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Getting the right digital tools



Unions currently face a difficult question, what digital tools are out there to ensure effective working in response to the unprecedented situation we’re facing. It can seem a daunting question.

At Unions 21 we work in a small, agile team. We work from our office, visit unions or work from home. To help us communicate, we mainly use digital tools. So rather than provide a list of all the tools you could use in your team, I wanted to share our experience and provide a quick overview of the digital tools that work for us.

For more information on using digital tools to organise, you can sign up for our webinar on 23/04 with Alison Charlton from UNISON. And for a comprehensive roundup on what digital tools are available to unions for remote working read John Wood’s great blog for the TUC here.

Slack

Now more than ever, it is easy to lose track of important information when it is shared. Email has its limitations, especially in terms of group discussions and tracking project management. One of the best digital tools we have set up at Unions 21 to support our way of working has been Slack.

Slack is a channel based messaging platform where you can separate your streams of work under specific channels and engage your team via group and 1-2-1 discussion. It provides a structured platform for communication with your work colleagues on the progress of your organisation's strategies and goals.

For us, we’ve found it streamlines our communication; we use Slack to chat as well as to set work. Checking-in is vital when remote working. It also integrates well with other platforms we use such as google drive, dropbox etc. Having separate channels on one platform helps keep everyone on the same page. So rather than going through email or word documents, we can find what we’re looking for, follow threads and even clear up issues as you go along by quickly chatting with the team.

Airtable

One of the central challenges we have faced as an organisation is ensuring accessibility to all our content. Working across different systems of data storage, project management tools or CRMs, as many of us do, can lead to important information falling between the cracks. With Slack we are able to streamline the majority of our team communications onto one platform but how can you do the same with the information you share?

Our colleague Duncan suggested Airtable as it is both a database and project management tool that allows you to create separate projects within one workspace. For us it has changed completely how we work. We have moved all our old spreadsheets and data to our Airtable workspace. All this data is now completely interactive and links to other records within our database. For example, you can plan a task and set someone from the team as a responsible, if that person needs more information they can click on that record and see what stream of work that falls under and which project it belongs to.

Crowdcast

Crowdcast might be relatively new to us but it has proved an invaluable digital tool in moving our events online. Our aim was to ensure continuity for our supporters and that we could still enable idea sharing between unions.

This platform has helped us try to replicate how we would run a usual meeting or presentation. You can read more about how we run those sessions here in my how-to guide. Overall, it’s been fantastic to be able to get our union supporters together and get them involved in this challenging time.