Archive for the ‘ict champion’ Category

When times are tough do you cut your communciations budget first or last? Is this the time to get out and tell people how great you are to raise funds, or keep your head down, rein in all your costs and hope for a big bid to come through pronto? The people at NGO.Media have spoken to specialist communications staff at various charities have produced a list of five top tips:

  • Outsource to save money
  • Stick to timescales so everyone knows what they’re doing
  • Get service users and volunteers involved
  • Focus clearly on your key aims
  • Manage your time and projects extra carefully.

A lot of the examples given are from larger, higher profile national charities, but it is a useful glimpse into the work of professional charity communications workers during very uncertain times. Read the full story at http://icanhaz.com/creditcrunchcomms

Tags: ,


Read Full Post »

Quickbooks is a very popular accounting package, often used by organisations that have graduated from using spreadsheets but who don’t need the full power of Sage.

Given its popularity it’s interesting to see 12 out of 12 stinking reviews on Amazon, including one that simply says ‘Whatever you do don’t upgrade to Quickbooks Pro 2008’. Take a look at the reviews to see why not.

Amazon.co.uk: QuickBooks Pro 2008: Software

Read Full Post »

Floss Manuals is a great website that lets you build manuals for a wide range of free software. You can pick and choose which software you want to know about and it will build a manual that you can download as a pdf.

There are loads of free open source tools out there that can do the same thing as software you can pay for – free software available online you can download and use without paying a license fee. So far so good, but, unlike Microsoft and other standard suppliers, it can sometimes be hard to find user-friendly information about how to use it.

It’s all very well installing a free copy of Open Office if you’re confident about learning new software skills, but it’s a lot harder for people who aren’t happy clicking about trying to make it work. And there aren’t that yet Dummies’ Guides for even the most popular open source products.

That’s why Floss Manuals is a great idea. It’s a well-designed website that let’s you select the products you want to know about and download pdfs of the manuals. Follow the link to see how it helps you get the most from OpenOffice, which is a free alternative to the suite of Microsoft Office applications including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. OpenOffice manuals

Read Full Post »

Do you need to run online surveys? There are lots of free tools for building surveys on websites but one of the easiest to use and most popular is Survey Monkey. It’s now been certified as fully accessible, which means it can be used by people who use screen readers, such as blind people. It has a lot of free features that can be used for smaller surveys or it can be rented cheaply by the month when you need to build bigger surveys.

SurveyMonkey.com is accessible

Read Full Post »

In the age of Google Docs, websites and wikis Microsoft Word may feel like a dinosaur to some, whilst many will be stumped by the bewildering range of functions and short cuts and menus it offers. It remains a valuable tool for many tasks, however, and not least when preparing and collaborating on long reports. You just have to put a bit of time into learning a few key tools.

As I’m running a course about report-writing next week I’ve been brushing up on a few of the basics – many of which I use all the time when compiling reports. Because of a background in desk top publishing I’m particularly keen on style sheets and all the automated functionality that flows from them – saving time and effort and bringing a professional-looking consistency to how your report is presented. Whichever function you favour you may need a bit of work to get it to do what you want, but once you do you’ll never look back.

I’ve complied my top ten tips below, but along the way I found a very nice site that explains style sheets and other functions in a jargon-free way that is useful to beginners and experts alike.

My Top Ten Tips for Getting the Most from Word when Writing Reports

1    Start with an outline
Start building your report by laying out the bare bones using the Outline View, and then starting to add the flesh. Especially useful for planning and then reviewing the overall structure of your report as you go along.

2    Headers and Footers make the report look smart
Display the same piece of text, eg date, page number or title, on every page in the top and/or bottom margins. Another way of adding polish to your report, as well as making it easier for your reader to use.

3    Get to grips with style sheets

Style sheets are used to store formatting instructions for headings and paragraphs, which can then be easily applied to other paragraphs. It helps you produce professional-looking documents and can save you loads of time and effort if you know how to use them.

4    Use Outline Numbering

You can automatically add numbers to your headers as you create your report, and  heading numbers will even update themselves if you move things around as your report takes shape.

5    Create a Table of Contents

Create a list of headings in a document that can be inserted anywhere in your document, and can be easily updated as you go along.

6    Use graphics

Photographs, logos and charts can bring the report to life. You can insert graphics into Word documents including graphs imported from Excel that you can update later. It is especially useful to learn how to make pictures appear exactly you want on the page.

7    Check spelling and grammar

Use the built in tools to highlight possible errors, and always leave plenty of time at the end to use the spell-checking tool to run through your final document.

8    Track other people’s changes

See the changes that have been made quickly and easily when you get a document back from someone else. You can run through a complex document easily accepting or rejecting suggested changes .

9    Create an Index

You can create and then update and edit an index containing key words and the pages where they can be found. This makes you look *really* clever…

10    Keep it simple

Use as few fonts and font styles as possible, don’t add unnecessary details, use graphics sparingly for maximum impact.

For more help about using Word try Shauna Kelly’s site at www.ShaunaKelly.com

By the way I also found a lot of interesting articles foretelling the death of Word as Google rolls ouit its plans for Google Docs – here’s a good one… MiramarMike.co.nz: Google Docs … so what – the ONE reason why you should care

Read Full Post »

I’ve just stumbled across a wonderful example of how tools such as Powerpoint and graphs and charts can be a tool for powerful and highly effective communications. I urge you to watch it through to the end to remind you just what makes a great presentation work – and also because it’s about world poverty and raises all sorts of questions about its causes and effects.

I’m preparing notes for a workshop on presentations, which will combine a session I run on the use of powerpoint with a workshop that someone else delivers that focuses on body language and confidence-building. We’re taking the best bits from each to produce a two-day course for staff and volunteers from community and voluntary organisations in Brighton & Hove.

Whilst Powerpoint may be a staple tool of business there are many people in the voluntary sector who do not use it, and in fact are often anti-Powerpoint. This may be because they don’t have access to the tools, or often because they feel an aversion to it – having suffered too many times at the hands of a poor quality presentation made worse by awful slideshows.

The availability of cheaper laptops and projectors means it is now becoming more common for people to use them – we hire them out at SCIP and have seen a massive change in the numbers being borrowed in the past few years. Today a new laptop plus projector may cost no more than about £700 , and it’s a great tool for community work and outreach.

But, instead of being liberated by the opportunity to prepare and share information in such a flexible way there is still an underlying assumption that Powerpoint = boring, and an antipathy towards its use. Mainly this is because too many people have suffered as people use all the gadgets at their disposal without any consideration about how it helps tell their story. Rather than embrace the technology and use it as a tool it has become someting you have to apologise for.

I think this video shows how we need to look beyond the technology to see that it is the story and the storyteller that matter – but also how they can use the tools available to help you listen, learn and respond. It subtly underlines that you need to be in control of your tools – this is a master craftsman cleverly combining highly technical skills to make an incredibly powerful point.

TED | Talks | Hans Rosling: New insights on poverty and life around the world (video)

Read Full Post »

Swicki is a new collaborative search engine, with one or two features that I like a lot, although it is still not the perfect customisable search engine for me.
Firstly it lets you select which websites it is searching. Rather than the whole web you can select up to 50 sites to get your results form – helping to focus on specific information, as well as helping to weed out the spammers and other search engines which can clog up search results.
Unfortunately it doesn’t only bring results from your selection – it drops other results from the web beneath the first ten or so from your selections.
It is highly collaborative because anyone who uses the search engine can rank the results they get – and the higher ranking results start to move up the results for the next people who use the search engine. With many searches you can find too many similar references appearing – but using this ranking system can help sift through multiple results using other people’s knowledge and preferences.
You can also add comments, which appear with the results. This is a good way of adding signposting to areas of particular interest, or warning of resources which don’t deliver what it says on the box.
I’ve used it to make a search engine to help people from the voluntary and community sector find useful information about ICT. It searches key resources such as the ICT Hub Knowledgebase, TechSoup and similar sites. You can view it at http://community-ict-swicki.eurekster.com/
Not only does it work on it’s own page but I’ve also added it to my blog – take a look on the right hand menu.
It’s not the perfect customisable search engine yet. Ideally it would search only the sites you include, rather than the whole web as well. And it doesn’t seem to have any keyword matching function which helps deliver specific results to match key words. But the comments and ranking features are very nicely done and show the way ahead for the next generation of knowledge management style search tools.
Take a look at other uses in the Swicki directory Swicki Directory

Read Full Post »