Building a future that works for everyone. Double tick!

It was great to turn on the Today Programme this morning to hear Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sports and Civil Society, talking passionately about the new Civil Society Strategy, and her commitment to working with grassroots organisations to address some of the biggest challenges we’re facing in society today.

The strategy is subtitled ‘Building a future that works for everyone’ – a mission that chimes well with me and my work at Good Things Foundation since our vision is a world where everyone can benefit from digital.

So I eagerly read the Strategy and one of the things that struck me most is the recognition for the great work civil society is already doing, and a Government commitment to doing more to support this. Meeting with a number of Online Centres when putting our consultation response together I heard an overwhelming air of positivity and ambition about what we can achieve together. It is great to see the strategy committing to building on this aspiration.

There’s so much in this strategy to be happy about.

A key theme that comes through is the need to support community organisations, charities, and other organisations with a social purpose to strengthen communities, and to ensure people can have their say about the things that matter to them, combat loneliness, and drive inclusive growth. The Online Centres Network, who are based in thousands of communities across the UK, are already doing this on a daily basis. Tick.

And it’s about putting people and communities at the heart of decisions and decision making. Tick.

The Government will also be launching ‘Innovation in Democracy’ pilots, giving local people more of a say. I’m hoping our #VoiceBoxCafe pilots will get some local people – especially local women – ready and interested in taking part. Tick.

The Strategy commits the Government to a return to grant funding which we know provides greater security, particularly for smaller charities and organisations. We are also pleased to see again the plans to release £145 million of funding from dormant bank accounts to fund activity, particularly around financial inclusion. We know that inclusive prosperity is an area in much need of investment. Tick.

I’m really happy to see the Strategy’s desire to explore how technology can be harnessed to address complex social issues. As you’ll know if you read my blog often – this is something I’m passionate about and it’s right at the heart of what we do at Good Things. The strategy talks in detail about the role of tech for good, and the importance of using technology to solve complex social issues, like loneliness, healthy ageing, online safety, and digital inclusion. You’ll not be surprised to hear that this is music to my ears! Tick.

To do this, the government has committed to working in partnership with experts in both technology and civil society. As an organisation working at the intersection of these two sectors, I’m looking forward to the important role we can play in this. Double tick.

For me, the strategy hits the nail on the head when it says ‘digital technology does not bring progress when it simply creates efficiency. It brings the most progress when it puts the user first, and when digital services are focused foremost on meeting human needs’. We don’t need to get hung up on searching for clever tech solutions and building new platforms – sometimes the biggest impact can be had in using existing, and freely available tools – like using Facebook to bring communities together.

It’s important we don’t think of tech for good as a separate element of the Civil Society Strategy, removed from the people, places and partnerships that make our society thrive. Digital needs to become part of what everyone working in civil society does every day, and for every solution civil society develops, we should always be asking what role digital can play. Tech + people can bring holistic and scalable solutions. How can it be embedded by more civil society organisations more often to help to achieve an even bigger impact? This is something we will keep championing, along with our partners working across the civil society space.

There’s definitely a lot in it to be happy about. As Tracey Crouch said: “Our strategy builds on this spirit of the common good to help create a country that works for everyone. I want people, organisations and businesses to feel inspired to get involved and make a difference. .. Through collaboration, we will unlock the huge potential of this incredible sector, help it grow, support the next generation and create a fairer society.”

As with everything, the actual success will be in the delivery and I will be interested to see how the new strategy develops quickly into tangible action. As a resetting of the relationship between Government, and those driving social action, I think it sets all the right tone. I look forward to hearing more of the detail, and to playing a role to help with that and with the implementation both as Good Things Foundation and as a voice for thousands of community organisations across the Online Centres Network.

The first civil society strategy in 15 years. So, let’s get on with it.

Get Online Week is go go go!

The eagle-eyed among you will have seen my video on social media last week promoting our 2018 Get Online Week registration. That’s right, you can now sign up to take part in our big digital inclusion campaign, taking place this October from 15-21.

We’re going international with the campaign this year, running it in both the UK and Australia. There will be hundreds of new organisations taking part from the Be Connected Network and I’d also love to see lots of newbies in the UK taking part as well. It’s a great opportunity to reach new people, raise the profile of your organisation and to be part of something big.

Last year event holders reached 45,000 people with digital skills and confidence by encouraging them to #Try1Thing new online. This year, we want to reach even more.

If you have any questions about Get Online Week, tweet me on @helenmilner, or get in touch with my team at @getonlineweek.

Hey Matt, Let’s Make Sure the NHS is Wonderful for Everyone

Digital is wonderful – it brings the world into your front room, it enables people to communicate across time zones, save money and find out more about the things that interest them. Digital is convenient, flexible, it can give you the information you need when you need it, and you can use it at a time that suits you.

But digital isn’t always wonderful at everything.

Human beings are (usually) better than technology at being patient, being empathetic, listening to what people really mean rather than what they say. Humans are good at encouraging others, inspiring others, and empowering others to do things they didn’t think they could do.

(And digital has other issues too – just like the real world – to do with crime, security, consent, and other things … but more about that another day.)

The NHS is a wonderful institution and I was delighted to congratulate Matt Hancock as soon as he was appointed as the new Secretary of State for Health. He’s a good man and he understands both the power of technology and how many people still don’t know how to use the internet in a way that benefits their lives.

Matt Hancock gave his first oral Health Parliamentary Questions in the House of Commons yesterday, as well as making his first appearance at the Commons Health Select Committee. He’s been clear that he has three priorities:

  • Valuing the NHS and social care workforce
  • Transforming tech (starting with a new £487 million fund)
  • Prevention being better than cure.

They seem like three pretty good things to start with – assuming that a relentless focus on patients underpins all three.

At the Health Select Committee, Matt Hancock said “Technology in healthcare is coming. What we need to do is to make sure the NHS is able to utilise this in a way that achieves the holy trinity of allowing better care for patients, easier service provision for clinicians, and saves the NHS money.”

Although I’m passionate about tech, I am more passionate about people using technology, and not tech for its own sake. For over four years now, we’ve been working with partners to engage people who are more likely to experience poor health and lower life expectancy due to the wider social disadvantages they experience. In our first three years, we helped over 220,000 people who showed us that with the right support and encouragement they could change behaviours, and lift barriers to exclusion. Part of that behaviour change was helping them to use the best channel for them – such as the online NHS health information instead of a GP, or a Pharmacist instead of A&E. Our research showed that the group of people we supported in one year had the potential to save the NHS over £6 million in those 12 months alone.

Ron Dale, 61, was living in a tent on the A63 and through a series of interventions, including digital upskilling, he was able to re-engage with the health system, move GP practices and book his appointments online. “We helped Ron get familiar with the NHS Choices website and use the ‘Services Near You’ section, to find nearby GPs. He had a look at the reviews, opening times, picked a surgery and he was registered in less than a week,” said Dave Edeson from Inspire Communities in Hull, the Online Centre who supported him. “Ron suffers from particularly severe anxiety issues and he was really happy that the surgery lets him book appointments and order repeat prescriptions online. These services went a long way to alleviate his anxiety, especially once the Inspire Communities showed him how the system worked and how easy it was to make an appointment.”

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Ron and Dave

 

Dave continues: “Ron is much happier with his new GP too. Not only is it closer but he says the conversations he’s having with the doctor are making him feel much more included in decisions about his healthcare.”

In phase 2 of our NHS Widening Digital Participation, we are working with some of the most excluded groups in the country to investigate ways that digital can make a difference.

This ranges from working with homeless people in Hastings, people with sensory impairments in West Yorkshire, and those with long-term conditions in Stoke. By co-designing pathways for people with complex lives we are able to find out how digital can improve their lives – and ultimately the way in which they interact with the NHS. This includes:

We are so proud to be part of the Empower the Person workstream for NHS England. This recognises that designing systems, tools and pathways should leave no one behind. As Juliet Bauer, Chief Digital Officer at NHS England, says, “Technology is here to extend humanity, not replace it”.

We’ve learned some important things on our journey, including

  • To start with, and remain focused on, what matters to people – digital is an enabler not the end goal
  • To engage people in new innovations including digital tools we need to go to where they are, not expect them to come to us
  • People trust peers just as much as they trust clinicians in terms of recommendations around using digital resource
  • Digital is really good at prevention, for example supporting people to lose weight to avoid getting type 2 diabetes
  • People need relationships of trust, and open door whole person support can help to overcome both social and digital exclusion
  • The staff of the NHS are wonderful, but change is hard. Many staff aren’t confident about their digital skills – so they need to build their capability and confidence. But we also need to ensure a fear of change doesn’t block the culture change that will also be needed
  • People (patients) are not the problem they are part of the solution – digital services and products should be co-designed in partnership with them
  • Social prescribing can be really effective, but it isn’t a silver bullet and needs to be implemented in the right way – it needs to remain informal and based on the needs of the individual, so implemented well it involves local community organisations, and it is a shared decision between both the patient and practitioner.

A digital enabled NHS should offer a better, more inclusive, and 24/7 service, that is free at the point of use, as well as including Matt Hancock’s holy trinity of allowing better care for patients, easier service provision for clinicians, and saving the NHS money.

And, if 90% of the people who are socially excluded are also digitally excluded, it’s critical that all citizens are also, at the same time, enabled and empowered to be able to and benefit from this wonderful digital world and the wonderful digitally-supported NHS that Matt Hancock, his team, and hundreds of thousands of NHS workers all want to see.

Digitisation is not understood, nor shared equally or fairly

Today we hosted our annual House of Lords Reception, where we could thank Online Centres, and share our celebrations with staff and volunteers from the communities we work in, as well as MPs, Lords, Baronesses, partners, and friends of Good Things Foundation.

I gave a short speech and wanted to share it on my blog. Hope you enjoy it.

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“Today we’re enjoying the sunshine, thanking our partners, celebrating our shared achievements over the past year and looking ahead to the future.

Today, we’re also celebrating 10 of our community partners in the Online Centres Network, who have winning ideas showing how grassroots problem solving can have a real impact on helping people to overcome challenges. We’ll be sharing a film today of some of the 10 winners of the Community Challenge Prize, that we ran with Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and Campbell Rob and Liz Williams will tell you more later.

The best bit of my job is visiting our Online Centres and talking to the people there. I see hope and a bit more happiness in their eyes because of the help and support they’ve received from those fabulous hyperlocal community organisations.

I love that Good Things Foundation is a truly mission-led organisation. I’m so lucky to have a job I really love.

The Challenge Prize is just one of our new social inclusion initiatives. Some of these ideas are truly inspiring, and they show how technology can be an intrinsic part of the solution to, in this case, help to put a bit more money into the pockets of people with very little.

We’ve shown time and time again how a relentless focus on people and people’s needs, plus an understanding of how technology leads to better outcomes, can underpin a better, more effective solution for social issues, and leads to better lives. Technology also helps us to scale.

We’re not immune to the worries that people have as the digitisation of our economy and our society continues at pace. There are challenges as well as opportunities. But these opportunities are not currently shared fairly or equally.

For many, digitisation can mean hollowed out high streets, social and economic exclusion, and an even higher poverty premium.

At Good Things, through our network, we have been at the vanguard of tackling these new inequalities. We are so proud of that work. And proud of the partners – both locally and nationally who help us.

But we have also decided that it is time to ask those who profit most from digitisation – the businesses and the public services who save money by services and support going online – to pay a little bit of those savings back into the community.

Over the next few months, we will be campaigning for a new ‘Digital Dividend’, to invest a proportion of the private and public sectors’ savings from digitisation in ensuring digital inclusion for all. We thank our national public and private partners who are already doing this and already investing. But more people and more organisations can do more!

And, finally what a year we’ve had:

  • Over the last year, we have grown our social inclusion programme, developing a number of projects alongside the Challenge Prize
  • Won funding from the Women’s Centenary Vote Fund for the Voicebox Cafes project, which is supporting excluded women to play a role in democracy and local decision making
  • Won additional funding for our English Language Programme – English My Way, that’s powered and scaled through digital and targets vulnerable women
  • And we’ve continued our Big Lottery Reboot project with MIND and Homeless Link.

And we’ve:

  • Supported over 220,000 people through our Future Digital Inclusion programme with the Department for Education
  • Recruited and supported 13 Pathfinders, as part of our NHS Widening Digital Participation programme, who are all testing new approaches to engaging people with digital and health
  • Began groundbreaking work with HM Courts & Tribunals – Justice.gov – to help them to use good service design principles to test the support people (who can’t use technology) need to use their new online service such as divorce
  • Begun working with three local authorities in Stockport, Salford and Leeds
  • Published our Theory of Change, created not in an ivory tower but grounded in practice, and which sets out how we, and the Online Centres, make change happen for excluded people
  • Our Chair, Liz Williams, and I have collaborated with DCMS and others on the Digital Skills Partnership Board
  • Worked with Google, Lloyds, and TalkTalk to deliver more to more people and supported some of their staff to volunteer in communities among other things
  • Carried out the first Randomised Control Trial with Money Advice Service & Toynbee Hall that proved the benefits of putting digital transactions into a financial capability programme
  • AND. Set up an office in Sydney, Australia, and recruited a new Australian digital inclusion network of 1,500 local partners, working with the Australian Government.
  • And, carried out a pilot in Kenya.

Yes, it’s been a wonderful year – and a little bit exhausting.

I think my staff and Board feel a little bit tired too! Thank you for your commitment and hard work that helped to achieve all of this.

The centres that we are celebrating as part of our Community Challenge Prize today are just 10 of the thousands within our Online Centres Network, who are the real heroes, who really know the power of technology for good, and I want to thank them all.

So the year ahead:

We’re going to continue being ambitious and focused.

Ambitious about the deep impact we can, together, have on people’s lives.

And ambitious about doing that at scale.

A rising tide does not lift all boats equally.

The benefits of digitisation are not shared equally.

This digital revolution is exacerbating age-old social divisions and inequalities.

So we must be ambitious about using our collective voices to make sure that we understand digital as a powerful tool to tackle complex social issues.

A tool for good.

A tool that must and should benefit everyone.

If you’d like to work with Good Things Foundation then do get in touch.

Our new Director of Design and Research Emma Stone has also been blogging about the Community Challenge Prize. Check it out on the Good Things Foundation website.

The Challenge Prize winners are:

  • Crisis Skylight: Birmingham

Smart travel guide: a guide to travelling in Birmingham for vulnerable people.

  • Bangladesh Youth & Cultural Shomiti: Leicester

Group bulk buying in the community.

  • Empowering Education: Rochdale

Introductory digital skills for isolated Muslim women.

  • Kensington Vision: Liverpool

Partnership with a local credit union to provide a new bike for £1 a day.

  • Learn for Life: Sheffield

Mobile creche to provide child care for single mothers in education.

  • GOAL Saltley: Birmingham

Awareness campaign around the use of prescription fines.   

  • TLC College: Wolverhampton

Personal energy assessment and assisted tariff switch.

  • Wai Yin Community: Manchester

Board game to help people manage their finances.

  • New Forest Council & New Forest Basics Banks: New Forest

Foodbank cookbook and cooking demonstrations.

  • High Wycombe Library: High Wycombe

Travel information workshops: using digital tools to plan more cost effective travel. 

A big week for politics (and football)

I’m one of those people who listens every morning to the Today Programme (even when I’m in Australia), follows political commentators on Twitter, and who in general feels up to date with politics. However, this week it’s been hard to keep up both on the national level but also here in Good Things Foundation world.

A very French outing

At the end of last week, I sat on a panel at the Local Government Authority conference in Birmingham with three other people, including Debbie Brown, Transformation Director at Salford City Council – a key player in our Digital You project.

From Birmingham, I zoomed off to Paris to attend the France UK Digital Colloque, a meeting of the UK and French digital ministers where they agreed to join forces and share expertise on AI and research, working together to improve digital services, collaborating to develop tech talent. I sat on a panel with some very inspirational women in tech where we discussed inclusion and diversity. It was a great event and I appreciated being invited by Matt Hancock, though this ended up being my last outing with him as Digital Minister.

Digital Colloque

At the France UK Digital Colloque with Debbie Forster and Claire Calmejane

 

This leads me on to…

Following the resignation of some of the Conservative Cabinet the then Secretary of State for DCMS (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) Matt Hancock became the new Secretary of State for Health, with Jeremy Wright replacing him as SoS at DCMS.

Welcome to Mr Wright and I hope he gets the importance of driving digital inclusion and basic digital skills as much as his predecessor did. The team here at Good Things Foundation are very excited to develop our relationship and work together to help the country reach its digital potential.

And of course we’re keen to keep working with Matt Hancock – our work on Health and Digital/Social Inclusion is now in its second phase and we’re innovating with CCGs and others around the country – something I’m sure the new Secretary of State at Health will be interested in.

And finally…

I was one of those people who on Wednesday night sat on their sofa and shouted at the telly to encourage our football team. We were all a little blue in the Good Things Foundation office yesterday after England’s defeat to Croatia in the World Cup semi-final.

Luckily, we were holding a workshop in the office for the Online Centres who are delivering our Voicebox Cafes project – that’s giving women a voice in democracy – being run with Helen Jones MP, the Chair of Parliament’s Petitions Committee. This cheered everyone up, as we’re always happy to meet the amazing people who work in Online Centres and we were honoured to have Helen Jones in our offices working with us and the centres.

The workshop was going great… then it got even better when Sheffield Lord Mayor Magid Magid and comedian and actor Rufus Hound turned up with some ‘World Cup commiseration’ sweets to cheer everyone up on their Sheffield #SweetTweetTour. Magid even managed to come in and speak to the people in the workshop and meet Helen Jones.

Workshop

Magid meets Helen Jones MP

 

It was good fun and great to see members of the Green Party and the Labour Party getting along so well!

An interesting week in politics – which has moved onto the Donald Trump visit (which I won’t comment on here).

A slightly surreal rollercoaster of a week but one that ended with the Good Things Foundation team posing for a great photo with Magid and Rufus Hound, and eating Skittles and Haribo. What more could we ask for?

SweetTweet

An unexpected surprise

Happy birthday NHS – let’s embrace more digital to evolve and get even better

At Good Things Foundation we’ve been very pleased this week to celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS. We’ve blogged and published guest blogs, we launched a report (about our pilot project with the Sheffield Perfect Patient Pathway Testbed looking at the digital capabilities of health professionals), and we’ve shared lots of great stories on social media. But as the NHS hits this great milestone, it’s got me thinking, how can we sustain it going forward and can digital play a bigger part?

Innovation isn’t just sexy tech and apps

The first phase of our Widening Digital Participation programme proved that online health information – and importantly, ensuring people having the digital skills to access that information – can have a significant positive impact on people’s lives. We reached hundreds of thousands of people with those digital health skills and found that this behaviour change could save the NHS lots of valuable cash (£6m a year through channel shift eg. using more appropriate and more convenient channels).

The point is, the thing that made the most difference to the learners was the information. There’s so much talk out there about different technologies modernising healthcare but the reality is it isn’t all about sexy tech and apps. People need information to get them started in the world of digital health.

Dr Ollie Hart, a GP based in Sheffield who you may recognise from some of our Widening Digital Participation communications, is working hard to make sure people have the knowledge to use online information to manage their conditions in a safe way. He’s embedded signposting to basic digital information in partnership with a local Online Centre who has been based in the GP’s surgery once a week for the past four years.

One of our first Pathfinders in Phase 2 of the Widening Digital Participation programme is a project in Islington working with young people with mental health needs. The project took the relatively simple step of putting a PDF of young people’s Crisis Care Plans on their mobile phones. It was previously on paper and was often lost or forgotten about.  This solution meant that the Crisis Care Plan was in easy reach whenever the young person needed it. Digital was the solution, but it was very low tech.

As Juliet Bauer, Chief Digital Officer at NHS England, says “Technology is here to extend humanity not replace it.”

Digital can bring so much to the prevention piece

Too often the conversations I’m part of about Health and Digital tend to be almost all about curing people. But for better health for more people and for people to not get sick in the first place then digital has a big role to play in prevention as well as cure.

We have many stories of people who have lost weight by getting support from other dieters online or by using the internet to find easy recipes – and therefore preventing a number of illnesses associated with being overweight or obese.

In June, in Sheffield (where I live), there’s a Move More campaign that got me walking 30 minutes to work and back because of a simple app on my phone and a league table where organisations compete against one another to do the most active minutes per person.

But it is getting the people involved that is crucial. Our Pathfinders show time and again that people need to help design their own solutions – whether this is an old butcher shop turned digital health information centre in Nailsea or better access to healthcare for homeless people in Hastings.

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Digital is a tool that helps to drive behaviour change – and that behaviour change means individual people making better decisions about keeping healthy rather than waiting until poor health strikes.

It’s about making people feel healthier and better

This week has been such a huge milestone and I’ve seen and heard so many great things in the news about our national treasure. It makes me proud.

I’d also like to say a big thank you to the people at the NHS who are working with us to test some new approaches and to see what works (and what doesn’t). Thank you to all of the people in the NHS, in the CCGs, and the GPs involved. Thank you to Nicola Gill (who wrote a great guest blog this week), Juliet Bauer, and Bob Gann, who have helped to drive this initiative forward.

The NHS will hit 80 in ten years, and there’s no doubt that it will be a big decade for digital – in making the NHS even better, more accessible, more convenient and flexible, There will be many more opportunities to create services with people, not just for people.

In the UK there are still over 11 million people who aren’t proficient at filling in an online form or downloading an app – our mission is to help all of them to be confident at using the web for good, and to have better lives, and that’s going to be really important for the NHS in the next decade and beyond. Let’s not forget these millions of people as we design the next tech innovation and as we embrace the next ten years of an even better NHS.

Happy Birthday, NHS. And thank you.

#NHS70

Becoming a Group: One Team, Two Offices

Pinch me. It’s all of a sudden become real for the whole team and our two Boards at Good Things that we’re a lively, committed Group of real people working hard to make a better world for excluded people in the UK and in Australia.

How did we get here?

Today Jess, our National Director in Australia, boarded a plane to head back to rejoin the team in Sydney. She followed Allison, Dur-E-Shahwar, and Robert, who had left at the weekend, and Greg, our Chair of Good Things Australia who left on Friday. They had all been in the UK to take part in a week of Good Things Foundation Group working, team building, and celebrations.

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A photo of Dur-E-Shahwar, Jess, Allison, Greg, and Robert, with me in our Sheffield office, shortly after they arrived last week

Last Thursday it was, coincidentally, exactly a year since we got the news from the Australian Government that we had won a big contract to establish, recruit, and support a pan-Australia digital inclusion network as part of their Be Connected programme. And wow what a year we’ve had! As well as helping 320,000 excluded people improve their lives in that year in England, and much, much more (see the Annual Review here) – we’ve set up a new office on the other side of the world, recruited a new team, and started our work with such energy and expertise that we’ve established a network of almost 1,400 hyperlocal partners in just 10 months.

The day after our first Group Board with both Jess and Greg in physical attendance, we had our first Group workshop – a morning of collaboration, joint planning, developing ideas, and importantly getting to know each other. The words I’ve heard from my colleagues since are words like pride, vision, enthusiasm, impact, and about not just knowing we’re a Group but feeling like a Group.

How did we do this?

We’ve reflected on this and something that comes through strongly is that we had a vision, we have clear values and we stay true to our core purpose, and then we just believed in one another (in the UK and in Australia) and used our energy, experience, and can-do attitude to make it happen.

This isn’t all about the UK experts exporting our knowledge and passions to another country, it’s about recruiting a great team in Australia and it’s about reflecting and listening and adapting and evolving for a new context. And doing this at pace.

It’s about having an amazing team of people who believe in the vision but who are also committed to collaboration and to working hard (very hard) for what they believe in, and in parallel to growing and doing amazing things in the UK at the same time. A colleague coined a great phrase for this last week “One Team, Two Offices”. Two offices on opposite sides of the world and in very difficult time zones (especially hard in the British winters!).

What else did I learn last week?

Being in the same room instead of being on Google Hangouts is different, is better sometimes, and now we’re a Group something we know we’ll be doing again.

I can’t wait to see what we get done between now and when we meet as a Group same time next year.

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Team selfie taken by Jess, our National Director of Good Things Australia and includes some of our great UK and Australian Team Members as well as our Group Chair, Liz Williams