Helping a Scottish charity manage documents with Box software

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Scottish Men's Sheds logoMen can often lose their friends and social life through retirement, redundancy, divorce or simply the children leaving home.

To help remedy this, Men’s Sheds were set up in Australia to offer a place for men to practice craftsmanship with other men to talk to, share problems and make friends.

They were set up as relaxed social spaces that gave users the opportunity to maintain their practical skills – tinkering with machines, woodworking and learning skills; or having a cup of tea and putting the world to rights – although this can be supplemented by anything from health courses to cookery demonstrations.

In recent years, the Men’s Shed movement has spread rapidly across the world. The Westhill & District Men’s Shed was the first branch of the Men’s Sheds to be set up in Scotland, but an astonishing 40 more are in the pipeline two years later.

“it was the usual story…”

The workshop in useOne of the Westhill & District Men’s Shed‘s major challenges related to document management. Aside from the policies and procedures familiar to all charities, they need access to operations manuals, safety notes for each piece of machinery and training guidelines; there are also particular policies regarding donations of equipment.

Nick Pilbeam is the chairman at the charity. “It was the usual story,” he recalls. “Everyone had a document they’d copied, saved somewhere and made changes to. Some files might be named ‘latest’ even though they dated from a year before.”

“This was our problem – we might email round a new version of a file, but there was no guarantee that it would be read.”

For Nick and others, this was causing real headaches in terms of record-keeping and in maintaining consistent documents.

“You need to understand that we’re not care workers; people attending the shed take responsibility for themselves. So if a support worker brings a new person along, they can’t just leave them here and say ‘goodbye’; we need to be able to give them the most up to date set of guidelines along with a proper welcome form and everything else.”

Making sure documents are consistent and up-to-date

Bob (87 years old) restoring chairsTo deal with this, the charity ended up taking a donated perpetual licence for Box Starter Edition earlier in 2015. And although he describes it as “still early days,” Nick is very positive about the practical difference that the software has made.

At its simplest level, Box is a file-sharing and synchronisation system. Using the cloud, it enables users to access their documents – and those of their colleagues – from anywhere, ensuring that these files are always the most up-to-date versions.

Nick’s first steps with Box have been to set up all of the charity’s essential files so they are accessible from home and work, both for him and for the other people who might need them.

“a piece of cake to load files”

He describes loading up the files as “a piece of cake” and the software has achieved their primary goal – all of the organisation’s documents are consistent now, and always up-to-date.

“There’s a very generous amount of storage Box have offered; our thanks for that!”

A relatively high proportion of the charity’s volunteers have a decent comfort level using technology, but Nick says that he would still recommend Box to other organisations less at ease with IT.

“We’re trying to be more complex, but it would be possible to use it very simply,” he says.

“You could easily just upload everything that you wanted to be shared and use a single login for everybody. The extra level of control would not be there, but that would be your nursery steps to get people going quickly, and then you could perhaps move on as soon as they were comfortable.”

Through Charity Digital’s Charity Digital Exchange programme, eligible UK charities can access 10-user licenses for Box software that never expire or need to be renewed.



Who are they? The Westhill & District Men’s Shed (Charity reg. SC042663)
Where are they? Westhill, Aberdeenshire
What do they do? Provide a building with a workshop area and provision for social interaction
How big are they? Entirely run by volunteers, less than £15k income
What did they receive? Box Starter Edition, 10 user licences
The outcome? Consistent documents and files across the charity that can be accessed at home and work by volunteers and service users.



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