Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Customising Google Maps


Simple step-by-step slideshow explaining how to create a customised Google map for your event or organisation, to help people find you more easily. Thanks to @ieducator for the heads up on that one.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Poor Numbers: African GDP

Africa Research Institute logo

Morten Jerven, author of Poor Numbers: How we are misled by African development statistics and what to do about it discusses why relying on GDP estimates isn't helpful for predicting Africa's economic growth in: Africa's GDP conundrem.

He addresses questions including:

  • Why do governments, international agencies and NGOs rely so heavily on gross domestic product (GDP) as an indicator for economic development in Africa? 
  • Why is it important not to take GDP at face value? 
  • What are the kinds of changes that have taken place in African economies over the past 20 years? 
  • What is being done to improve the co-ordination and consistency of data collection between African countries, and by whom? 
  • The Millennium Development Goals, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) etc. resulted in a new demand for economic and poverty data. What impact has this had on national statistical offices?  
  • What can be done to improve the capacity and effectiveness of national statistical offices?

Some thought provoking insights, and nicely explained. You don't need to be an economist to understand his answers. If it's a subject that interests you, check out The Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21).

Monday, 29 July 2013

Peace is Sexy

Learn how to play the World Peace Game:

Taken from a fascinating site:

Peace Is Sexy shows the inviting, seductive and spicy side of peace by profiling people and organizations that create peace in the world.

They set out to prove that:

Great stuff.

If you enjoy the World Peace Game, you can also check out the World Trade Game and Iron Age Strategy.

Here's a trailer for the film mentioned in the video above: World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements Extended Trailer

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Think Commercially

charities trading 

Recent research found that as charities start to see traditional sources of income dry up they are taking bold steps to try new ways of raising revenue and becoming self-sustainable.

It addresses one of the main hurdles I think is terribly unfair:

However, according to commission guidance, non-charitable trading is classified as commercial. Charities can only do small-scale commercial trading under HMRC rules. For example, a charity whose total income is £20,000 or more can only earn up to a quarter of this, with a maximum of £50,000, from commercial trading.

If you're under £20k, you can only generate a maximum of £5,000. Though one way around this is to review your constitution, as trading to achieve any of your key constituted objectives takes it out of the 'other trading' bracket.  

What a lot of effort to have to go to. Whether a charity is generating 25% or 50% of its income through trade, that money is still going into the charity, not individual pockets. Time to lift that restriction.

However, I do get a little edgy when articles state that charities have to make sure that there's a 'market' for their 'product'. Yas and no. The Voluntary Sector exists to address a lot of the issues that simply aren't profitable for the Private Sector. Applying that mentality wholesale doesn't work.

For a better understanding of these complex issues, check out Dan Pallotta's video.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Meeting Millionaires

Individual philanthropy article on The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network: how to get more meetings with millionaires

Jam packed with top tips, including:

  • Make more appointments
  • Set targets
  • Watch your body language
  • Be inspiring
  • Hold a prospective event

You might also like to check out Philanthropy UK and Dame Stephanie Shirley on philanthropic motivation.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Patrick Stewart Talks Domestic Violence

Patrick Stewart talks about domestic violence, mental health, and why he chose to support the charities he does.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Irksome Interviews

Today's Voluntary Sector Humour is taken from a BBC article that tickled me: How to answer those bizarre job interview questions

It tackles the tiresome issue of psychometric psychobabble, including what to do should you ever get asked:

  • How do you fit a giraffe in a fridge?
  • Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?
  • How many ways can you get a needle out of a haystack?
  • How would you explain Facebook to your grandma?

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Digital Debris

charities tidy online

Here's some useful advice from The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network:

How to clear up your digital debris: Charities get lots of advice on getting started with technology, but they also need help to maintain an online presence

Top tips include:

  • Use Nominet and Betterwhois to work out who registers your domains and when they expire, then keep a database of log-in information so that it's always easy to stay on top of renewals and changes.
  • Same goes for social media accounts and log-ins.
  • Work with your finance team to monitor investment in social media, and returns.
  • Develop a Social Media Policy.

I've been involved with several organisations who have lost server passwords or needed to change hosting and been unable to remember who their current host is. Even if you can't deal with the IT issue yourself, someone is still going to need that information in order to assist you in fixing it. Keep everything in one, secure, place.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

QR Codes

QR (Quick Response) codes are becoming increasingly popular. They're basically a bar code that you can pop on a flyer or a poster. When someone scans it with their smart phone or tablet, it automatically takes them to your website so that they can find out more.

They may look complicated, but QR codes are extremely quick, easy and free to create.

I did the above one using QR Stuff, which is extremely simple, but it's not the only generator. are also offering this service, and analytics are apparently free.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

I Care Campaign

Not at all convinced by some of the reforms coming through. Rather a case of new governments stamping their mark by inventing something new, not always thinking through the consequences. Or, possibly, not entirely caring.

Check out the full campaign website at Britain Cares.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Banking on Bloodshed


Starting the week with a personal bugbear. I had a minor niggle the other day about a lead speaker on charity reform who also happens to be a head honcho at HSBC bank. 

Charities and the Voluntary Sector are built on public trust, humanitarian aims, and general moral conscience.

I really do believe that it matters who you bank with.

When I help charities to start up, or to change their structure, I tend to steer them towards the Co-operative. Despite recent press, they are currently giving the best deal for charities.

The reasons I like them, in the following order, are:

  1. They are extremely ethical, they don't invest in oppressive political regimes, animal testing, or the arms trade.
  2. Unlike most commercial banks, who revise free banking for charities at the £100k mark, the Co-operative allows up to £1mil per annum.
  3. You can bank at your local post office, which is often very helpful for small organisations.

If you're still not convinced about the Co-operative, there's the Charity Bank or Triodos.

To my mind, there is absolutely no reason for an ethical organisation to invest their money in highly unethical gun-runners such as HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Lloyds or Halifax. That rather negates the point.

Makes for chilling reading. As does: UK banks fund deadly cluster-bomb industry  

Have a change of heart, and a change of bank.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Ending Global Poverty

Photograph of children celebrating in Central African Republic 

Following on from the announcement about ending poverty being the next big focus after 2015's MDGs come to a close, here's some info on the United Nation's report into ending global poverty by 2030

An international panel, co-chaired by David Cameron, has told the United Nations that the world can – and must – end extreme poverty by 2030...

In its report, titled ‘A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development’, the panel proposes 12 measurable goals and 54 targets for the international community to rally around to take action...

The goals the report put forward are based on 5 big ideas:
  • finish the job: the Millennium Development Goals aimed to halve poverty – these new goals will end it by 2030
  • go green: for decades, the ‘green’ and development agendas have been separate. This report says they should be brought together
  • go for growth: economic growth is the only exit from poverty. A greater focus is needed on jobs, business and economic opportunity for all
  • good government: the need for free speech, good government, and tackling corruption has been avoided in the development debate. The panel put building the institutions of an open society at the heart of its approach, as well as ending conflict and violence
  • global partnership: everyone around the world must work together to make it happen

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Child Mortality Stats

A young boy suffering from malnutrition 

Some more interesting child development stats today: Does a child die of hunger every 10 seconds?

Every 15 seconds a child dies of hunger, says a campaign by charities urging G8 leaders to pledge more aid for the world's poorest families - or every 10 seconds, according to the latest version of the slogan. But does this paint an accurate picture?...

This latest, the 10-second one, is based on a figure from a very reputable source - The Lancet, an internationally renowned journal which recently published a paper saying that more than three million children died of undernutrition in 2011... 

"There's a real temptation to use those kinds of statistics because they really do grab the headlines - you can't ignore that because it's such a horrifying image," says Jane Howard, from the WFP...

The facts might surprise you, going on to state:

"These are not the poorest countries in the world. They are countries such as India or Nigeria or many other countries in Asia or Africa that really could do better - that have the resources to feed children within the country..."

An interesting tie-in for future aid cutting decisions, perhaps. Also an important reminder to charities using headline-grabbing statistics that, eventually, someone will ask where you got them from.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Children's Rights

Excellent map of children's rights and opportunities across the globe. Full map online, covering aspects such as education for young disabled people, child labour and breastfeeding.

Monday, 8 July 2013

South Africa Aid Cut

International development secretary Justine Greening
International Development Secretary, Justine Greening

Back in November, it was reported that the UK is cutting aid to India by 2015.

Recently, similar news has emerged regarding South Africa:

The South African government has criticised the UK after it announced it would stop direct aid in 2015...

UK ministers said their relationship with South Africa should now be based on trade and not development.

Meanwhile, South Africa warns aid cut means change in relationship with UK: Pretoria unhappy at decision to halt aid worth £19m a year, despite its recently enhanced economic and political status.

Thoughts echoed by others who feel the UK should revisit its decision on South Africa and its concept of aid, stating "Ending support for middle-income countries shows a misunderstanding about the role aid can play in increasingly better-off areas."

Whilst, at the same time, others reckon aid isn't being cut at all: British aid to South Africa is being cut, right? Wrong.

A Dfid press release gave more details: “UK to end direct financial support to South Africa”, it trumpeted. "The two countries will begin a new relationship based on sharing skills and knowledge, not on development funding."

No figures were given, however, for the £116.4 million of “regional aid”, to be spent in South Africa between now and March 2014, as well as a further £70.3 million committed for the following year. There are currently no plans to cut this. Staff levels at the newly redesigned British High Commission in Pretoria are not due to be reduced, and there are “no plans to close this office”. Britain also gives aid via multilateral and “global” programmes, which together amount to further tens of millions of pounds.

I located the evidence – DfId’s “South Africa’s Operational Plan 2011-2015”, available to the public on the internet, which shows that, over the period, the country’s regional aid, is at £256 million more than three times the £76 million of direct aid – and confronted Dfid spokesman with it.

After much procrastination, he issued me with the following statement: “A DfId press notice on April 30 made it clear that DfId will stop direct aid to South Africa in 2015 while cross-border programmes across Africa, including regional efforts against HIV/Aids, will continue, so any suggestion that the public was misled is totally wrong.”

Very interesting article. Doesn't sound as though there's much - or any - exit strategy there.

Two years is a very long time in politics, we've seen political U-turns in fewer weeks over issues such as Education and the NHS. One only hopes that aid cuts will be followed up with some form of monitoring to measure the effect on social development that follows.

Friday, 5 July 2013

What's in a Name?

This week's Voluntary Sector Humour is dedicated to a job advert I saw recently, which highlights the importance of brand research, and picking the name of your organisation and project carefully.

In Africa, Dignitas is an education project working with disadvantaged kids in Kenya (see video below).

Throughout Europe, it's better known as a Swiss assisted suicide clinic.

Still, the job specifications could apply to either:

Excellent communication skills, particularly listening skills and high emotional intelligence.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Voluntary Sector Workforce

Following on from the Voluntary Sector's worth to the UK economy, here's fifteen interesting facts from NCVO on the Voluntary Sector workforce. Some that surprised me included:

  • Two-thirds (68%) of the voluntary sector workforce are women
  • Two-fifths (40%) of the sector’s workforce work part-time
  • Over one-quarter (27%) of hard-to-fill vacancies in the voluntary sector are for personal services staff
  • 12.7 million people in the UK formally volunteer at least once a month (2010/11)
  • An estimated 1.3 million full-time workers would be required to replace the work of those who volunteer at least once a month (2010/11)

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Charity Transparency Part II

Charities are to open up their accounts and provide data on what they earn and how they spend their money in a bid by government to make them more transparent...

The new data, which will be held by the Charity Commission, will give basic details, including headline income and expenditure, for all registered charities and will show how charities with an income of over £500,000 allocate their revenue across fundraising and governance, charitable activities and what they retain for future use.

Whereas I broadly welcome greater transparency, I do have several misgivings about the idea of the government suddenly announcing changes. Foremost:

  1. It's not unified across the UK. The Scottish Charity Commission don't publish financial data online, and Northern Ireland has only just started registering charities. 
  2. I'd hazard that most misuse of funds occurs in charities with an annual turnover of less than £500k.
  3. There are already organisations with HMRC tax exemption and limited liability who, for all intents and proposes, operate as charities, but who are not recognised by the Charity Commission and therefore wouldn't be scrutinised. Also - what incentive is there for small organisations to seek registration? This has the potential to create a subclass of organisations operating without any regulation. Steps need to be taken to prevent that.
  4. The Charity Commission are sometimes perceived as being slow to act on issues. Will heaping more responsibility on them achieve much? Especially whilst the same government slashes their budget and staffing? All very well having rules, but not much good if you can't enforce them.
  5. As with Dan Pallotta's argument, making financial data available to people without an explanation of how charities should operate leaves them open to huge criticism over issues such as overheads - which really isn't helpful, especially in the current economic climate. You're left with an awful feeling that this is going to be another penalty for the Voluntary Sector because they're easier to impose sanctions on than the Private Sector, who already have far fewer regulations or handicaps in the way of financial sustainability.

Still, it's an interesting thought. Let's see what comes of it. To be fair, the Commission of England & Wales already do make a lot of data available online.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


Carrying on the communal theme this week after yesterday's car pool, here's something else I love: CouchSurfing. I made lots of new friends as a host whilst I was living overseas, and also couchsurfed my way across mainland Europe a few years back. It's an excellent way of putting your spare room to use, and of arriving in a new place with expert local knowledge. Good stuff all round.

Monday, 1 July 2013


Kicking off this week with a nice, environmentally helpful car pool idea: BlaBlaCar.