Confessions of a digi-phile

Joanne Roberts, VAL's Development Support Officer, comes clean on how she became a digital believer


Way back in 1999 a colleague whose partner was expecting their baby joked that his daughter would one day teach him how to open a door: ‘Dad! Just press enter!’

I laughed, knowing it was true, but not quite sure what a world where you just pressed ‘enter’ would look like. The Jetsons? (Now I've really shown my age!)

Those were the days before social media; five years before Facebook came on the scene. At that point my work experience with digital had been fax machines and photocopiers and successfully navigating Microsoft and design packages. I thought I’d done well.

So, when the internet came along I admit I was slow to pick it up. I wasn’t prepared for the sharp learning curve in communications: websites, social media, e-bulletins and marketing. It called for new skills and contacts neither I nor the charity I worked for at the time had the means to access.


Digital demons

One of the biggest obstacles was my fear of the unknown. The gap between my knowledge and the growth of digital communications tools was widening and I didn’t know where to start: Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Instagram? Pinterest? It all seemed like ‘death-by-digital’.

It also seemed as if everyone was keeping up except me. I didn’t want to reveal what I didn’t know for fear of looking like a ‘luddite’.

Time was another hurdle to get over. Social media seemed to devour time and it was hard to see if it was worth the investment needed to have fresh, engaging, timely content.

If I’m anything to go by, it’s not hard to understand why recent research by Lloyd’s reveals that the digital skills gap is still holding back small charities. But resistance is futile, as the 'Borg' say. Digital is here to stay and it will play a major role in how services are delivered in Lewisham over the next five years. While I don't believe digital is the answer to everything, I do believe that they can be tools for social good.


Facing the demons

So, how can you face up to your demons and overcome the barriers? Here's how I did it:

  • It wasn’t until I bit the bullet and just did it that I began to overcome my anxiety around digital. Learning from my peers helped, as did reading the blogs and watching the webinars that are readily available now.
  • Joining a group of my peers looking at new digital tools also helped me to gain practical tips and insights. Our Digi-skills swaps aim to help staff and volunteers responsible for digital to share their questions and experience in an informal setting.
  • I saw the benefit of using a range of tools to improve both internal and external communications, monitor impact, raise money and improve admin processes.
  • It helps having digital champions within the organisation to work alongside you to ensure you keep moving forward.


And that’s the key to embracing the digital age: keep moving forward.


Struggling to get up to speed with digital?

We’ve put together a list of some useful resources and support here

Check our Training and events page for the date of the next Digi-skills swap for staff and volunteers in Lewisham charities who use digital to achieve their organisations' aims.

Contact Mark if you would like further support.