Creating a happy, healthy online population

Our Widening Digital Participation programme with NHS England (2013 – 2016) was a monumental endeavour for Good Things Foundation, which, at the end of three years, produced some impressive outcomes. We beat our targets to reach 387,470 people with messages on digital health literacy and we trained 221,941 people to improve their digital health skills; through dedicated research we discovered so much about how the internet can benefit individuals in terms of managing their health and wellbeing; and we had the opportunity to develop innovative approaches through our pathfinder centres.

Since the project ended, we’ve been itching to do more in this field and that’s why I’m so happy that we’ve been awarded funding from NHS Digital for a second phase.

So will it be more of the same? The answer is no. This time we’ll be taking a different approach. We’re still looking to help socially disadvantaged people to improve their digital health skills, but this time it will be more focussed – we’ll be recruiting 20 ‘pathfinder’ centres over three years. These pathfinders will gather insight and design services, resources and communications that can be used across England to support the NHS’s drive for a digitally activated population, looking at the needs of people with different circumstances and healthcare requirements have, and tailor approaches to digital inclusion to suit them

I see it as embedding digital health literacy in the health sector, rather than embedding health into the digital inclusion sector.

In the first phase of the programme this pathfinder approach was something that really stood out and helped us to reach those who are most excluded – the hard-to-reach fruit from the top of the tree. Successful approaches were developed, adapted and tested – such as Age UK South Tyneside’s work with those suffering from dementia – to engage people from these target audiences.

This time around we will be looking to engage with specific groups – people who fall within one of the six clinical priority areas identified in the NHS’s Five Year Forward View and those people who fall into ‘furthest first’ groups, based on Good Things’ own research and data about the most digitally excluded groups. We will be asking pathfinders to identify an audience at which to target their intervention – this could be people with dementia, diabetes, poor mental health; they could be from different ethnic groups, it could be older people or it could be the unemployed, to name a few.

Of the people helped in the first phase of the programme 82% fall into at least one category of social exclusion, 60% are in receipt of means-tested benefits, 44% are disabled; 34% are unemployed; 19% are aged 60 or over and 16% are from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) groups. When we look at our latest Digital Nation infographic, of the 12.6 million people who make up the offline population, 57% are aged 65 or over, 31% earn less than £9.5K per annum, 28% are unemployed and 26% are based in a rural location. These stats paint a very bleak but honest picture of the state of digital and social exclusion and the correlation with digital health skills in the UK. It’s so important for us to reach these people.

There were so many success stories from Phase One and I’m hoping we can gather even more in Phase Two, because this is about the people, after all. From Ken Brown, who used the internet to research his wife Val’s eating habits after she was diagnosed with dementia and lost her appetite, to 2 Millionth Learner Award winner Bertram Henry who got his life back on track by learning about computers and the internet after suffering a breakdown.


Bertram Henry receiving his Learning for Health award at the 2 Million Learner Awards in February

One of the Widening Digital Participation programme’s aims is to relieve pressure on NHS services and save the NHS money by encouraging people to do more independently – book Doctor’s appointments, order repeat prescriptions, look up symptoms to learn more about their conditions – but the great thing about it is that it helps people to become more confident and improve their lives. In phase one of the project, so many outcomes demonstrated these benefits to individuals. Here are a few key stats:

  • 52% of project beneficiaries strongly agreed or agreed that they feel less isolated or lonely as a result of learning digital skills.
  • 72% agreed that learning digital skills had improved their general self-confidence.
  • 51% said they used the internet to explore ways to improve mental health and wellbeing (eg. strategies for managing stress).

In Phase Two, we will make a significant impact to the number of people who are excluded from using digital as part of their healthcare. Our aim is to use the materials and insights developed by the pathfinders to engage 280,000 people in digital health literacy – each pathfinder will work with a small group of 50 to carry out in-depth user-research, user-testing and co-design to make sure the activities they are piloting meet the specified outcomes.

Organisationally, Good Things Foundation is really looking forward to working closely with NHS Digital on the project. We pride ourselves on being an open, flexible and collaborative organisation in all of our work and we firmly believe that this second phase of the project will not only change the lives of the thousands of people supported through it, but will change the landscape of digital inclusion in healthcare for many years to come.

The Digital Garage – not just for mechanics

Self employment is on the rise in the UK. According to recent research released by the Resolution Foundation, there are nearly 5 million self-employed workers in the UK today, with this rise in numbers contributing to almost half of the country’s growth in employment. Looking at this research, it’s clear there are many problems facing people who work for themselves, everything from employment rights and protection to lack of pension pots. I’m not saying there is a digital solution to these problems, far from it. But when I was reading about this new research it did get me thinking about the importance of digital for the UK’s 5 million self-employed people and how our The Digital Garage project with Google is helping us to reach them.

It was a pleasure for me to meet Dawn Shotton earlier in February when we hosted the 2 Millionth Learner Awards where Dawn was the winner of the Learning for my Business category. After 25 years working for the NHS, Dawn was determined to establish her own business as a freelance dietician. But Dawn only had very basic digital skills and struggled to establish the online presence her new business would need.

Thanks to the training she received at Online Centre Destinations@Saltburn – using Learn My Way at first then moving on to use The Digital Garage business resources – Dawn’s website is now stylish and professional, she has active social media channels, she’s taken on staff and volunteers and she has clients from across the globe – and she hasn’t looked back since.

Last year, we partnered with Google to bring the Digital Garage programme to the Online Centres Network and the people in their communities. From July 2016 to July 2017, we have committed to helping 10,000 people to improve their digital skills and their digital business skills.

We’re delivering this through 100 community organisations within the Online Centres Network, focussing particularly on small businesses, sole traders and people setting up businesses, supporting them to make the most of The Digital Garage resources.

The stats bit

Here comes the stats bit (you knew it was coming). According to Lloyds Banking Group’s UK Business Digital Index 2016, 62% of small businesses have all five Basic Digital Skills. Good news? Not totally. It means that there are 1.44m (38%) small businesses who don’t have the digital skills they need to succeed.

The Index also shows that there is a strong link between digital skills and organisational success. Nearly three in five small businesses (58%) report increased sales as one of the key advantages to using digital. This rises to 68% for start-ups.

The more digital the small business is, the more the stats paint a picture – the most digital small businesses are more than twice as likely to report increased success than the least digital (64%), with three in five of the most digital seeing a profit increase of more than 20%.

There is definitely a clear correlation here.

Whether the people we are supporting are doing something as simple as creating a business Facebook page or something more intricate like designing their own website, The Digital Garage is an essential resource, and I’m so happy that we’re running this project with them.

You can see updates here as the project continues and read our case studies too.

Go digital and go global

Yesterday, I attended a roundtable event, hosted by The New Statesman in association with Lloyds Banking Group, called SME Insights: Go Digital, Go Global. The purpose of the discussion was to explore how British businesses – SMEs in particular – can capitalise on overseas trading opportunities, especially with the looming prospect of Brexit.

I was very keen to attend because I think through Good Things Foundation projects involving SMEs and digital skills, such as our Digital Garage project with Google and our rural project with Prince’s Countryside Fund, we have a lot of insight to offer.

There were two discussion points that I was keen to capitalise on:

  • How critical is digital literacy to UK’s overall global competitive edge?
  • How do we motivate businesses to change their digital capability?

When we talk about digital innovation for SMEs, we need to recognise that there is a broad continuum. (Of course) not all SMEs are the same. Almost half don’t have a website so are very immature digitally, and others are digital first companies or what Nick Williams at Lloyds calls “born digital” small businesses.

This SME digital skills continuum looks a bit like this:

DIGITALLY IMMATURE (don’t have skills, confidence or awareness)

  • According to the Lloyds Digital Index, 1.4 million SMEs (38%) lack one or more of the basic digital skills
  • 49% of small businesses don’t have a website (Lloyds Digital Index)
  • 78% of sole traders invest no money in digital skills (Lloyds Digital Index).
DIGITALLY AWARE (have a website, have some skills)

  • Over half of small businesses (55%) accept payments online (Lloyds Digital Index).
DIGITALLY MATURE (have a website, use social media, staff are confident using digital technology)

  • 50% of sole traders have all five basic digital skills (Lloyds)
  • The most digital SMEs are more than twice as likely to report an increase in turnover that the least digital (64%) (Lloyds)
  • There is a growing emergence of social media as a key platform for small businesses to reach potential customers.
    • It’s an easier cheaper way to keep in touch with their customers with 38% reporting using social media to communicate with customers in 2016. This is up by 11% on the previous year.
DIGITALLY INNOVATIVE (either “born digital” or who have evolved to develop digital products or services for their customers)

Digital maturity and digital innovation can be demonstrated in a number of ways:

  • 58% of small businesses say increased sales is one of the advantages to using digital.
  • There was a lot of love in the room for The Cambridge Satchel Company and their global growth story.
  • 65% state that they use technology to cut their costs and increase efficiency.
  • And there’s the digital sector companies selling games online globally, or disrupting through digital.

There are two key points here:

  • You are much more likely to be digitally innovative if you have a team that understands and uses digital technology.
  • Digital innovation doesn’t always have to be complex or new – it’s really about doing things better. We also talked about charities, so one example of this digital innovation is where really simple tools connect people better. Take Streetlink, a very simple online referral service that enables people to report rough sleepers so that Streetlink can then alert local referral services and provide you with an update on progress.

Motivating Businesses to change their digital capability

The risks of not innovating are much greater. I told the roundtable that many customers expect to engage digitally and by not engaging them and not embedding digital within all aspects of service delivery, it’s much harder to reach them.

Innovation and frontline delivery have become two sides of the same coin; the challenge for small businesses is to continually consider how they can improve service delivery and embed digital technology in their strategies, and the challenge for us and other organisations like Lloyds Banking Group, is to make sure we’re finding ways to help them do that.

Going Global

Lloyds has got a great portal to take the pain out of exploring overseas market – their international trade portal.

Good Things ourselves is an SME and we’re now in the foothills of going global. We know first hand some of those barriers, but also we know that without digital we wouldn’t be doing it – making contacts via Twitter and email, and developing contacts via Skype, is clearly a very low risk and low investment way of starting out. There are still 4bn people who have never used the internet, many of whom are also extremely socially excluded, so there’s a big world out there. I’m hoping we’ll be able to support a small proportion of them to thrive in the digital world we all enjoy.

A #UKDigitalStrategy for Everyone

As someone who has been campaigning for digital inclusion for more than 15 years, a Government Digital Strategy which starts with an ambition to “close the divide – to ensure that everyone is able to access and use the digital services that could help them manage their lives, progress at work, improve their health and wellbeing, and connect to friends and family” bodes well.

I have long argued that we need to be bolder and more ambitious if we are to become a truly digital nation and digital economy, outstripping the likes of Singapore, Finland, Sweden and Norway – and critically, if we are to create a fairer and more inclusive society by giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of digital technology.

So, does the detail of the Strategy match up to the ambition?


Karen Bradley MP at the launch this morning


At the launch of the Digital Strategy this morning, I was heartened to hear Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Culture Media & Sport, commit to digital skills and digital inclusion as one of the seven central tenets of the Strategy.

The plan for digital skills and inclusion focuses on three themes:

  • Digital capability for all
  • Digital skills for the digital economy
  • Working together

In summary:

  1. Digital Capability for All

Government will:

  • Undertake a feasibility study on viability of using outcome commissioning frameworks such as Social Impact Bonds or payment by results, to tackle digital exclusion
  • Develop the role of libraries as ‘go to’ providers of digital access in partnership with Good Things Foundation and other national partners
  • Use the Council for Digital Inclusion to increase collaboration
  • Invest £1.1m through NHS on projects to support digital inclusion.
  1. Digital Skills for digital economy.

Government will:

  • Continue to invest in CPD for teachers
  • Support Raspberry Pi and the National Citizen Service to pilot inclusion of digital skills and careers in NCS programmes
  • Embed digital skills in technical education for young people
  • Implement a new entitlement to free digital skills training, as part of the publicly-funded adult education offer, ensuring a commitment to lifelong learning of digital skills
  • Fund Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, to develop an online learning platform to help develop coding skills
  • Develop a common digital skills language to help industry articulate the digital skills they are seeking in a widely understood way
  • Develop the Tech Talent Charter to ensure a more diverse tech workforce
  • Develop a Cyber Security Skills Strategy.
  1. Working together: a more collaborative, coordinated and targeted approach to digital skills

Government will:

  • Create a Digital Skills Partnership to examine options for improving the coherence of digital skills provision eg. by setting ambitions for increasing the types of training on offer and agreeing how it can be targeted where it is needed most.

Across other areas of the Strategy, I’m pleased to see that the government is committed to encouraging innovation in digital for social good, and investing in better digital skills for businesses.

Recognition of the cross-sector partnerships, which are so essential to the digital inclusion sector, is welcomed, including the significant new pledges by businesses such as Lloyds Banking Group – which has pledged to train 2,500,000 individuals, SMES and charities in digital skills – and Google – which will launch a Summer of Skills programme in coastal towns alongside its existing digital skills programme – with whom we’re already working to support digitally excluded people.

This is a comprehensive basket of measures which goes further than any other Digital Strategy in recent years in tackling digital exclusion and lack of digital skills. I welcome the bold ambition, and it feels like we’re at the tipping point of committing to a 100% digitally included nation.

As a member of the Council of Digital Inclusion, there are a few points which I’ll be picking up over the coming weeks:

  • Firstly, don’t forget the important role of the third sector in becoming a digital nation. Libraries are vital places for digital support, and commitments from the private sector are essential, but there are thousands of community and VCS organisations providing support for digital skills – often with no public funding – without whom this country cannot achieve its digital ambitions.
  • Ensure there is flexibility in the application of the universal entitlement to free digital skills for adults to include both those who want a qualification, and those who want to gain basic digital skills but don’t necessarily need a qualification, and also to make sure we get some innovation into the sector.
  • Embed digital skills in the work of Jobcentres, so that jobseekers have a much clearer route to gaining digital skills and applying for Universal Credit. This could be a key focus for the new Digital Skills Partnership, which will play a crucial role in helping people to access digitally-focused jobs at a local level. I spoke about this at the DWP Select Committee late last year.
  • On looking at new financing models for tackling digital exclusion, I’ve talked to a number of experts about Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) for digital inclusion, who have advised that SIBs may well achieve the same outcomes as alternative finance models, but for more money. I look forward discussing this issue with Government colleagues.

Social mobility is an underlying theme throughout the Strategy and it is clear that the driver is a digital economy which is both ‘stronger and fairer.’ Amen to that.

I’m confident that the Digital Strategy marks the beginning of a new, more energised, and cohesive framework to close the digital divide, putting digital skills on an equal footing to English and Maths as an essential skill.

I look forward to Good Things Foundation playing our part to make this happen.

Helping change happen in small steps and the DWP Select Committee

It’s always great when you start to see your hard work pay off. I am particularly proud right now that following what feels like many years of lobbying, my team and I have helped influence the Department for Work and Pensions in their decision to consider the potential for developing basic skills identification tools as part of their offer for claimants. It’s a small step, but it’s great to see any improvements happening.

Let me explain how this came about.


Giving evidence at the committee. Image courtesy of

Following a meeting with Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, back in November 2015, I was invited to give evidence to the Committee on their inquiry into the future of Jobcentre Plus. In July 2016, I was on a great panel with Kathy Corcoran OBE, Chief Executive of the Cardinal Hulme Centre and Tom Hadley, Director of Policy at Recruitment and Employment Confederation. You can see a transcript of the session here or you can watch it on Parliament TV here. Here’s the important bit:

“Helen Milner: I do think there has to be something done about the initial conversation at the Jobcentre, or ongoing conversations at the Jobcentre. On the scale of the problem, we have centres in our network that are still saying that people are being sanctioned for not being able to use the internet weekly and are coming to them. These are centres that only support a couple of thousand people a year. So it is still a problem. Obviously those individuals will have complex needs but they perceive that the reason for sanctions is that they are not able to use the internet. Therefore I think it is really important that the questions advisers are asking people right now are better questions, not, “Have you got the internet at home?”, not, “Do you know how to use the internet?” but, “Are you confident to use the internet, to use Universal Jobmatch, by yourself? Do you think you will be able to do this several times a week by yourself?” The people who are really falling foul that we are seeing are those who would say no, no and no to those questions but might say yes to, “Do you have the internet on your phone?” for example.”

I, and others on the panel, were then asked: “Could you write six questions, fairly short, that might guide the Committee to say that this would be an improved means of identifying people’s capability and where the risks might lie?” I submitted these to the Committee and they included a recommendation in their final report published in November 2016 which stated:

“Jobcentre Plus should include a digital skills assessment in the Claimant Commitment interview which goes beyond simply asking if a claimant has access to the internet or a computer.

This should draw on the good practice examples of digital skills assessments that are used by specialist support centres. Having poor IT skills should, for example, be grounds for claimants to be offered longer meetings with their work coaches.”

I was really pleased to see this recommendation as it is something which I passionately believe would make a real difference to the lives of job seekers up and down the country. Last year, the Online Centres network supported 89,000 jobseekers to improve their basic digital skills. Not only that, they helped them to gain confidence and self-esteem and supported them to change their behaviour and prepare for a return to the job market.

A couple of weeks ago, the Government response to the Committee’s report was published and I was over the moon when I saw a section on the digital skills assessment, taken almost directly from the DWP Select Committee’s report: Digital skills assessment Jobcentre Plus should include a digital skills assessment in the Claimant Commitment interview which goes beyond simply asking if a claimant has access to the internet or computer. This should draw on the good practice examples of digital skills assessments that are used by specialist support centres. Having poor IT skills should for example be grounds for claimants to be offered longer meetings with their work coaches.”

It’s great to finally see that the needs of those who are digitally excluded are being taken seriously and that the government is considering ways in which they can support them right at the beginning of their job search journey.

For me, this really demonstrates the impact that we can have if we pull together and influence about the issues which we feel most passionate about. Ensuring that jobseekers get fair and intelligent assessment and support during what is already a difficult time in their life is of paramount importance. Gaining basic digital skills so they interact with online Government job seeking services is also essential so everyone can thrive in our digital society.

“If we wish modern democracy to flourish, it is imperative we respond”


Today the Government published the long awaited digital strategy, as a Government Transformation Strategy.

There’s some good stuff in here about breaking down silos and making sure Government services are integrated, and a brave introduction from Ben Gummer admitting that Government isn’t responsive:

“To govern is to serve. Our purpose is to maintain the security, safety and prosperity of the nation and to deliver what we have promised the people who elect us.

“Yet it is too often the case that citizens feel that they live at the convenience of the state: that the government acts not as servant but as master. The result is a perception that the country works for the people who govern, not those whom the government is tasked to serve. Whether it is a lack of belief in the capacity of government to deliver the pledges it makes at election time, or the frustrations thrown in the way of people every day – from filling in a form to trying to talk to someone on the phone – government seems less and less capable of doing what people want.

“The result of that disenchantment is plain to see. Here in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the democratic world, people are expressing their wish for a more responsive state at the ballot box. It is a call that demands a reply; indeed, if we wish modern democracy to flourish, it is imperative we respond.

“This is no easy task. Government is more complex and wide-reaching than ever before. There is no company on earth – even the largest of multinationals – which comes close to having to co-ordinate the array of essential services and functions for millions of people that a modern government provides. Equally our duty is to serve everyone regardless of ability, age, gender, opinion or the places in which they choose to live. For these reasons and because bureaucracies are by their natures monopoly providers, government has been slow to use the transformative potential of digital technology to change the way it does business.”

While the Strategy presents a vision of a more joined-up Government taking forward transformation, it is disappointing that there appears to be a lack of joined-up leadership when it comes to tackling digital skills and digital inclusion. The Government Digital Service currently has responsibility for Assisted Digital, whilst the Department for Culture, Media and Skills has a relatively new responsibility for digital inclusion. Maybe these two silos could work closer together. The bold vision that has been set out for change ‘at pace and scale‘ risks being derailed unless there is action to address the needs of the 12.6 million without digital skills at a similar pace and scale. We know that the DCMS-led Digital Economy Bill is set to put an entitlement in place for free basic digital skills training for the people who need them. That’s great, but it’s not mentioned in this Strategy nor is there a plan for implementing it.

The rollout of Universal Credit is a good example of where this joined-up policy and leadership around digital inclusion and skills has become urgent. Last year, our Online Centres Network supported 65,000 jobseekers to gain digital skills. This support is provided because citizens need it. Some of the digital skills projects we run are funded by Government, but not by DWP. The Transformation Strategy states that the rollout of Universal Credit depends on “much stronger local partnerships to support vulnerable claimants, who are probably using other public services at the same time“. This is true, but there must not be an expectation that community organisations can support benefit claimants without a joined up plan to making sure this happens.

The small section on digital inclusion in the Government Transformation Strategy reads:

“Developments in the private sector may highlight opportunities for government, but some of these do not translate directly into public service provision. For example, private sector companies can choose to target certain customers and exclude others. Public service providers, on the whole, cannot.

“Many sectors have been disrupted by new companies making the best use of digital technology, but it is not a given that similar benefits will be realised by government automatically. It is not possible to disintermediate critical services like benefits and courts, where people depend on public services and have no choice about whether to use them. Services must work for the whole of society – not just the 77% of people who have basic digital skills, but for the 12.6 million adults who don’t. This is particularly important as financial exclusion and digital exclusion often go hand in hand. People who are the least online are often heavier users of public services, highlighting the need to design services to include them. Nearly one in four people in the UK will be over 65 by 2040.

“A significant proportion of the adult population may never attain the digital skills to use online services without support, because of disabilities or lack of basic literacy skills.”

I’m on record previously, arguing against that last point. At Good Things we’re helping people who are over 90 years of age learn to use the internet independently and many people who have disabilities use the internet confidently. There’s no numbers here of course, so it all really depends what ‘a signification proportion‘ means to Government – if that means 2% or 3% of the adult population then we’re not arguing. If that means 10% then we are.

In Ben Gummer’s introduction he says:

“The imperative is to change, therefore – and to do so at pace and at scale. This is the meaning of transformation. It is in essence a change of working, of culture and of disposition – changes that are made possible by digital technology. That technology is not change itself; it enables the change that is so transformative.”

Changing lives at scale and using technology to enable transformative change on people’s lives is what we’re driven by at Good Things Foundation as many of our 2 million people we’ve supported in the past six years told us last week:  “It’s not about computers, it’s about people … 2 million people”.

We hope that there will be a plan of action for how the Government will support the 12.6 million people without digital skills, rather than an acceptance that those who aren’t online now will never be. Its Transformation Strategy – and modern democracy – depends on it.

Join the conversation on twitter with #GTS17


“It’s not about computers, it’s about people… 2 million people”

In my job as Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation, I spend a lot of time doing the normal CEO stuff. But the best bit of my job is meeting people who have improved their lives through digital. I was delighted when we hit 2 million people reached through our work with the Online Centres Network. To celebrate, yesterday, we hosted the 2 Millionth Learner Awards at the BT Tower in London and myself and everyone else in attendance was reminded exactly why we do what we do.

To put it simply it was a very special day and one that we’ll all remember for a very long time.


The magnificent fourteen

Every one of the winners and runners-up deserved this recognition. From, Jenny Bayliss, who used her new digital skills to build her confidence and find work, to Marita Sherwood who not only used the internet to research and push for a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, she also uses it to research her son’s ADHD and found it an invaluable source of information when her eldest daughter Chance – who was also at the ceremony – was diagnosed with cancer.

Watch Learning for My Business winner Dawn’s video.

Bob Dunkerley, one of the most upbeat people I’ve ever met, used the internet to research strokes after he suffered one himself at one of his computer classes. And Paul Blackburn, who has difficulties with his speech and mobility following a car accident some years ago, has built up his skills and confidence to become one of the most popular IT tutors at his centre.

Watch Inspirational Learner finalist Tasleem Akhtar.

I will never forget the inspirational Olwyn Popplewell, who completely turned his life around, going from sleeping rough in the park to a job with Amazon and a flat of his very own. His speech at the end of the ceremony will stick with me for a long time.

“I can’t believe that I’m here receiving this award,” he said. “I mean, a year and a half ago, I was sleeping rough. I had no where. My family had started to give up on me. But then they gave me a bit of tough love and told me that I had to sort myself out. I went to Evolve and got the support I needed and that was exactly what I did. I turned the negative into positives. Things were hard. Really hard at times. Sometimes, dark places.

“With the support of Crisis, Evolve Housing, the Council, and Good Things Foundation, I’ve got to where I am now. I’ve got a bank account and actually know what a computer is.

“I accept this on behalf of everybody. All homeless people. All people trying to make themselves better.”

Watch Inspirational Learner winner Olwyn Popplewell.

It was wonderful. One big part of that speech that stood out for me was the part where he thanked Evolve Housing. The centres in our network are the ones who reach these people. Who work with them every day and convince them to keep learning when they feel like giving up. I think that’s amazing. We keep saying that we’ve reached 2 million learners, and that is a really big ‘we’. It’s the Good Things Foundation team and the 5,000+ hyperlocal partners in the network who work so hard and make those good things happen. Thank you so much for being awesome.

What was so special for me about yesterday was not just the depth of achievement we saw, but the breadth. I think we often forget how much we do with so many great national partners – such as DfE, Lloyds, Talk Talk, BT, MIND, DCMS, and Google – and locally within the Online Centres Network and it was amazing to bring it all together on the stage.

We saw learners from English My Way, NHS Widening Digital Participation, Future Digital Inclusion, Reboot UK, beneficiaries of our Digital Champion training and our work with small businesses. We saw that the hard work is working. It’s helping people and it’s doing good through digital.

It was a privilege to meet so many of our finalists in person after hearing their stories during the judging process.

If you want to read more about them, please do head across to the dedicated page on our website. I promise you won’t be disappointed. You’ll be inspired. You might even shed a tear. You’ll definitely crack a smile.

These people are 14 in 2 million and I hope they now know just how special they are.