Talks: Agile, Remote Team Work – Without Losing Your Marbles!

The future of work for remote teams, especially in technical and creative fields is remote working. Remote working let’s you hire or collaborate with talented people from all over the world, or just in your country, without the overheads of relocating. It also saves you from filtering out great fits because they don’t happen to be in a certain location.

That’s why on a chilly spring day in March, I presented a talk on agile remote team work – without losing your marbles at Agile in Leeds. The venue was packed, the audience were amazing and I can’t thank Emily Webber enough for ably running the show.

Here’s my 3 steps to working productively as a team when you don’t all work from the same space.

Step 1: Hire the right people

Q: You wouldn’t hire just anyone to (fur) baby sit, what do you look for in a potential sitter?

  • Responsible adults – People who do, are trustworthy and are independent.
  • Smart creatives – People who can highlight problems *and* bring solutions to the table.
  • Right mindset for remote work – People who don’t need the office environment (or are happy to recreate it through other means like co-working).

Step 2: In the right environment

Q: Have you ever brought home some supermarket herbs that didn’t thrive?

  • Be adult about dealing with problems – don’t let things fester, healthy group dynamics are at the heart of successful remote working.
  • Mind the micromanaging – this goes back to trust and productivity, focus on what people are producing not on ensuring you wring 8 hours out of them.
  • Remove barriers to productivity – environment (encourage coworking if needed and good working spaces), clear leadership (be a good scrum master, remove barriers and have clarity about task allocation or selection), staff wellbeing (make sure work life balance is retained and have good employee resources to manage stress), regular face to face (meet regularly to co-work together and bond).

Step 3: With the right tools

Q: Have you ever watched a professional at work?

  • Develop good processes around key needs (especially documents, tools, HR, health & safety).
  • Streamline your tools (find what works well for your team, mix it up, but don’t go mad).
  • Eat the elephant (Understand that this is a continuous group effort and take small steps).

These approaches have kept us at Open Data Services on the straight and narrow (today is our 1st anniversary!) and we review these as we grow our team (from 7 to 9 soon). Find out what works best for you and remember, keep working at it.

#fundingHack Crowdsourcing Q&A – Help me fund an indoor skate park in Keighley

Hackathons are not just about code. They are about solving problems and sometimes we can hack a problem by crowdsourcing the answers from a collective pool of knowledge.

That’s what we did when we were faced with a problem at #fundingHack on international open data day: my urban sport of skateboarding is amazing but there’s very little UK-based statistics I can use for evidence when applying for funding. What can I do?

A little background: Skateboarding has many benefits but there are few skate parks in the UK and little statistics showing their benefit. Most of the statistics and case studies come from the United States which is different from the UK socially, economically and geographically.

Using a mindmap, we started breaking the problem down into questions and answering the questions we could. We didn’t answer them all, so if you can help, get in touch.

The questions and suggestions are available as qualitative open data, to download and use under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License: #fundingHack Skate Park Q&A

#fundingHack Skate Park Q&A donut by Edafe Onerhime
#fundingHack Skate Park Q&A  by Edafe Onerhime

Doing funding research

Question: How can we overcome the barrier of lack of niche statistics evidence to get funding for an indoor skate park in Keighley?

Suggestion: What activity is similar to Skateboarding?

  • Describe why the activity is comparable to Skateboarding
  • Use the relevant statistics from that sport
  • Describe the unique aspects of Skateboarding and why it is a sport that needs funding in Keighley.


Question: I’m not a researcher! I’m happy to use and talk about statistics but who can help me with researching niche sports?

Suggestion: Get in touch with local universities to see if they have research around these sports or would be interested in working with you to research skate parks.

  • Leeds Beckett University has a world class sports research facility in Carnegie centre, maybe they can help?
  • The student data labs may be able to put you in touch with phd students working in this area.
  • Have you tried #phdchat on twitter?


Question: Where can I find easy to use and relevant statistics that I can copy and paste?

Suggestion: None yet, can you help?


Question: The census is pretty out of date, where can I get up to date statistics?

Suggestion: None yet, can you help?

Impact of project

Question: How can we effectively and persuasively describe the impact of Skateboarding?

Suggestion: Talk about the impact through both stories (and quotes!) and statistics. As UK Skateboarding statistics are hard to come by, we’ll use our similar sport where we need to fill in the gaps.

  • What is the impact of similar sport on:
    • crime related to young people?
    • alienation amongst young people?
  • How does Skateboarding captures the imagination of young people?
    • Skateboarding gives young people a focus
    • Skateboarding is an accessible sport
    • Skateboarding has cheap equipment costs
    • Skateboarding attracts people who won’t join in certain activities
      • because of costs
      • because Skateboarding breaks down social barriers
      • because Skateboarding removes class differences
      • because Skateboarding suits people who don’t like group activities

Need for project

Question: Why does Keighley need an indoor skate park?

Use local statistics to demonstrate the need. This is an area where using health statistics and research from other countries is useful because the health conditions aren’t unique to the UK.

  • There is a lack of youth resources in Keighley
  • There is a problem with physical and mental health in Keighley and skate parks can help
    • young people to get active
    • young people with hidden disabilities like aspergers and autism
    • young people who are lone rangers or shy

Getting feedback

Question: Young people won’t fill in forms? How can I get feedback?

Suggestion: You need to think about data protection and consent when gathering feedback, this will affect how you collect, store and protect their privacy in a safe and legal way.

See if you can collect feedback verbally (Evernote has an audio note tool), through social media, by text or in person.

How about asking simple questions and giving coloured voting cards? Whatever you do, be consistent and be safe.

More information about #fundingHack can be found here:

Image City’s Park by Guilherme Cardoso is licensed under  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Open Grant-making, a linkedIn style mockup from #fundingHack, Bradford

Liam Bolton os Student Data Labs, mocked up this linkedIn style community tool as part of #fundingHack on international open data day.

Open Grant-Making by Liam Bolton for #fundingHack, Bradford
Open Grant-Making by Liam Bolton for #fundingHack, Bradford

This is how he describes his idea: “A public forum and a message board for applicants to voice their concerns to professionals. Applicants can chat about their experiences with grantmaking. Applicants can also choose to message professionals – funders,
bid writers, marketing professionals – for advice. The idea was inspired by efforts to new developments in crowdsourcing, something that shows huge potential in grant-making.”

The Open Grant-Making mockup is ready for comments! Do you regularly apply for funding for your charity or nonprofit? Tell us what you think of this mockup.

More information about #fundingHack can be found here:

Data Protection: What is new in 2016? A workshop for Charities and Social Enterprises – Review

Disclaimer: I attended this data protection workshop for charities by Anthony Collins solicitors on the 26th of February 2016. I’ve summarised some impacts for charities and nonprofits and provided suggestions for further research and resources. I’m not a lawyer (nor do I play one on TV!), so please take this as my own opinion and seek legal advice appropriate to your situation.

Anthony Collins solicitors are well located in Birmingham city centre. They provided a lovely setting for the workshop, as well as a delicious lunch. I highly recommend their future workshops. This one was free but the presenters were knowledgeable professionals, so I would consider paid workshops in furue.

I enjoyed the day and learned a lot, meeting some wonderful fundraiser from charities around Birmingham. Not only did Jane Burns cover a wide range of changes to data protection and their impact on charities, she was gracious enough to thoughtfully consider questions during her much needed tea break.

Here’s a summary of my notes:

What is data protection?
The Data Protection Act is there to protect your personal information and how it’s used. See Data Protection guidance on for more information.

How is data protection changing?
The underlying issue of data protection revolves around clear, specific, freely given consent. This is especially crucial with the proposed EU-wide data protection regulation.

How does data protection affect my charity?
Data protection around charity governance is high profile, with no latitude or perceived latitude in enforcement. The Charity Commission, the registrar and regulator of charities in England and Wales, has especially focussed on the need to harden compliance.

Which organisations are involved with data protection in the charity sector?

  • ICO  – The Information Commissioner’s Office, the office responsible for the enforcement of the Data Protection Act 1998, and Freedom of Information, have emphasised the importance of dealing with data protection at a strategic as well as an operational level.
  • FRSB – The Fundraising Standards Board, the fundraising regular  and PACAC – the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, have advised that data protection especially affects trustees and governance.

After the session, I came up with some considerations for charities and nonprofits who publish open data:

  • Consent: If data release may compromise privacy e.g. locations of where funding was raised or given, do you have clear, specific consent from beneficiaries to publish this information as open data?
  • Privacy Notices: Do you have a privacy notice which indicates what data is held and how it is used? Does the privacy notice mention open data publication?
  • Broad Consent: Soft or broad opt-ins may be insufficient

Who can I speak to about data protection at my charit or protecting data when publishing as open data as a nonprofit?

This is a shortlist, please do your own research!

Are there any resources about data protection or data anonymisation for my charity?

You can also look at my resources for some pointers: Winning with data for charities and nonprofits

Grant Seekers – A for funding mockup from #fundingHack Bradford

Grant Seekers attempts to open up a forum for people seeking funding and grants application processes.

The concept counts on collective knowledge and experiences from others in similar situations to help each other on a website. Think of it like a / Money Saving Expert for funding.

As part of #fundingHack on international open data day, Wetgenes, Bradford based serial creators and games developers, worked on ths idea to build help funding seekers build an online community. The prototype lands soonish.

More information about #fundingHack can be found here:

myGrantTracker – a grant application tracking mockup from #fundingHack, Bradford

As part of #fundingHack on international open data day, Samuel, an engineering student at The University of Bradford, worked on an idea to track and manage grant applications.

myGrantTracker by Babatope S. Ayo for #fundingHack
myGrantTracker by Babatope S. Ayo for #fundingHack

The myGrantTracker mockup is ready for comments! Do you regularly apply for funding for your charity or nonprofit? Tell us what you think of this mockup.

More information about #fundingHack can be found here: