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In November last year Catalyst came into the modern world.

It became evident that hundreds of thousands of emails had been sent out all over the world in our name and that our website had become unusable. Yes, we had been hacked and we were advised that so bad was the damage to the internal gubbins of our website that we had to close it down and start again.

It was at first quite exciting to think that, of the many millions of potential targets, the hackers had chosen us such was our level of interest and importance. Was this an attack on the wrong Catalyst or on the voluntary sector or on us personally. The conspiracy theorists amongst Catalyst staff and board were in their element until we found out the truth. We were one of 166,000 websites worldwide to be attacked by this particular virus and it wasn’t personal at all. Did we feel a tiny bit disappointed? Probably.

Since November we have commissioned the design of a brand new website which is will be launched soon and we hope proves useful to those who need it. So who are they?

One thing is very clear to me, having been through new website designs in the past, that the last people that the Catalyst website is for are our staff team. I have seen it in other places where staff get very precious about their corner of a website and develop it as a personal challenge rather than thinking who may want to access it and for what purpose. Fortunately this is not the case with Catalyst staff.

In January we discovered one group who all complained that our website was down. We interviewed for Gemma Clifford’s replacement as our Health & Wellbeing Programme Manager and each candidate commented on the difficulty of getting information because we had no website. Having said that, they all managed to find the information required thanks to Google which led to a highly competitive set of interviews. (You may already be aware that Sara Dalton was the successful person and started at the beginning of March so a big, warm welcome to her as she leads our health programme and takes it forward over the coming years.)

So the website is needed for potential new members of staff which is a pretty small market at Catalyst. Who else may use our website especially when two things of most interest are our eBulletin which goes to over 1,000 people and Stockton Volunteers is a separate website altogether.

We know that our website is used to “check us out” to show that we are competent, relevant and communicative about what is going on. Funders of projects like the fact that their information is available, including impact analysis of what they are funding. We also know that VCSE colleagues use the website to check their diaries and to access meeting information. And we also use the website as a means of giving the full details of information from the eBulletin that only has a few words. What else? You tell us.

We have consulted with colleagues in the VCSE about the content and style of the new website. We also hope that some of them will test it for us prior to a formal launch before Easter. We hope that it proves useful to the sector, our partners, funders and whoever may want to use it.

I also hope that we are not hacked again because, despite a welcome insurance contribution, website redevelopment can be a very expensive business.

Steve Rose
Chief Executive