepage. We felt that Scouting needed a new homepage now, for a number of reasons.

  • The previous homepage was not meeting needs of members or potential members (see below for further details on this)
  • The new homepage allows us to get a better understanding of how people use it, and to test ideas in order to make improvements – you will see changes straight away.   We will even take a few risks to try new things.
  • On our new homepage, we will start putting our research into use (further details on this below).
  • We want to celebrate the new brand with a fresh, updated homepage that better reflects where Scouting is now.
  • New digital products are a critical part of the strategy, so we need to get started straight away
  • Most importantly, we want to start working on how we work together, immediately. This homepage has important input from members who participated in our Digital Day workshop on designing the homepage.

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Digital Day: Understanding volunteering through research

In order for us all to build the right digital products, we must first make sure we understand current Scout volunteering by conducting research.  This post is about how we are using research to build based on your needs, how members were involved in what we have done so far, and how you can be involved yourself in the future.  I first presented this at Digital Day, so if you are interested in what happened, or if you want to see and share what you saw that day, you will find that here.
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Digital Day – Saturday 14 April

In my first blog post I mentioned that we had begun planning a Digital Day, and I now can share more information, including how you can attend.

Purpose of the day

We want to share with you our digital plans for the next few years, and get your feedback. We will share our digital strategy and roadmap, what we’ve been doing and our priorities, as well as getting you involved in what we do and how we work.

The day will be a mixture of presentations and workshops, intended to get you involved and contributing to our plans!

When and where

The Digital Day is being held on Saturday 14 April, from 9.30 until 5.00 at 65 Queen’s Gate (Baden-Powell House), London, SW7 5JS.

What you can expect on the day

In the morning, we will have a number of presentations from the Digital Team and a guest speaker. Presentations are yet to be finalised but are likely to include:

  • our digital plan for Scouting – the strategy and roadmap for delivery
  • guest speaker (details to be confirmed)
  • understanding our volunteers in Scouting – sharing our research
  • how we can apply technology in Scouting

There will be opportunities for questions and answers before lunch, when you will have an opportunity to meet the team and other attendees, as well as contribute to the work that we are doing.

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