Announcing a digital health information network

It’s always lovely to be able to share good news, so after a lot of planning (and a bit of waiting too), we can now announce that we’re working with NHS England on a really exciting new programme – Widening Digital Participation and a digital health information network. (Those of you who commented on the photo of a blue celebration cake I posted on Twitter you now know what it was for.)

The premise of the programme is very simple. The overlap in demographics between people who are digitally excluded and those who suffer from health inequalities is huge. For example, half of all people who are offline have a disability, and among the over 65s (who account for half of NHS spending) 36% have never been online before. I’m pretty sure there is something we can do to both empower people to take charge of their own health, and to realise some cost savings.

Over the course of the programme we’ll be engaging with 100,000 people, and doing this working with the breadth and scale of our hyperlocal partners in the UK online centres network. These fantastic centres have such good reach into their local communities and they can support people (like Norah, who I won’t go on about again, but whose story you should definitely read) to improve their digital skills and go on to improve their health.  We’ll be developing new online content to ensure we can reach even further, and doing this with existing as well as new partners, I’m delighted that includes working even more closely with the Society for Chief Librarians.

Working with NHS England we can show that we care about breadth (helping lots of people) and that we also care about depth (targeting those most at need). We’ll be working with 16 flagship partners who will work with us to test some deep-dive intervention, supporting some of the very hardest to reach groups (including homeless people, migrant workers, and sex workers). Working with people who face the biggest barriers to digital inclusion and good health I hope we can have a real impact and learn what we (and others) can do more of, or do better, in the future.

Flagships include:

  • Bromley-by-Bow Living Health Centre & UK online centre

  • Southampton Libraries working with Macmillan Cancer Support

  • and, St Mungo’s Wellbeing Centres working with homeless people in Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea, Hackney and Camden.

As Tim Kelsey says in his blog: “Not everybody has easy access to the internet so we are launching a programme that will support 100,000 of the most disadvantaged in our society to learn how to access health information online, in partnership with the Tinder Foundation. This is one of the most significant initiatives to target inequality ever launched in the NHS.”

Online Basics qualification – creating a baseline for growth

According to research undertaken by the College Lecturers Union back in February this year, one in nine adults have no formal qualifications. If that isn’t shocking enough, in some of the most deprived parts of the UK this number is as high as one in three.  

Meanwhile, OxIS figures from 2011 also show that just 31% of people with no educational qualifications use the internet – compared with 91% of people with a university degree.  With 25% of all jobs advertised solely online, and 72% employers saying they wouldn’t even talk to someone without basic IT skills, it’s clear that those without IT skills OR qualifications are doubly disadvantaged in the jobs market.  

Here at Tinder Foundation, our own stats from the UK online centres network back up that story. Some 33% of our referrals now come from Jobcentre Plus. These people often need our help across the board – learning how to search for jobs online, apply for jobs online, build electronic CVs, and simultaneously gain the IT skills to feature on them.  

We felt very strongly there was a need and a demand for a solution – a baseline IT qualification to boost skills, confidence, and CVs at entry level.  

The result – in partnership with City & Guilds, is the Online Basics Award (ITQ). It’s an entry level three qualification which gives learners one credit on the QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework). Based on our popular Online Basics course, it’s a one hour assessment covering three work-critical skills – communicating with email, searching the internet and using the internet safely.

It’s often the first qualification many of our learners have ever completed. Centres report that it gives people a sense of achievement and the confidence to tackle more formal learning and qualifications. It’s the first, easy-to-reach step on a ladder that can lead them anywhere. It also looks great on CVs – helping to plug the gaps long term unemployment can leave, and assuring employers of essential computer capability.  

Of course the assessment is done online. The quick, instant result for learners is easy for UK online centres and assessment centres to manage and moderate, and it has drastically cut down on the administration they have to do on other qualifications.  What’s more, some of our hyperlocal partners have even gone on to secure local grants to help unemployed people in their communities to do the course and accredit the award.  

So far, we have 100 centres delivering the qualification. In the last four months they’ve helped more than 600 people achieve their Online Basics award. That’s a pretty good result.  But as always, I want MORE!  We’re looking to expand the assessment network so even more centres and learners can take advantage of the qualification.

If you want to consider offering this qualification then it’s open to any organisation. The first step is to become a UK online centres partner, and you can find out more about that here – we’d love to have you on board.   

In the meantime, I’d very much like to hear what you think about the qualification – do comment here or email me at

What’s in a name?

That’s an easy one – and the answer is quite a bit actually.

And yes, I can also confirm that a rose by any other name can smell as sweet – if not sweeter. Just ask any marketeer or branding agency.  Names matter.

Names – whether personal or business – mean something to people.  They can resonate with who we are and what we stand for and can create images and feelings in the people that know us. That’s pretty powerful stuff, and in a nutshell it’s why Online Centres Foundation became Tinder Foundation last month.

The fact is that OCF itself meant nothing. It’s as inanimate as UPVC, and possibly as devoid of character. Online Centres Foundation wasn’t much better. While the wonderful UK ‘online centres’ we work with are still our major USP and inspiration, online centres is not who we are or the sum of what we do. It’s not really who THEY are. When it comes down to it, we’re about people, and what we do together is to kindle change, hope and skills.

We want to do even more of that in the future, and we wanted that ambition – that essence – to be at our core.  In short, we needed a brand new name for a bright new future. Cue the very hardworking team in Sheffield…

I think everyone thinks a rebrand has to cost the earth – we proved it doesn’t. Most of the work was done in-house, in discussion with the Tinder team, UK online centres and some of our fabulous partners. We started to think about who we are, what we do, and most of all who we wanted to be. The word ‘Tinder’ came from the concept of sparking new ideas and innovation, igniting change at a local level and helping it to grow and scale up nationally. The word captured our imaginations, and as a staff owned mutual we voted in favour of the new name at our first AGM earlier this year.

To polish Tinder up a bit, we then went out to get a bit of help from a great communications agency called Neo.  They’re a company with a difference as they only work with people who are doing something good in the world. You can find out more about them here – They came up with the fingerprint idea – and before you ask, no, it’s not mine! What we liked about it was that it stood for people, individuals, and individuality – representing the millions of people we’ve already helped and the different paths and routes they’ve taken as a result.

In answer to the original question, I think we’re already ‘sweeter’ under our new name, and that it’s already helped shape our thinking about the future.  In fact you can see our plans to make Tinder our practise as well as our name in our new three year strategy here.

So far Tinder has a positive reception from our partners and peers, but I’d love to hear what you think about it – do comment here or email me at

In the meantime, you can find out more about the name change in my presentation here, and more about Tinder Foundation on our website –