What we’ve learned about supporting digital organisational strengthening in the specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence sector

23rd June 2022

Programme overview

The 2021-2022 Ministry of Justice Specialist Fund, delivered by Comic Relief in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, invested in 23 specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence organisations across England and Wales that are led ‘by/with and for’ communities facing racial inequality, disabled people or LGBTQ+ communities. The programme aimed to strengthen the digital capability and infrastructure of these organisations.

Following 10 years of investing in diverse Social Tech programmes, this programme presented a new approach for Comic Relief. We’d heard from our funded partners that although there is considerable value in supporting the discovery, design and delivery of digital products and services, there was a gap in funding available for wider digital support, such as:

  • Implementing new case management systems (e.g. replacing paper-based and Excel documents) and enhancing existing systems (e.g. improving data collection)

  • Developing organisational websites (e.g. multilingual content, accessibility of content, enabling online referrals, enabling online donations)

  • Delivering training to improve digital skills and confidence of staff and service users (e.g. cybersecurity and digital safeguarding).

Learning overview

Working with Making Impact Matter(opens in new window), our learning partner, we wanted to learn about:

  1. What this funding enabled for funded partners

  2. The value of this flexible, needs-led funding model

  3. The opportunities and challenges of digital in the domestic abuse and sexual violence sector

Our learning is targeted at two key audiences – funders and specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence organisations. We found...

For funders:

  • Provide longer-term support, particularly for organisations at the early stages of digital capability

  • Base applications on digital 'pain points' that need solving, as opposed to defined digital solutions. Review and adapt internal grant-making processes to support problem-focused applications

  • Accommodate uncertainty – as projects move through the scoping phase, with support from a technical partner, funded partners will likely change plans

  • Ensure capability-building support from a technical partner is bespoke – consider developing a nuanced approach, which is based on starting digital capabilities

  • Improve approaches to support the sustainability of digital projects after the investment finishes.

For specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence organisations:

  • Investing in digital capability can lead to positive organisational change (including increased staff ownership and engagement)

  • Trust that the benefits of digital capability and infrastructure development are highly likely to outweigh the challenges

  • Invest the time to explore your digital needs

  • Keep digital projects focused and manageable, in order to balance your time and operational requirements.

Our call to action

As a learning-led funder, we commit to improving the way that Comic Relief enables and supports digital organisational strengthening for funded partners, and we call on other funders to do the same:

  • Continue to invest in specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence organisations. We recognise specialist services reach people who are often excluded from more mainstream services

  • Integrate digital capability and infrastructure into future funding opportunities. We recognise digital (as an organisational strengthening tool) enables organisations to operate more effectively, improving the quality and reach of services in the long-term.

For more information

The following short video encapsulates the programme – capturing five funded partners talking about the impact of this programme on their organisations (this is a trailer for a longer video created by Making Impact Matter).

We recommend having a look at DOT PROJECT(opens in new window), our digital support partner on the programme, insights and learnings(opens in new window) (presented at our learning dissemination event).

The full programme analysis, findings and recommendations can be found in Making Impact Matter's report, Dialling Up Digital: The Next Level – Learning from the Ministry of Justice Specialist Fund (2021-22)(opens in new window).