Ross McCulloch, Director of Third Sector Lab

Written by Alan Robertson on 23 November 2015 in Feature

For 100 days, Connect is running through our Tech 100 for 2015, profiling the key figures driving the digital agenda in Scotland

Ross McCulloch (@ThirdSectorLab)

Job Title/Organisation: Director, Third Sector Lab and Be Good Be Social

What does your role involve?

I work with charities, social enterprises and housing associations to help them understand how they can use digital to get their job done. We’ve worked with a wide range of organisations on social media strategy and website development, including Oxfam Scotland, Relationships Scotland, SCVO, GCVS, The Scottish Government, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Linstone Housing Association. Our Be Good Be Social events and training have brought affordable digital media training to the Scottish third sector.

What do you consider to be the most imminent challenge in your line of work?

Working with organisations to see digital as more than just an IT, comms or marketing function is definitely the biggest challenge. Digital has the potential to revolutionise how we deliver effective services to the most vulnerable people in society. We need to stop relying on the person who looks after the server to deal with our organisation’s digital strategy.

What has been the most rewarding piece of work you've undertaken?

As boring as it sounds, the work I’ve done with Scottish funding bodies has probably had the most impact. Volunteering with Foundation Scotland, I started off as a grants assessor, I later joined the grants committee and I now sit on the Impact and Innovation Committee. I’m incredibly proud to volunteer for an organisation that continues to drive philanthropic giving, benefiting communities across the whole of Scotland.

How can Scotland bridge the digital skills gap?

Thirty per cent of Scots don’t have basic digital skills. That figure rises to 50 per cent of people with disabilities and 60 per cent where the individual has no qualifications. Fifteen per cent of Scots have never used the internet. A Citizen’s Advice Scotland survey found 36 per cent of their clients have never been online. These stark figures highlight a massive societal gap that needs to be addressed.

We need to ensure people have basic skills needed to get online and embrace the internet. That word ‘embrace’ is key. Oxford University looked at why people choose not to use the internet in their everyday lives – 82 per cent of respondents were ‘not interested’. Researchers found no evidence that these people are restricted from going online. They simply don’t care.

For many older, disabled and unemployed people their first foray into the digital world will be mandatory online-only benefits claim forms – hardly an inspiring start. In a sense digital inclusion is more about social barriers than technological ones.

We need to stop letting people down and work to ensure everyone in Scotland has the chance to get excited about digital. Some of the work being done to get young people interested in coding is incredible. Let's make sure we offer that opportunity to all young people.

Which new technology excites you the most?

I’m interested in tech which breaks down digital barriers. Google’s new Chromebit is a brilliant example of this - a £55 computer the size of a USB stick that plugs in to an existing monitor or TV. Tech which moves us away from the clunky, expensive desktop models of the past can truly revolutionise access to the internet and massively cut IT costs within the education sector globally.

What's your favourite app and why?

Twitter. It’s fundamentally changed how I work. Without it I’d be lost. Sad but true. 

What, for you, will 2016 be the year of from a technology/digital standpoint?

From a third sector perspective I’d love 2016 to be the year where digital is embedded within everything we do: service delivery, support, fundraising, policy, comms and beyond. The Digital Scotland work which SCVO are delivering in partnership with others is helping to drive this agenda in the right direction.

By the end of 2016 I’d like to see the major funding bodies embedding digital into all of their grants programmes, giving charities the money and trust required to ensure Scotland leads the way in this field.

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