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March 30, 2021updated 21 Jun 2022 10:19am

How NSPCC is challenging its status quo through technology

NSPCC CTO Greig Sharman explains how the child protection charity's Digital Plan will rethink every facet of its technology.

By greig sharman

On Tuesday 30th April, Tech Monitor welcomed Charity IT Leaders, an IT and digital networking group for the UK charity and not-for-profit sector, as our guest editor. The group commissioned three articles from leaders in the network. Here, Greig Sharman, newly appointed CTO at NSPCC, explains the child protection charity’s post-pandemic digital strategy. 

The last year has been incredibly difficult for children, and the way we keep them safe has been turned upside down. Like many organisations, at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) we have had to innovate – and digital technology has been at the heart of this. That’s why it is so important for us to learn from the past 12 months and ensure they inform our plans for the future.

Greig Sharman NSPCC

The last year has been incredibly difficult for children, and the way we keep them safe has been turned upside down. (Photo by Dave Smith/Shutterstock)

The NSPCC has been protecting children for more than 100 years, doing everything we can to prevent abuse and neglect and giving expert support to help children recover if they’ve experienced it. For the past five years, through the passion, kindness and generosity of our supporters, volunteers and staff, we’ve helped more than five million children.

But to make an even bigger leap forward, we need an even bigger team. We need to work with every individual that touches a child’s life; from parents and teachers to nurses, social workers, the police and members of the public – harnessing their kindness, to create a social safety net that keeps children safe. That’s why our new ten-year strategy puts teamwork at its heart. This new strategy requires a step-change in the digital capabilities of the NSPCC to integrate and focus our supporters from across the whole child protection spectrum.

Putting technology at the heart of the organisation

In preparation for the new strategy, the NSPCC has reshaped its executive board and has recently appointed David Hamilton as director of communications and Maria Neophytou as director of strategy and knowledge alongside the consolidation of service delivery under Claire Johnson. I’ve also been appointed as its first-ever chief technology officer – a newly created executive role that has been specifically recruited to challenge the status quo of the NSPCC.

The executive board is seeking to question the existing technological set-up across every facet of the organisation, from internal processes to front line services.

I am being tasked with a broad, board-level remit to constructively question and challenge, to shape and enable a new way of working. The executive board is seeking to question the existing technological set-up across every facet of the organisation, from internal processes to front-line services. The aim is to deliver real change in partnership with peers, executives, trustees, staff, volunteers and service users with clarity and empathy while always ensuring the protection of children is at the core of all we do.

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By embracing the opportunity to use my CTO role as both an enabler for and a driver of wider organisational change, the NSPCC in the delivery of this strategy is being ambitious: not only in an aim to modernise existing ways of working with digital technology, but to look beyond our current business model and reimagine our approach to the supporters and partners we serve, the value we deliver and the channels we use to reach them. This is not just about generating new ideas but to also overcome the bottlenecks in bringing innovations and ideas into sustainable practice, creating frictionless engagement and positive experiences in the participation of our mission for our supporters and every other community under the diverse NSPCC umbrella.

A ‘Digital Plan’ for a post-pandemic reality

After joining the NSPCC in February, we are now about to start co-creating a ‘Digital Plan’ with the wider NSPCC leadership, covering all elements of our digital delivery from culture, skills, structure, people, process, technology, products, platforms, data, infrastructure, networks, suppliers, end-user computing etc. The ‘Digital Plan’ will be both pragmatic and ambitious, preparing the NPSCC to be better suited to adopt modern digital technologies and business models, requiring changes to structures, skills and ways of working to bring this to life.

While we continue to extend our reach and maximise the impact we have for children, the delivery of our new ‘Digital Plan’ will only happen if people continue to fund and support the work we do for children, every day.  Delivery of our new strategy will require support from a broad set of external partners not only in its delivery but also in the investment required to establish the digital capabilities, processes and skills to bring the strategy to life.

We must recognise that the past year has been awful for many children, with a 53% increase in contacts to our helpline from people with concerns about children experiencing physical abuse, and our Childline service carrying out more than 61,000 counselling sessions about mental and emotional health. The way we protect children was turned upside down last March – but now is the time to look forward as we learn from the past 12 months. We’re calling on the government to deliver a long-term recovery plan and investment to support children’s futures. And digital technology has never been more important as we reimagine our ‘post-pandemic’ world. At the heart of our efforts to improve is a drive to ensure the NSPCC continues to be both relevant and impactful to our supporters and more importantly, the children we protect.

Our response to the pandemic has been balanced with the financial hit that all charities have recently experienced due to the closure of mass participation and sponsorship events. Every day we need to ensure we can do more within ever-constrained resources and funding.  I invite everyone reading this article to reach out and help us, in whatever form you can, big or small, to help us deliver on our mission.

The NSPCC has thrived for more than a century through constant evolution and modernisation. I am proud to be joining team NSPCC as their first chief technology officer and helping them deliver our new strategy – positioning digital transformation within this, and maintaining a spirit of constant improvement, proactively seeking out ways in which digital solutions can drive every aspect of the NSPCC’s work.

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