We Demand Beta: Digital responses to the cost of living crisis

Last week’s TUC Digital Lab workshop brought together colleagues from different unions to discuss unions’ digital responses to the cost of living crisis.

In short – what can we all do to help people when: Inflation is running at 9-11%; energy bills are soaring; the government response is weak; and their default position is to be anti-worker?

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Improving inclusivity in online union meetings

Many unions found that the number of people attending union events and meetings rose during the pandemic, as events moved online. Also the diversity of members attending grew, as many of those who had previously found in-person meetings difficult could now join in.

But online events are not universally inclusive either, and present many of their own issues for inclusivity. There’s now a challenge to unions to make sure as many people as possible can participate as fully as possible.

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Driving real world activity through distributed digital event campaigns

In the run up to the We Demand Better rally on 18 June, the TUC tested new ways to spread the word amongst union activists and potential marchers. As well as a series of local “road show” events, we sought to use the Megaphone campaign platform to support activists in hosting their own leafletting sessions at train stations across the country.

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Join Together – a new approach to joining unions online

Join Together is a new Software As A Service (SaaS) platform for unions, focused on supporting unions with online joining. They’ve been working with the TUC Digital Lab over the last two years to devise a product that works for unions, and to build it into a sustainable option for the longer term.

We talked to two of the team, Sam Jeffers and Tekin Süleyman, about the tools and their ambitions for them.

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Making the most of mobile for union digital

One of the biggest shifts in digital over the last decade has been the move to mobile. The overwhelming majority of working age Britons now own a smartphone, and it’s given them a new and much more natural relationship with digital channels.

The ability to complete an ever wider range of tasks over the internet, from wherever you happen to be, has raised users’ expectations. And that can be hard for unions to keep up with.

Our latest report, “Making the most of mobile for trade union digital”, takes a closer look at what mobile means for users and their unions. It’s been written with regular Digital Lab contributor Simon Parry of infobo.com.

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NASUWT Conference 2022: Going back to physical events, without going backwards

Last year we wrote here about the experience of running a fully democratic and participative virtual NASUWT Annual Conference.

A year later and the Union has just held its 2022 Annual Conference at the ICC, Birmingham – our first major in-person event since Spring 2020.  Such an event is almost a year in the planning, meaning we started the journey with the familiar uncertainties as to whether a physical event would even be possible in April 2022 and, if it was, under what conditions.

Our starting point was to completely refresh the way our Conference worked, including by retaining many of the innovations we developed for our virtual conference in 2021.  In doing so, we aimed to run an event that was both more sustainable and accessible.

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Scaling peer-to-peer SMS campaigns in a national ballot – UCU case study

Any organiser will tell you that nothing beats a face-to-face a conversation. It’s the best way to motivate, persuade and win campaigns. But in many workplaces, the last few years have made face-to-face conversations impossible. And this, coupled with restrictive trade union balloting laws, are a huge barrier to achieving the numbers we need if we aim to take industrial action.

As the UCU balloted members across 152 universities during a three-week window in 2021, these challenges were severe. Having face-to-face conversations with that many members, during a pandemic and in a short window would be impossible.

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User research with union reps

Over the last few months, the TUC Digital Lab has been collaborating with Accord to research how the union’s reps feel about technology, and to get pointers on where the union could best invest its resources in providing tech tools for this key group of users.

We worked on this with Joe Friel and Beth Scott of digital design and development agency Yalla Cooperative. They facilitated a series of workshops to help the union run a discovery process, and conducted a series of user interviews with reps.

In the process, we documented different personas and needs for types of rep and insights from the interviews. We used these to refine our understanding of key user journeys that reps and members go through, and to identify potentially helpful interventions that the union could make along each journey.

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