Charity Q&A: Digital services for today’s service users
The Mix supports young people by offering advice, counselling and information online, on the telephone and through social media. CEO Chris Martin explains how a digital approach enables the charity to adapt quickly to what young people need.
Q: What is The Mix and how is it a digital charity?
The Mix was created out of the the merger of YouthNet and Get Connected in 2016. It was designed to create a multi-channel support service that allowed young people to choose how they interacted with our service driven by their preference and need. (For example, some read information, others engage in peer support in the community, others access telephone services or reach out on social media.)
Q: How important are a charity’s people and culture to implement digital improvements effectively?
Technically qualified people are crucial. At The Mix, we work in an agile environment that means we can take ideas that we see in our community or data from service performance, co-design with our users and turn them into products all in one team.
“Digital transformation is cultural right across the organisation”
An example would be our Age of Consent Bot. We identified a growing issue when we saw traffic increasing to our pages with information about sexual consent. Then our cycle of innovation and our co-design process with young people identified the type of intervention that would work for them, and our tech team built it.
Q: What is the biggest challenge that you face?
Our single greatest barrier is how we are funded. Funders are fundamentally investing in a team with the skills to keep constantly improving services and practice, and this requires open, free income rather than project-based investment.
Q: How does being digital benefit the young people who use your services?
We can move in a very effective way to match how they want to talk to us. Furthermore, our services are able to intervene early as they can scale and are accessible at any time. Access is not limited by traditional barriers such as geography, lack of staff (where automated), mental health of users, disability or culture.
Q: What tips do you have for other charities which are embarking on their own digital transformations?
Digital transformation is cultural right across the organisation. What we do for our users online mirrors our approach to using technologies as a staff group, for example, we use Sharepoint to store and organise information and an outsourced cloud-based system for HR. We also allow anyone to pitch ideas, as young staff are usually better at this than the older ones!