Working smarter can reinvigorate a charity.

New Shoes TheatreWhere are they?
Based in Kent but performing UK-wide.

What do they do?
A theatre company particularly interested in social and environmental issues.

How big are they?
A tiny, new charity.

What did they receive?
Huddle.

The outcome?
Collaborative working makes the charity far easier to administer.
The decision to wind down a successful charity is a sad one to have to take – but the administrative headaches are occasionally just too much for a small band of Trustees and volunteers to continue to shoulder. However, new technology can greatly streamline the office environment. Collaborative working software can form the basis of a ‘virtual office’ – allowing people from all over the UK to contribute. And one such package – Huddle – is available via CTX.

Nicolette Kay is an experienced theatre director and actor, whose CV includes leading roles on the London stage opposite Edward Fox and David Jason. She is also passionate about “The main obstacle was administration,” Nicolette recalls. “We were in Kent, and we had lots of goodwill from people in London, for instance. But we couldn’t translate that into practical help.” The charity also struggled to raise funds to address ‘masked’ poverty in what was commonly perceived to be an extremely affluent geographical area. In the end, the work was simply exhausting. “Success was killing us,” Nicolette comments.

Rejuvenation came via two discoveries: one artistic, and one technological.
“The playwright Dacia Maraini approached me, with a new project: ‘Hurried Steps,’” says Nicolette. This play, by Italy’s foremost playwright, was originally written for Amnesty International and focuses on the issues surrounding violence against women. “I knew that it was an important message, and that it was written very well. I went to see the play in Paris and you could hear a pin drop in the audience. But I had to say ‘no – I’ve wound down the company.’”

Despite this initial refusal, Nicolette knew that the work would be fortunate to find a suitable champion in the UK. And at the same time, she was learning of – and becoming excited about – the possibilities of collaborative working software. It seemed that a package like Huddle could address many of the practical and logistical difficulties that had proved to be such obstacles in the past.

“I heard about Huddle – and this was one of the things that eventually pushed me. Then I discovered that we could get it as a donation through CTX if we were a charity. For me, Huddle was the answer to my dreams!” she says.

Although still physically based in Kent, Nicolette now maintains a ‘Huddle Office’ that allows her to work with a virtual network of supporters and Trustees wherever they are based. “Lots of people are behind us,” she explains. “As well as an assistant herein London, we have Trustees as far afield as Edinburgh, and artists based all over the world. If I get a stage manager on board, they can immediately access everything they need; there are no issues with people looking at old copies of emails; only one person can work on a document at a time. We have all our legal stuff together, and all our discussions can be archived.” This way, the company can call upon a far wider resource of people than it could before – without adding to the administrative burden.

Nicolette is clear that being able to acquire the software as a donation was the only way that the company could have adopted it. “No way could we have had it otherwise!” she says. “Nobody would have funded us to purchase it; you simply cannot get money for core costs.”

“In a way, the donation means that Huddle can think of themselves as a corporate sponsor,” she adds. “And they would be welcome to come and see the production!”

It is early days for New Shoes. It seems unlikely that Nicolette would have ‘retired’ from charitable work for good, but it does appear that the possibilities generated by these new ways of working has provided new impetus, allowing her to concentrate on the end product rather than getting bogged down in the administrative grind.

“I was worn out,” she concludes, with some frankness. “I never lost my enthusiasm. But I’ve got my energy back!”

 
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