Capgemini UK Head of Digital Inclusion Sally Caughey details how her team came together during the COVID-19 pandemic to create opportunities for others


How Capgemini UK supported charity partners during pandemic

How Capgemini UK supported charity partners during pandemic

 March 01, 2021

Sally Caughey is Head of Digital Inclusion for Capgemini UK.

Throughout her career with Capgemini, Sally has worked in various roles on client transformation programmes. She’s a passionate advocate of the positive difference technology and digital solutions can bring to every organisation and individual, and in 2015 she was part of the team that set up the Careers and Enterprise Company, dedicated to preparing and inspiring young people for the changing world of work. Leading Capgemini’s digital inclusion programme in the UK, she’s focused on how business can help to make sure that everyone can benefit from the digital revolution.

In a blog post for Capgemini, she reflects on the year of the pandemic and how the team came together to support the company's charity partners and redefine its volunteering model.

"As we complete a year of lockdown, I am reflecting on the significance of 2020 in terms of our enriched relations with our charity partners. It has been a time in which we have come together and our people have mobilised in the community to play their part in a national response to the pandemic," she says.


COVID-19 bringing challenges to the voluntary sector

When COVID-19 hit many of us turned to technology to connect with family and friends, to access services and continue to work. "But not everyone was so fortunate," Sally says.

"The pandemic created much economic and social uncertainty and posed a serious challenge for the voluntary sector. It created unprecedented demand for services and support at a time when it became harder and harder to deliver," she adds.

Sally cites the first challenge: the plummeting of donations with the cancellation of fundraising events, both locally and nationally – such as the London Marathon and the Great North Run. The second challenge came in the form of lockdowns and social distancing measures themselves that prevented charities from providing much needed services direct to vulnerable people. With the closure of the physical spaces, charities rely on for beneficiaries and volunteers to come together, essential human interaction ended abruptly.

"Sadly, the people most in need of support are also often those without access to the digital skills and kit to maintain social inclusion. It wasn’t long before we found our employees wondering what they could do to help people in their own communities. Suddenly the issues around the digital divide that many of our programmes had addressed took on a new significance and found a new army of support," Sally explains.

"We needed to find ways to harness this energy and volunteer resource and to apply our expertise to supporting charities through this difficult time."

Helping charity partners transform to meet the new demands

As a business, Capgemini UK was able to continue delivering its products and services seamlessly. Sally poses the question facing the company: "how could we help our charity partners do the same?"

"For many, the challenge was how to pivot to virtual delivery," she adds.

Capgemini UK had to rethink its volunteer model and build on people’s appetite to help those around them with digital skills. This meant making better use of its own virtual collaboration experience to innovate and trial new volunteering activities – and then scale its overall impact.

Each charity had their own specific needs and Capgemini UK was able to bring experience of helping customers with digital transformation to help meet these needs.

"For example, our partnership with Action for Children had previously focused on designing new and innovative fundraising models. But the impact of lockdowns meant the charity was no longer able to offer face-to-face support for families and children as centres and schools closed, and home visits became impossible," Sally says.

"The charity recognised it had to speed up delivery of new digital services as it urgently sought to connect people with an online chat facility and make it easier for those in need to access help. Our volunteers offered ideas for optimising website performance and turned their hand to helping with practical tools. This included the creation of online content covering topics ranging from mental health to potty training," she adds.

"Our longstanding corporate partner The Prince’s Trust, who help young people into work, was also faced with a similar challenge. At a time when young people needed them most, how could they make more services available online? We collaborated with other supporters across the tech sector to help The Trust accelerate its planned digital transformation."

Mobilising its people to transform how Capgemini delivered projects

In Capgemini UK's work with digital inclusion specialists Digital Unite, the company had previously focused on training their trainers, with its employee volunteers helping to build the organisation’s network of Digital Champions

"Lockdown put a halt to that – or did it?" questions Sally. "We pivoted to make our own people Digital Champions. In an extraordinary uptake of volunteering commitment, employees working from home created a community-based response to the digital skills challenges, focusing on friends and family and the areas where they lived."

In another example of the pandemic creating opportunities for good, Sally explains that Capgemini found that it could help more beneficiaries and engage more volunteers than ever by taking a virtual, rather than physical approach.

She gives an example: "as part of a volunteering event, we were able to support 88 beneficiaries with 71 volunteers as we worked with both The Prince’s Trust and Code Your Future (CYF) to support multiple mentoring and mock interview sessions concurrently. This type of training wasn’t something we had thought could be delivered virtually but we discovered that were able to support almost double the students in a virtual capacity than we could in a physical space."

Offering new volunteering opportunities

Sally offers another positive outcome of the pandemic: how Capgemini UK has been able to diversify its charitable and volunteering efforts.

"It has been difficult in the past to help smaller charities in small ways, but that’s changed through our partnership with Business in the Community (BITC). In an early and agile response to the pandemic, BITC created a ‘marketplace’ for charities to ask for help that is shared weekly with the business community," she adds.

"This marketplace receives requests for support in areas such as food, technology and logistics. These are often pleas for help in bite-sized areas, through which we have been able to offer our volunteers new opportunities to connect with and support small charities across the UK."

Continuing with fundraising events

Sally explains how the creativity of its employees has enabled Capgemini to continue its fundraising events, often bringing teams together for shared campaigns. For example, its annual support of The Prince’s Trust Palace2Palace bike ride became a virtual event, with over 100 participants. Capgemini UK has also hosted charity quiz events, virtual bake offs and received a record number of entries for its annual Community Spirit Awards where the company matched the funds raised by  employees for their local causes and charities.

"We’ve always supported organisations and issues close to our people’s heart. Our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has focused on ensuring that we supported the innovative spirit of employees in bringing their skills to society," Sally says.

"In the UK, one such team in Telford joined a UK-wide initiative called 3DCrowd, in which 3D printers were used to produce face shields and medical material to help address the shortage of protective equipment. They managed to do this from their own homes, with supplies provided by our business."

Pulling together during a difficult year

Sally concludes: "So, while 2020 was a year many of us wish to forget, it also brought out some of the best of our connected thinking. I have been both humbled and inspired by the creativity, empathy and desire of everyone involved to make a difference and by the agility at which charities have transformed to enable them to continue to serve."

"The impact of COVID-19 on local communities has been huge. Unemployment has grown rapidly. Many people have been isolated and lack the skills to seek online help and support. That’s why it is critical for organisations like ours to share what we can, leverage our skills and tap into the enormous energy and compassion of our people. We have certainly seen that happening over the last year."


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