Open Access | Open Data

NICVA, is the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, a membership and representative umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland.

With around a thousand members – that range from household name charities to grass roots community groups – NICVA lobby and campaign to advance the interests of the people and communities that their members support. NICVA offer a wide range of practical services, products and support to their members to help them do what they do best – find innovative solutions for social challenges.

Managed by 32 staff, and 12 committee members, NICVA has a broad remit for a small to medium sized organisation. Alongside developing practical resources, NICVA also influences policy across a range of voluntary sector agendas.

NICVA has a significant online presence and runs a range of online resources including Community NI, Grantracker, ScopeNI, DetailData Portal, CollaborationNI, Sector Matters. Alongside collating a range of opportunities and resources across its various web platforms, NICVA has a strong presence on both Twitter and Facebook.

For The Techies in Residence Programme NICVA worked with Matthew O’Reilly from Kainos an IT services company based in Belfast.

The Challenge

As a central hub for information about and for the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, NICVA recognised that more than simply creating and aggregating available resources and data it needed to make data more user friendly so that its members can use this data effectively. As such the challenge which NICVA brought to The Techies in Residence table was defined as:

Creating a directory that can be used by all of NICVA and the sector, which can feed into the work that NICVA are doing around Open Data. This needs to be easily shared and possibly crowdsourced information.

A core aim of this challenge was the creation of a tool that allowed for data to be collated, repurposed and reused across multiple platforms – whilst also ensuring that all data was up to date, and well maintained. NICVA came to Techies in Residence with a defined brief, and a technical skillset and as such it sought a partner to increase its technical capacity – and help them to realise a long term ambition.

The audience for this platform is diverse and includes individuals, government, local support agencies, MLA’s, academia and developers – and as such needs to be easily accessible and user friendly to use.

The Process

Kainos are a high growth tech company who were named in the Sunday Times top 100 companies to work for in 2016.  Working with a large tech company presented opportunities and challenges, for example Kainos were very keen to examine and negotiate the contract with regards to the creation of IP and deliverables. However once these administrative processes were finalised, Kainos and Matthew committed fully to The Techies in Residence project.

Matthew participated in Techies in Residence for 10 weeks in a full time capacity, during which time he was based in the NICVA office. This is something that Stephen Gray, Head of Information Management at NICVA and organisational lead for Techies in Residence at NICVA felt was crucial. Having Matthew based in house helped to ensure Stephen was able to focus completely on the development process – matching resources and time commitment with the resources and time commitment of the technical partner is something that generated a really strong momentum throughout the in residence period.

When Matthew arrived at NICVA the groundwork for the project had already been completed, with Stephen having identified APIs, user need, and potential channels for developing extra functionality for open data. Stephen Gray had mapped 74 open data sets that were relevant to the work of NICVA and it’s members. Streamlining the work of NICVA to provide access to these data sets for its members was at the core to the development journey – how can the collation and dissemination of data ranging from census data to social services contact details be made easier and quicker for NICVA, it’s members and users?

The approach taken by NICVA and KAINOS to The Techies in Residence process was collaborative from the very start. Stephen Gray from NICAV came to it as an in house ‘techie’ keen to participate in Techies in Residence as a way to increase the technical capacity of NICVA as a means to develop a long held belief that a Content Management System and accompanying API developer documentation would benefit NICVA members and affiliates. By having a Techie in Residence – in this instance sharing the same office, Stephen explained that it was the incentive needed to delegate daily tasks to his team, so that he could really focus on turning this idea into a working prototype.  ‘We shared an office and worked together on a daily basis to build the prototype. I primarily worked on the website build while Matthew worked on the reference app (android), API documentation and research standards and technical protocols that we wouldn’t have the time to do’. Stephen Gray

The 10-week in residence period also provided an added incentive to ‘get the job done’.  ‘I had to invest in it, I felt that for it to really work I had to at least match the time, commitment and work of Matthew… There was a mutual dependency to deliver components to allow each other to progress – this created a momentum and focus’. Stephen Gray

Another motivation for NICVA to participate in Techies in Residence was to increase their profile within the digital community in Belfast. NICVA has found it difficult to recruit technical talent for junior roles. With many early career technical posts housed in innovative digital companies with table tennis and a free bar on a Friday – often with flexible and remote working – the VCSE sector can lack that ‘cool’ appeal. By participating in Techies in Residence, NICVA hoped to develop relationships with key influencers in the digital sector, and start a conversation about the benefits of working in the VCSE sector. It was this message that attracted Matthew  ‘Being responsible for solving real-world problems in the VCSE sector is what attracted me most to The Techies in Residence Programme’.

‘As technology is rapidly growing in today’s society, digital solutions are very important for any organisation or sector, not just VCSE organisations. These projects also provide a lot of learning experiences between individuals, and provide many networking opportunities and industry events’. Matthew O’Reilly


The outcome of this project is a prototype web application, which allows users to:

  • Create an account
  • Update an account
  • Important organisation details from external sources
  • View organisation details
  • Edit organisation details
  • Claim an organisation
  • Connect to an organisation
  • Advanced search functionality
  • View organisations by a range of filters
  • Apply for and create an API key (by creating an application process, NICVA can prevent spam usage)
  • API documentation (to allow users across organisations to use and talk to the Content Management System)
  • A mobile application that connects to and consumes the API

Crucially this prototype provides the foundation for the development of a definitive database of NI VCSE sector and associated APIs – from where a new generation of data-led projects can be catalysed. Although currently a prototype, with user testing, and further development this will become a directory that can be used by both NICVA and the sector.

Lessons Learnt

  • The time commitment from the VCSE partner is something that NICVA recommends be more strongly emphasised at the application stage. ‘While we expected to make a significant contribution it was much more than originally envisaged. This is not a criticism – just a point for any future Techies in Residence programme, so that beneficiary organisations have a very clear understanding of what their responsibilities are to get a good outcome for all involved’. Stephen Gray
  • Having the Techy in Residence – physically in residence – in this case sharing an office with the VCSE lead was crucial to creating momentum and drive from all involved.
  • Front loading support to help both parties to understand and agree on an appropriate approach to project management would be helpful going forward. In this instance both parties decided to take an Agile approach – and used the Government Digital Service (GDS) documentation as a resource for developing their project management process. Knowledge of these processes allowed the team to use approaches such ‘project discovery’ to help refine the challenge with users, and as a result develop a very tight and user focussed brief.

Further Information



NOW Group

NOW Group

Buying Some Time

NOW Group is a NI-wide social enterprise that supports people with barriers to employment and learning, helping them to change their lives and make a positive impact on society.

Through a wide range of services and activities the NOW Group is striving to create a society where people with all levels of learning abilities live, work and socialise as valued citizens. A Limited Company with charitable status, NOW Group has been operating since 2001, providing quality training and employment services for local people with differing levels of learning abilities. Training opportunities range from personal financial management to industry standard catering qualifications. Alongside training, NOW supports its clients into volunteering and employment through a dedicated support service.

NOW Group measures its impact through social value and quantitative metrics, for example in 2014 / 2015 the work of the NOW Group saved the tax payer £128,139 through a reduced need for day care places, and generated a saving of £20,013 in Benefits. It was able to create these savings by working with 278 people to gain qualifications in a range of vocational and life skill subjects, and subsequently supporting them into paid employment (32 people) and voluntary work (24 people). 

For The Techies in Residence Programme NOW Group worked with Ciaran Murray, Director of Derry based Creative Metrics, a digital design agency.

Just a Minute

A key aim of NOW Group is helping to engage those with varying levels of learning abilities to become contributing and independent members of society; one tool which has been developed to support this aim is the JAM Card. The JAM Card (an abbreviation of ‘Just a Minute’) is a credit card sized information card that people with learning disabilities/difficulties can carry and use to alert staff in retail outlets, public/private transport providers and other areas of public life that the card-holder needs ‘Just a Minute’ of patience and time to successfully complete an interaction.

Businesses and service providers are able to display the JAM Card logo, so that their customers know that if they need to take ‘Just a Minute’ staff will be supportive of them. Currently there are 4,000 cards in circulation, with a wide range of businesses’ signed up as registered supporters, including Translink and Tesco. To date the cards have been used by clients aged 16-65, however the majority of younger clients now use their mobile phones to help them with everyday transactions and as such it became clear that integrating the card with mobile phone use would create a smoother user experience for those clients.

The challenge

The JAM Card successfully acts as a discreet way of letting people know that the user needs “just a minute”.  However, whilst the card has been successful in its initial realization- a number of functionality issues have been identified, and it was hoped that these issues could be solved with the help of a Techie in residence. Namely the functionality issues included not being able to measure the use and impact of the card, and not being able to gather data to prove the value of the card to service providers.

As community engagement manager at the NOW Group, Jayne McStaye works on the front line, and comes to face to face with clients on a daily basis, through this experience she saw a move towards mobile communication amongst NOW’s client base. As such Jayne felt it was important that NOW moved with the times and developed a digital tool that would build on the JAM Card and create a more user friendly and appealing experience. Sounding out the idea of developing a digital tool, NOW attended the 2015 Social Innovation Camp, hosted by the Building Change Trust, having won the hackathon Jayne and her colleagues felt empowered to push their digital idea, and take it to the next level by participating in The Techies in Residence project, with the following ask:

How can NOW Project turn this into a more dynamic application that has an added use for the organisation or the users? This is an open-ended problem- how can technology be added to an already successful product, and how can additional tech benefits be identified?

What can be done to expand and build upon the JAM Card in its current guise and turn it from a simple card used by people with communication difficulties into something that can help NOW Project collect and mine data

The Process

At an initial bootcamp session Jayne meet Ciaran Murray (Owner of Creative Metrics) and found that his ideas really fitted with the direction NOW wanted to take the JAM Card in.

The relationship between the VSCE and Techie was particularly strong in this case study. Jayne commened “The Techies in Residence Project has really outshone all our expectations, and the project has really evolved over the course of the Ciaran’s work with us. We expected someone would take the concept and go away, work on it, and deliver us a working prototype. But we were so lucky, because our Techy really bought into our work, and was really driven to create an outstanding prototype, it was clear he was powered on by a real social consciousness. We weren’t just another client, Ciaran really cared about both creating something that would help improve the daily lives of our clients”.

Due to geographic distances, it was agreed at an early stage that Ciaran would work remotely, and would keep in touch via email, and milestone meetings. This was something that worked well for both Ciaran and Jayne. With both commenting that having meet each other at the bootcamp session, they had struck up a good rapport and were able to have banter over email, and this positive and friendly working relationship was key to the success of The Techies in Residence project.

Jayne joked that she thinks NOW picked the least techie member of the team to manage this project, so that she would have to learn some digital skills. Whether this was true or not, it definitely worked, Jayne has went from a self confessed luddite to a keen techie, who has started attending a code club, and is now pushing the digital agenda within the organisation more widely. Organisational buy in was at the heart of NOW’s involvement, two board members come from a digital background, and Chief Executive Maeve Monaghan is a keen Twitter user. For Jayne having buy in from across the organisation really allowed her to justify the time and resources needed for NOW to fully commit to this development journey.

Going forward NOW is keen to implement the learnings from their Techies in Residence journey across all seven areas of their work. Jayne said with genuine delight, that she was surprised at how easy it is to come up with solutions to real world problems when you invite new perspectives into an organisation. This solution focussed thinking is something that she is keen to filter through the organisation. Indeed Jayne has already started to compile a list of challenges that could be solved by a technological solution. This knowledge of what’s possible is a really strong lasting legacy of The Techies in Residence Project. “Everyone talks about data, but I was never really sure what we were meant to do with all this data, now I know what’s possible, and, that knowledge is already allowing me to streamline some of our daily tasks, and has allowed us to start an organisation wide conversation about investing in digital solutions, to streamline our work flow”. With this in mind, NOW are now in the process of developing a small innovation fund, which staff can apply to, to develop solutions to the everyday challenges they face in their daily workflow.

The opportunities that data presents organisations such as NOW is often overlooked, and Techies in Residence has helped NOW to recognise the value of data in terms of social impact, but also the financial value of data, which could potentially help to create a self sustaining funding model for the JAM Card App. By allowing users to check into venues, and to rate service, NOW can feed this data into the disability awareness training it already offers businesses, such business specific data, helps demonstrate that the value of the fee charged for such training. The user feedback data will allow businesses to develop their offer to this client base, track data to ensure that support is available at peak times and reward staff for excellent customer service. The business model of the JAM Card is that the service user never pays, but instead, businesses’ pay through training fees.

For Ciaran the clear draw to this project was simple “I love problems, this seemed like a great problem, and was one that I wanted to solve… I normally work B2B so the opportunity, and admittedly the funding, to allow me to take time away from my normal client work really appealed”

“I really enjoyed working on this project, I got on really well with Jayne – who was much less demanding than a normal private client! This was really important, as it allowed ideas to creep in, it permitted creativity and flexibility, it was refreshing to work towards a prototype rather than a strictly defined client brief”

“In my old age, I feel like I’m done with the hamster wheel, projects like this don’t come up often, so I was delighted when this one came my way”

“This is the kind of project you’re always waiting for – it’s been a real gem to work on”

Project Outcomes

As a result of The Techies in Residence funding, NOW Group have a working prototype and strong ambitions for further developments. The prototype records data in the cloud including location, usage type and user information, meaning that in the future a digital dashboard can be created to allow NOW to analyse this data with ease. Other potential features include News feed and the ability to customise the JAM Card message to the needs of individual users.

The prototype will allow NOW to pilot the app with service users, and therefore further refine the user experience while seeking additional funding to develop the app further. Future ambitions including developing a geo location capability, which would allow for greater data collection, and also allow NOW to provide businesses with targeted marketing opportunities – which would help to provide the income needed to manage the JAM Card App going forward.

Lessons Learnt

  • It is important for both the technical and VSCE partner to be open to learning from the other. The role of the technical partner is not to come into a VSCE and solve all their problems; instead, success is based on an on going dialogue and reciprocal learning. This reciprocal relationship is very important and helps to distinguish The Techies in Residence Programme from a traditional client / agency relationship.
  • A reciprocal time commitment is important – the success of this project is the result of both the VCSE and technical partner investing equal amounts of time, energy and enthusiasm into the journey.
  • The emphasis on process learning, and developing digital skills and competencies rather than an end product, helped both partners to experiment, be creative and take risks. The freedom to be creative ultimately resulted in a stronger project outcome – a working prototype, with increased functionality than was stated in the original project spec.
  • People work with people – and the positive relationship between the techie and VCSE was central to the success of the project. Having an opportunity for both partners to meet before a match is made is crucial to ensuring a positive working relationship and quality project outcome for all participants. 

Further Information:

NOW Group

Creative Metrics

Aware Defeat Depression

Aware Defeat Depression

5 Digital Steps to Mental Wellbeing

AWARE Defeat Depression is the only charity in Northern Ireland working exclusively for people with depression and bipolar disorder. A Derry born charity it now has two offices; one in Londonderry and a second office in Belfast, where their helpline is based. In 2014/ 2015 AWARE worked with 20,000 people.

AWARE delivers educational and support programmes throughout Northern Ireland.  These include: An established network of 24 support groups in both rural and urban areas across Northern Ireland, which are run by trained volunteers. These groups’ welcome and support those suffering from bipolar disorder, depression and their carers and are attended by more than 1700 people annually.

Another strand of programming that is delivered by AWARE is a range of Mental health and wellbeing programmes for community groups, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces. These programmes include a suite of Mood Matters programmes, Living Life to the Full, Mental Health First Aid and Mindfulness.

As a charitable organisation fundraising is an important foundation to the work of AWARE, and alongside organizing fundraising events, AWARE raises funds through delivery of its educational offer to community groups, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces.

AWARE prides itself in being shaped by people who have experience of depression and bipolar, with many board members and volunteers being former service users themselves and as such are an excellent asset to AWARE helping the charity to keep informed and stay in touch with people’s needs. With 82 volunteers, volunteers are very much at the heart of AWARE and the work that it does.

For The Techies in Residence Programme AWARE worked with David Shawe, Director of Invisible Building, a design led web designer company.

The Challenge

Mood Matters is a programme delivered by AWARE aimed at 14-18 year olds to give them knowledge and skills which they can use to maintain good mental health and build resilience in order to better deal with problems and challenges. It is delivered in a 1.5 hour classroom course. Whilst this has been successful, how can AWARE use this material in order to reach a larger audience, by taking this activity outside the classroom?

The existing offline Mood Matters programme is very successful, and as such the challenge is to expand the reach and impact of this successful model with a digital solution.

The current Mood Matters classroom course features a workbook, which could be translated into a digital interface for use during the course, or independently after the course. A key consideration when developing a digital solution to this challenge is recognising that the Mood Matters programme is a key financial asset to AWARE who use income from the delivery of this programme to support work with its service users. As such the challenge is about adding value to AWARE whilst increasing impact and reach of their work. Placing their existing model into an app simply wouldn’t work – instead a business model needs to be developed alongside a digital product.

The Process

AWARE attended an initial bootcamp at CultureTECH and found that meeting a variety of techies and gaining a range of perspectives was a useful way to develop their initial ask, and also to find a techie that they could work well with. ‘One of the most productive aspects of the programme was the bootcamp. The input from various techies, from a range of background and fields, was invaluable in progressing AWARE’s original idea to something more tangible, achievable and useful.’

After the initial bootcamp workshop AWARE decided to work with David Shawe, from Invisible Building. It was agreed that due to limited office space at AWARE, David would work remotely and that the project would be developed by email and in person meetings as and when needed. In hindsight, David reflects that being based in AWARE’s office may have been a more constructive working environment and allowed for clearer communication between the two. Another reason David feels that it would be helpful to have been based in house, is that it would have helped AWARE to focus on the project, as at the time of participating in Techies in Residence, AWARE was extremely busy, as such Techies in Residence became less of a priority than other projects and deadlines. ‘However I think the best scenario would be all 6 techies being housed in one building. With a project manager dealing directly with the organisation’  David Shawe

Despite some minor issues around priorities and communication both the Technical Partner and VCSE found The Techies in Residence process and outputs to be extremely valuable.

AWARE and David came together to research current mental health related digital products and services and mapped the growing trend for digital mindfulness tools. This market analysis was key to developing a digital solution that sat within a sound business model that would either mirror or expand upon the business model for the Mood Matters programme. Taking inspiration from social platforms like Whisper and incorporating AWARE’s Do One Thing (DOT) campaign, the concept of a digital mood board was created.

In the initial stages of development the emphasis was on the creation of a mood board, however as the digital prototype developed as shift in narrative happened. With AWARE keen to use a similar visual approach but with a different narrative – that of taking practical steps towards positive mental health, as such the mood board, became Take 5 Steps for Your Mental Wellbeing. The visual nature of the 5 steps WebApp is designed to appeal to young, digitally minded participants who take the Mind Matters Course in school. The interactive 5 steps WebApp allows young people to choose images to share how they feel with friends, and also allows users to select images as a means to develop a resilience or coping dashboard with users being encouraged to create a mood board with images of activities they can do to make themselves feel good. The images create a scrollable wall of images, with the most recent at the top.

The interactive mood board is designed to add value to the existing Mood Matters course and will be introduced at the end of the taught session. Creative young peoples desire to create and share digital content are key characteristics of this digital tool. Pupils will be able to choose from a bank of images and fonts to design their own slide, or they can upload their own image.

Discussion around if the tool should facilitate social networking between users was discussed at length. One of the key considerations was how such a network would be moderated and the added work involved in such moderation. During the development process AWARE and David explored the opportunities and challenges of allowing young people to create, and publish content and comments about mental health and the work processes necessary to manage this communication.

It was decided that social sharing would be embedded within the app i.e. allowing users to share with their existing social networks, and dialogue between user groups could also take place on this app itself.  The debate around the need for moderation pre and post publication was a challenging one, but one that allowed AWARE to develop their internal knowledge on the realities of working with young people via digital platforms. Ultimately it was decided that users would be allowed to post content live without pre moderation.

Thinking about their duty of care to users, AWARE felt that the app needed to have a request support feature, for anyone thinking of harming themselves.

The dialogue between best practice and technical possibilities demonstrate the value of Techies in Residence, by working through a development process, VCSE and Techies are able to come up with real world solutions to issues facing individual VCSE organisations.


‘ Techies in residence is an excellent project and has provided AWARE with a highly user-friendly and potentially marketable tool for young people to engage with beyond the classroom. The project has allowed AWARE to explore technology in a way that is beyond our own capabilities. The WebApp has the potential to be used across AWARE’s range of services and to be further developed in the future’.

The outcome for this Techies in Residence project was a web based app, which is a fully functioning prototype that is now ready for user testing. The app has been designed for teenagers, however it could also be re-skinned for other target audiences for example universities and workplaces. The app is a functioning prototype, and has room for refinement and development. For example there is scope for advertising, the ability to gather meaningful data and promoting well-being within the app.

Key Learnings

  • The energy at the initial bootcamp created a real buzz, and it was clearly helpful for both techies and VCSE partners to have peers to bounce ideas off, as such it would be helpful to have more opportunities for peer critique and support. Both AWARE and David Shawe felt that having all the techies in one office, with a project manager acting as an intermediary between VCSE partners would be productive format going forward.
  • Having a project manager to act as a mediator between the VCSE and Techie could help push both parties to commit to the project and project manage the digital product.
  • It’s important that both parties commit to the development process, outlining a time commitment in the application stage would help both parties know what is expected in advance. In this project, and others in The Techies in Residence project it was felt that Techies committed more time to the project than the VCSE partner, when in reality both need to commit time equally.
  • ‘Personally the best part of the experience was during the Design Thinking day at CultureTech, During this day, we had all the Techies in one room working with all the organisations in one room. I think this collaborative experience is where magic can happen and I think we had all the Techies working together better. Things would move faster and everyone would benefit overall’ David Shawe

Further Information

Invisible Building





Rethinking Sports Data for Social Good

TAMHI is a Belfast based mental health awareness charity that was set up in 2011 by Joe Donnelly and Stephen McLaughlin in memory of their friend Thomas “Tammy Tucker” McLaughlin who took his own life in 2009. Tackling Awareness of Mental Health Issues (TAMHI) was set up to train sports groups about the power of sport to promote Positive Mental Fitness.

Through their work TAMHI want to encourage clubs to start collecting data and caring about impact, in order to help sports clubs develop skills, place a value on, and, ultimately develop a strong ethos of pastoral care and community support amongst participants.  With ambitious aims and a small core team of one, it became clear that technology could provide a suitable platform to streamline data collection, and impact monitoring for both TAMHI and the sports clubs that it works with. 

For The Techies in Residence Programme TAMHI worked with Kyle Gawley, CEO of Belfast based digital Start Up Get Invited.

 Giving People a Sporting Chance

TAMHI works with sports groups to develop an infrastructure that supports positive mental fitness.

Post the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement there has been a noted break down in inner city communities in Belfast, with anti social behaviour, petty crime and drugs increasingly becoming a problem. TAMHI is interested in helping sports clubs, which they deem as core community services to measure the disconnect of individuals from community and subsequent reconnect with community following participation in sporting activities (and a wider connection with culture and society as the result of the kinship created in sports clubs).

Their format is simple but their work is crucial: A group of friends working together to try and keep young people on the straight and narrow. TAMHI supports clubs to develop the 4ps – policy, people, programmes, partnerships, an approach that is underpinned by the charities aims:

  1. To raise awareness within sport of the importance of positive mental fitness and how this can have an impact on physical health.
  2. Engaging young people and young men in sport to reach out to those with mental health concerns.
  3. To raise awareness of the risks of self–harm and importance of suicide prevention within sport.
  4. Highlight the importance of training with governing bodies, mental health groups and clubs for their coaches and volunteers, to support them in spotting early signs of emotional difficulty and risk in current participants.
  5. Creating an environment where people can ask for help and support when needed.


Whilst focussing on local issues, TAMHI takes inspiration from global data, approaches and techniques. For example by looking at international measures including the Child Youth Resilience Tool, and the New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) Wellbeing Tool alongside statistics from The World Health Organisation (WHO) TAMHI is able to place local challenges within a wider contextual framework. One such example is their focus on mental illness being a global problem – ‘WHO estimates that one in four of us will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives’. The work of TAMHI is both grass roots and evidence based.

The Challenge

TAMHI works with a number of volunteer led organisations and has recurring issues around collecting and reporting relevant data. In the first instance the challenge for TAMHI was convincing sports clubs of the value of collecting data, something which many had not been doing. However now that TAMHI have created a culture of data collection they face a new challenge dealing with all that data. Currently data is collected on paper, and not being sufficiently converted into a digital form. When it is formally entered, it is collected in 3 different software services, which don’t communicate. A properly regulated and coherent system could help TAMHI and other organisations to properly benchmark for future funding reports and help with gaps in service provision.

Whilst there are existing tools that do help with data collection and analysis, for these to work effectively they need to be more user friendly, quick and intuitive. The challenge then is creating a functional and user friendly interface to allow data to be collected, and a sophisticated dashboard from which TAMHI and partners can analyze data.

The Process

Kyle Gawley, CEO of Belfast based Ticketing Start Up – Get Invited, was interested in The Techies in Residence projects as soon as he first heard about it.

From the list of advertised projects it was the TAMHI challenge that clearly stood out to Kyle. Kyle explained that The Techies in Residence Programme attracted him because it provided an opportunity to give back, to help a charity on it’s way, and bring some of the design aesthetics honed in the development of Get Invited to a worthy cause.

It was partnership that worked well, with Kyle helping TAMHI to realise what was technically possible within the time and budget available. From the initial briefing period Kyle was clear that he would need to work remotely if awarded The Techies in Residence brief. This flexibility was key; Kyle explained “because I run my own business I couldn’t work solidly on this project, and as such it was important that TAMHI new that I would work remotely, and meet up as an when needed”.  As TAMHI are based in an open plan shared Social Enterprise space, having Kyle work remotely also suited them.  When the project formally kicked off weekly meetings helped to ensure a positive collaborative relationship was developed and maintained throughout.

Kyle admits that TAMHI’s goals were ambitious, but that by sitting down together and coming up with weekly goals, that outlined a 10 week period of development an agreed plan was developed. The 10 weekly goals were met, and as such the prototype that was delivered met the brief that had been defined by both parties at the beginning of the process. This very tight design brief, and resulting positive relationship show the importance of scoping such a collaborative project early on, and gaining sign off from all involved. Such was the relationship developed that Kyle is now a member of the TAMHI Board – a role he is very much enjoying.  Indeed it seems that Kyle, and Get Invited are keen to develop stronger corporate social responsibility impacts as both an individual and a company. This is perhaps an unexpected, but undoubtedly positive lasting legacy from The Techies in Residence project.

‘Kyle was brilliant, he helped us to take baby steps, explaining each stage of the development process along the way, and was always keen to work together with the end project insight’. (Joe Donelly)

The development process was a really key learning that came out of this experience for TAMHI. Joe was able to share the extensive available research on emotional intelligence with Kyle, and together they were able to translate this into a specific project brief, this collaborative approach, with parties learning along the way is an interesting model – as both parties were learning from each other, it helped to create a collaborative rather than client, agency relationship.

Admin – or a lack of it, was something that Kyle Gawley flags up as being a strength of the overall Techies in Residence experience (although he does raise some issues around a lack of communication around funding, and when techies were to be paid, something that he recommends be tightened for future projects).

All in Kyle glows when talking about this experience, and the resulting project describing its as ‘challenging’ and ‘enjoyable’. ‘As a CEO I don’t get to make stuff as much as I used to, it was nice to get to make something, to get hands on, and it was nice to use my skills for charity. It was also really great to get to work with someone as motivated and driven as Joe’.


Originally TAMHI had spoke about creating a digital application that would allow all users to record their own data, with a real emphasis on empowering kids. However as the project developed it became clear that child protection would act as a barrier to adoption for many clubs (clubs would be required to gain consent from the legal guardian of each participant if they wanted children to create accounts), and as such it was decided that the club coach would instead be in charge of gathering data at each sports session. A key project outcome for TAMHI is a working web based application that facilitates the collation of data, data storage, and analysis.

The prototype model allows clubs, once registered, to check the children into the various activities to track their engagement with the community. During the registration process, a baseline survey is provided using the Child and Youth Resilience Measure Survey (CYRM). Children can then be re-surveyed at a later date, following an activity to calculate the impact that participation is having on their resilience.

 As ease of use was core to the challenge outlined by TAMHI the next step is user testing with the prototype with a view to refining the application, seeking further funding and developing a mobile app.

Lessons Learnt

  • Having a technical partner who is a confident mentor is extremely important as mentoring the VCSE partner is a key process in terms of managing expectations and accepting project pivot. TAMHI originally wanted an app for children to use, but with successful mentoring they recognised that, that approach presented barriers to engagement and instead club focused accounts would provide a more user friendly experience and thus result in more data being collected.
  • Whilst The Techies in Residence Programme was short term in nature, this project demonstrates that long term relationships can be built through short term engagement between techies and VCSE. Whilst not all techies will want to join a board, it’s useful for VCSE to think about techies as long term advocates for their work.
  • To develop a collaborative relationship, rather than that of client and agency, it’s important that both parties enter into this relationship with an open mind, keen to both learn and contribute.
  • The role of the techie in this case was that of both mentor and developer, with a traditional client the role of a techie is to deliver a brief, however it is clear that one of the key outcomes of this project is increased digital literacy for the VCSE partner. This skills development is a result of the generous and altruistic approach of the selected techie.


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