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Digitalisation demand from non-governmental organisations

In order to let readers know more, I interviewed the Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association (HKYWCA) and the Asbury Methodist Social Service to analyse the development and needs of these NGOs in digitalisation.

#6.1 Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association

For large organizations like the Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association (HKYWCA), which has 1,100 staff and 83 centers, messaging is important. Due to the size of the organization and the wide range of services involved, they need a fast and reliable information system. Now, every employee has a personal computer, the basic office perimeter facilities are sufficient, and everyone’s contact is email in addition to phone calls.

Social media

As the main service group of the YWCA, the YWCA is of course keen to develop social media, and through the interviews, we found that the YWCA has many face book pages, each center may have its own page, and each service unit or course may also have one, and it seems that everyone is making good use of social media to promote the project, and can also get real-time responses. However, after a closer discussion, I found that one of the challenges is that there are too many pages, and there is no unified management, sometimes whether it is the design of the page/information, or the content of the information may not be consistent, and most of these pages are managed by frontline social workers, they may not be good at designing, and the eye-catching information can actually be higher. In the management of social media, centralized processing may solve some of the problems, making resource allocation more centralized and useful.

Digital platforms

When it comes to digitalisation, the YWCA is also moving forward step by step, and digital platforms are one of the main development directions. Digital platforms can broaden the service scale of traditional NGOs, allowing them to reach out to different target groups, provide them with suitable services or organise different activities in today’s era when people are staying at home. For example, by providing referrals to drug addicts, providing online counselling and enhancing the service scope of outreach programmes, the sharing function of digital platforms can more effectively disseminate information about different activities, attract people from outside the street to receive services or counselling at the community centres of the organisations, or make it easier for them to meet friends and social workers to understand their needs. Even people with illnesses or disabilities can sit at home and use different social media platforms to express what they see, what they need and ask for help. It is more effective to find like-minded friends, make friends together, and form small groups. The use of digital platforms by NGOs can effectively establish a social platform to build a good communication bridge to reach audiences, promote and review the effectiveness of activities.

Digital Promotion

In addition to digital platforms, the use of digital channels to promote the organization is also an important area, and there are committees within the organization to discuss the allocation of IT resources, but most of the resources are invested in improving their own operating systems to make them more automated, and less consideration is given to online publicity and promotion, and the internal awareness of this aspect is also insufficient, and it is easy to ignore the importance of advertising and visibility.

Difficulties faced

Compared with the average commercial organisation, resource constraints are one of the major difficulties for NGOs in the pace of digitalisation. Like the YWCA, where the source of working capital comes from public funds and donations, the need for technology is often seen as a minor project in the context of resource constraints, but the investment involved in digital platforms, digital promotion, whether hardware or software, mentioned in the appeal, is often substantial. In addition to funding, another resource that is lacking is manpower, and it is difficult to find people who can not only develop and manage digital platforms, but also understand the frontline service needs of organisations.

In addition, large NGOs, due to their history and size, tend to have a more conservative image, and they have to face different positions of internal stakeholders when it comes to new attempts at digital platforms and digital publicity. In addition, there is a lack of training to educate frontline staff on how to properly use technology tools, so in addition to the provision of hardware, the cooperation of software is also very important.

way out

Of course, the interviews not only talked about the problems, but also mentioned the way out for NGOs in digitalization. Providing more training opportunities for the industry can greatly facilitate the pace of digitalisation of the industry, such as providing digital promotion seminars to enable frontline officers to learn about different digital tools (e.g. social platforms, websites, apps, Youtube, etc.) and then apply them to different areas of activities.

In addition, in the face of resource constraints, one of the ways out is to find free tools on the Internet, such as using Google’s resources such as Google Analytics to obtain web page data, analyze the online habits and geographical distribution of audiences/members, etc., so as to better understand them and provide them with more relevant services.

Reflecting that larger NGOs such as the Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) already have a certain degree of application and knowledge of digitalisation, but lack of systematic digital promotion, resulting in the inability to play their due role, and lack of resources and manpower in the process, the author hopes to drag this book over so that these NGOs can still carry out effective digital promotion with only the resources and manpower.

#6.2 Asria Methodist Social Services

Unlike the YWCA, the Asbury Methodist Social Service is relatively small, with seven centres and about 80 staff, more than half of whom are social workers. Since the organization is not large, there is no dedicated IT department, and the organization outsources IT-related work (e.g. computer maintenance, website management, member database, personnel management, etc.) to a technology company. As a result, when employees encounter technological problems (e.g., not being able to connect to the Internet), they often have to rely on themselves or their colleagues to help them solve the problem.

site

For any website update, the staff needs to send the updated content to the outsourcer through the responsible colleague, and the whole process often takes two weeks. Due to this restriction, most of the information that many frontlines want to publish will not be posted online, preferring to publish it on their respective social media (e.g. Facebook, WeChat), and most of the updates to the webpage are only for uploading regular reports and newslet-ters.

Social media

When it comes to social media, when I interviewed the service center, I learned that most of the information on Facebook was a good way to promote the event, such as photos and so on. Sometimes I get some likes or comments from the Post. When I asked the person in charge of the service office whether they would pay Facebook to advertise, they replied that they should not be able to do so for the time being, because they did not know how much the return on advertising on Facebook was, and they did not know whether the people who read the ads were the target audience, so they were discouraged.

Paid system

The payment system is also one of the key projects, as it is already a cumbersome task to process members’ registration for courses and submit application fees, and in recent years, organizations have adopted online registration and payment systems. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement, for example, in the online system, there is a loophole that a member can enrol in the same course more than once, because the online registration system is provided by an outsourcer, and the system is likely to be taken from the system template of online shopping, but in online shopping, more than one item of the same product can be purchased, but the same course cannot be enrolled. There is indeed a lot of room for improvement in subtle areas like these.

hardware

Like large NGOs, APS is looking for tech-savvy talent, but in our interviews, we understand that in addition to talent (software), hardware is also on the Wish List for smaller organisations. For example, organizations sometimes use short videos to promote their events, but there are not many equipment that can shoot videos, and in the interviews, it was found that the center only has two cameras and a small amount of video equipment, which reflects that small NGOs may face a shortage of resources in terms of digital software and hardware.

Digitalisation

In the interview, he mentioned digitalization, and they also believe that the wave of digitalization can be a growth point for NGOs. Digitalisation is not an end point in itself, but a process to provide better services to the recipients, so digitalisation cannot be done “behind closed doors”, and cannot rely on consultants or management alone, but must involve and provide advice from frontline staff so that technology can properly meet the needs of services.

Compared with large organizations, it is more difficult for an organization of the size of Methodist Astrian Social Service to move towards digitalization, and it also faces a shortage of resources and manpower, and IT work is often outsourced, making it less flexible and feasible in digitalization.

summary

Whether it is a for-profit organization or a non-profit organization, there is also a need for digitalization. The two examples of the appeal illustrate an important idea, which is that even in the face of insufficient resources, organisations can use digitalisation to generate discussion and ultimately succeed in gaining public attention. Large organisations such as the Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association lack a systematic approach to digitalisation, and the shortage of information and manpower is one of the key issues they face. Smaller organisations such as Asbury Methodist Social Service are facing a more serious shortage and flexibility problem.

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