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:

  1. Single sign-on
  2. Training
  3. Joining and leaving processes
  4. Registering for events
  5. Claiming Gift Aid
  6. Payment methods
  7. POR
  8. POL

In addition, there were some requests for improvements in Compass functionality around broadcast communications, role-based permissions, training records, event-based reminders, scheduled reminders, custom reporting, and data quality.

What do you think we should tackle first? Please let us know in the comments section.

How can we work together?

We also spent time exploring ways of involving all members in the movement with the development of the technology they use – and we acknowledged that this had been tried before without much success. We came up with the two major influencing factors:

1. The membership know how to make IT work

Scouting is fortunate in having so many volunteers who work in IT and related businesses as their day-job. There are many successful technical systems implemented at District and Group level.

2. HQ as a support organisation

HQ should be there to support the day-to-day activities of volunteers so that they can maximise the really important work – delivering a great programme for young people.

We concluded that we should all be part of the same team: a team that supports leaders. During the discussion, we agreed:

  • We’ll all foster a sense of unity in a situation that sometimes is seen as ‘us’ and ‘them’
  • There’s an opportunity for technology-minded volunteers to use their expert skills to do even more for Scouting
  • Systems will better suit the needs of leaders and the movement because they will be specified, built, tested, measured and improved by the membership
  • We’ll get better quality software and reduce the admin burden on volunteers
  • We’ll open up data, find new ways to use it, and improve its quality

Just the start

The Digital Day – and this message – are intended to start the process of us communicating and working together on technology issues at the Scouts as a Community of Interest. A strong community is vital to the success of digital at Scouts. We must work together, bring in expertise from across our movement and utilise the invaluable experience from our brilliant volunteers.

Every member is welcome to be a part of the Community of Interest, whether you attended Digital Day workshops, comment here on the Digital team blog, already run systems locally, or just want to get involved (even if you don’t have specialised skills). Many of you have already agreed to be part of this, so I’d really appreciate hearing from more of you.

In my next post I’ll be talking more about the mechanics of how we can work together.


  1. Avatar Moz Morris 02/07/2018 / 7:43 am

    The ‘what we should fix first’ – including the Compass improvements – looks absolutely spot on to me!

  2. Avatar linda kitchin 02/07/2018 / 8:32 am

    Like the priorities. Compass improvements will help but we need to improve the training of those who input!

  3. Avatar Mike Hudgell 02/07/2018 / 8:40 am

    Single sign-on [and allowing it within the wider scouting family of sites] would be good

  4. Avatar David Rudd 02/07/2018 / 9:24 am

    Agreed. Single sign-on will save time and frustration. Training should be a very high priority.

  5. Avatar Gareth 02/07/2018 / 9:27 am

    If you look at many of the threads on social media, confusion regarding rules and regs are a priority for many groups, as such I would rate fixing POR and being able to search it as quite high on the priority list, so I’m glad to see it on the list.

  6. Avatar Richard Hunt 02/07/2018 / 12:25 pm

    It sounds positive, but always good to remember the range of people we have volunteering

  7. Avatar E. Whitaker 02/07/2018 / 1:07 pm

    Enable search for certain roles in other Counties. e.g. Find basic contact details for an ACC(Activities) in another part of the Country

    • Avatar dbreakers 03/07/2018 / 1:38 pm

      Or at least provide a contact form so that contact can be made without initially sharing contact information.

  8. Avatar Alan Crawford 02/07/2018 / 1:54 pm

    I know there were differences of opinion amongst the community on the day, it’s very encouraging that these were able to be debated (quite robustly) and sounds like a fairly unified view has emerged – well done all involved!

  9. Avatar Andrew Baynes 02/07/2018 / 2:37 pm

    In terms of “what we should fix first” – ensure that every single PDF is removed from the CMS unless it is still current. Google searches often bring back outdated Factsheets – as these are now, essentially, part of the rule set for Scouts then this isn’t something that should be happening.

    Whilst I appreciate that some of these out of date PDF documents will live on in non-TSA caches, we need to make sure that our own house is in order.

    Longer term, the Factsheets need to go, and be replaced by rich content delivered on a responsive website, with a reliable and accurate search facility to access it (ideally with a bot wrap around it – “what do I need to know to take Cubs hillwalking” type questions) – that way the problem will go away.

    I guess that’s Nº 9…

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 04/07/2018 / 3:25 pm

      Thanks for the input — you might find the search test post interesting, too. Search is a work-in-progress, but now it is at least in-progress. We still have work to do to fix the issues you bring up

  10. Avatar Bloory 03/07/2018 / 12:06 pm

    I have some DBS stuff to sort out, but am dreading doing it because the Compass and Atlantic UI are both dreadful. That would be a priority

  11. Avatar Roger Liscoe 03/07/2018 / 1:20 pm

    We need to be able to reliable access Compass & Atlantic on Tablets (both Android & iPad). My only options at the moment are use my desktop (which works very well but two in my office is a bit of a squeeze) or buy a new laptop(haven’t found the SA’s Laptop donation page yet)

  12. Avatar David Rossall 03/07/2018 / 5:45 pm

    I actually think that the list lis quite administration-focussed. Only POR has real bearing on day-to-day programme delivery (and POL, but I no longer use that, because there are so many other sources). Of course, the administration is essential, but it has less visibility in “coal-face” Scouting. It’s not clear what event registrations means – I tend to book training on the County site, not an HQ system. And I don’t use my Scout sign-ons much, except for OSM and our District site, which wouldn’t be covered by any likely SSO. Joining and leaving for YPs and for volunteers are different kettles of fish, but presumably here it’s volunteers, and increasingly those processes are a bit remote even from section leaders.

  13. Avatar Adam Straughan 03/07/2018 / 7:02 pm

    Make compass open source. Accept pull requests. Open the issues board.

  14. Avatar Andy Loring 04/07/2018 / 1:45 pm

    Probably not top of the priority list, but I’d like to see an online Visits Abroad process.

    The current (HQ) process is very paper based, but requires interactions with HQ (as well as districts/counties/regions), so feels like it would be much simpler if it could be completed through an online form (with associated notification to the relevant country).

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