The Summit Sessions in Brief: Remote Work, EU Funding, Social Enterprise, Digital Transformation and HR

Posted on
26 May 2021
by Emily Bourke, The Wheel

The afternoon panels at our Summit 2021 conference focused on subjects central to the sector in 2021 — and we asked our staff to collect their key takeaways from each.

The panels were: 

 Use the links above to watch a full recording of the sessions, or read on for our colleagues' expert summaries.

Thank You, Next: Preparing the Nonprofit Workforce for the Next Challenge

  1. It’s increasingly clear that the resilience of the sector will depend on a responsive, skilled and innovative workforce, as we deal the fall-out from, not only, the pandemic crisis, but the equally huge challenges of climate change, economic inequality, implementing the SDGs, demographic shifts, technological revolution and myriad other cultural and social changes.  

  2. The skills gap is coming up as the first challenge for the next stage of the evolving workplace. How do we support adaptability in the workforce? And when we talk about digital transformation, the skills gap is also the major obstacle for organisations. Any professional skills and training framework for the sector must be ambitious and take into account the unique needs and characteristics of the 165k-strong workforce and thousands of volunteers.

  3. Organisations struggle with time and money in the day-to-day. When you don't have money, everything takes more time. From a skills point of view, one person often ends up trying to cover multiple, highly skilled roles within an organisation. Access to shared services is an important option for really small organisations that will never be able to hire an IT person, an accountant, a governance expert. It's another route to accessing those skills that isn't just training of existing employees. 

  4. Commitment to ongoing, lifelong learning is something that everyone needs to do. The bottom line is that we all need to be committed to learning, development, and to contributing to society. For nonprofits, cost of travel and time to attend training can also be massive barriers, so remote training sessions have made a lot of skills development opportunities more accessible in that respect.

  5. Skill development works best when staff can see the benefits of putting their time into it. Time to reflect may be the "cheapest" form of skills development, but even finding the space for that is often neglected (or impossible!).

  6. If the sector wasn’t there, there would be an enormous gap. It needs supports if it is to continue. It is not enough for Government to tell us that we're doing a great job and they appreciate us. They need to deliver opportunities for training and development.  

Training and Advice Manager, Lynn Simpson.

In Conversation with National European Funding Contact Points 

  1. 2021 kicks off a new seven-year budget period for EU programmes that offer funding opportunities for civil society organisations. 

  1. Successful projects’ goals are aligned with programme-specific prioritie,s e.g. the green and digital transitions, health, and social inclusion. 

  1. National contact points aren’t just funders - they provide advice on project design, applications, and partnership building in addition to delivering events and trainings.  

  1. A key element of all EU funding programmes is engagement with civil society - programmes’ targets are only achievable if everyone is involved 

  1. Don’t give up! Pursuing EU funding may initially seem like a daunting process but once unlocked it’s a source of new knowledge, networks, and opportunities for collaboration across the EU. 

EU Programmes Officer, Emily Nelson

HR, Digital Transformation, and Remote Working 

  1. It’s taken people 100 years to get used to working in offices, so it is unrealistic to think that we will get remote work right straight away; it’s going to be a learning process. 

  1. The future needs a greater emphasis on employee achievements and impact rather than presenteeism (the bums-on-seats approach). 

  1. The biggest challenge right now is for people managers, who have to learn a whole new way of working and set of tools. 

  1. Trust rather than track – once you start trying to track what your workers are doing, you lose their trust. 

  1. The three pillars of successful remote work are policies, technology, and culture. Tackle all three to do it right. 

Membership and Engagement Manager, Johnny Sheehan

In Conversation: The Future of Social Enterprise in Ireland  

  1. Feed into the narrative: own the term “social economy”, self-identify as a social business, and actively feed into the narrative of a growing global movement. 

  1. Be aware of success factors for social enterprises. These include: recognition and understanding; access to finance and markets, especially public procurement; diversified financial support; mentoring programmes and tailored training; awareness-raising campaigns targeting not only those running the businesses but all stakeholders, including governmental departments as well as banks to clarify common misunderstandings; education at a very early stage, especially embedding the concept in higher education curricula; and research and building alliances.

  2. Social policies need to be reviewed and renewed on a regular basis, adapting them to actual needs and emerging new challenges and turning them into consistent policies. The jurisdiction on a national level as well as EU law needs to be constantly adapted and changed to a renewed reality. 

  3. The panellists highlighted that social economy indeed allows to combine the benefits of both the charity and the business sector. Rather than competition with old ways of working, it is a chance to renew your business as a way of delivering your mission and services in a more sustainable way. 

EU Programmes Officer, Christina Nuhr

Summit 2021 was an important gathering for Ireland's nonprofit sector. If you missed it, or want to revisit it, use the links below to catch up on the big issues for charities, community and voluntary organsations, and social enterprises in 2021.