Weeknotes 308

This week I did:

Staff summit

Three times a year all us remote workers from RNID get together at a staff summit. There are talks and presentations about what’s been happening at RNID and I did a skill share session about Microsoft Teams, which in twenty minutes, probably didn’t share many skills but did get lots of questions. Next I want to turn all those questions into a guide for how we use Teams at RNID to help more colleagues develop their digital skills.

Pipelines & platforms

This week’s Irregular Ideas email was about the difference between pipelines and platforms as means of creating value. It talks about how value created by pipelines relies on everything going through it being standardised, and value created by platforms needs everything to be unique and matchable to something else unique. I set up and sent it from Substack, so now I need to decide whether to keep the current website and use Substack for sending emails, keep Substack but remove the website, or move both to Mailerlite (or fix the DMARC issue and go back to using Revue). Pluses and minuses either way, but I think I’ll test Substack for a few months.

The coastline problem

I’m back to travelling around the coast of England, Wales and Scotland. It feels good to be back and I’m interested to see what it does to my thinking and what projects I want to focus on. My first reflection is that I’ll know I’m settled into the rhythm of moving every day when I no longer feel like I’m in the wrong place. On my first day back, when I was on the beach I wanted to be in my car, and when in my car I wanted to be on the beach. I felt like I should be somewhere else.

And I thought about:

Strategy models designed for non-competitive environments

All of the strategy theories and models I can find are based in a competitive environment. They are concerned with how one firm out-performs others. Everything from Porter’s Five Forces, Resource-based View, to the Ansoff matrix and VRIO, they all assume that there is a competitive environment where one firm is trying to out-perform another firm. This paper of the Dynamics of Competition and Strategy represents and summarises “different perspectives of scholars in framing competition and strategy that is related to theory of the firm and differential firm performance.” So where does this leave non-profit strategy which doesn’t operate in a competitive market environment? Are there any strategic models that could be applied to charities? Although not a strategic model, systems-thinking that considers organisations in an ecosystem, is the only thing I’ve found so far that comes close.

Phases of effecting change

I’ve been starting to formalise my idea about the different ways the charity sector tries to effect change in society, and where they emerged in the history of the sector. The first way that developed was directly helping individuals. It started with the church, alms for the poor, etc., and continues today with foodbanks, helping unemployed young people into jobs, etc. The second way to develop was focused on institutions. It probably started late 1800’s as institutional power was at it’s strongest. It involved all the influencing work charities do, including campaigning and advocacy to affect government policy, marketing to the general public, probably from the 1950’s onwards as mass culture developed, and things like funding medical research. The third way, which is just starting to emerge, is using technology to effect change. This is different to using technology in support of the other two ways, it means individuals and institutions interacting with the charity via the technology that causes the change. The non-charity sector example I use is that Uber caused a 6% drop in the number of deaths from drink driving in the US. Imagine what they could achieve if they meant to do it.

And read:

On Principles

This post by James Boardwell about developing principles is interesting. I’ve often thought that principles should emerge out of practice as until you’ve worked together on something for a while you don’t really know what’s important to you. Boardwell says, “Making explicit and conscious what drives your behaviour can be incredibly powerful as a means to critically shape a team and organisation to be who they want to be.” Principles, if they are going to earn their keep, have to drive behaviours.

What Works to Increase Charitable Donations?

This Meta-Review with Meta-Meta-Analysis says, “The most robust evidence found suggests charities could increase donations by emphasising individual beneficiaries, increasing the visibility of donations, describing the impact of the donation, and enacting or promoting tax-deductibility of the charity.”

You don’t need a Platform, you need One Thing That Works

A perspective on platforms from government IT: “Technology platforms are the foundational building blocks of any well-integrated digital ecosystem… but supporting a platform is no joke: once a bunch of products are relying on you, you can never turn one off. So you should really try to avoid introducing a platform until you truly, absolutely need it.”