The will to win

I really was delighted last month when we received three nominations in the Digital Leaders 100 Awards 2016. This annual ceremony has taken place every year since 2013 and celebrates innovative people, organisations and tech which contribute towards the digital transformation of the UK.

Helen at the awards

Me at the Digital Leaders Awards last year when we were lucky enough to win for our Widening Digital Participation programme with NHS England.


These are our nominations:

English My Way

English My Way is a project we’ve run in partnership with The British Council and BBC Learning English for the past three years, supporting English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) from inside and outside of the UK online centres network to develop their English language skills, their confidence and to better integrate with their local communities.

From what I’ve seen throughout the project it has been a success and so beneficial to the project participants. Now as the project draws to a close it has been rewarded with a place on the Digital Leaders 2016 list, the ideal way to celebrate and reflect on its success.

Future Digital Inclusion

Future Digital Inclusion is our flagship digital inclusion project, funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. We know that people without digital skills are at a significant disadvantage in today’s society. They are less able to access information, learning opportunities and all the other significant advantages the online world has to offer.

Future Digital Inclusion aims to close the digital skills gap by reaching out to the 12.6 million people in the UK who don’t have basic digital skills. To-date through the UK online centres network we have supported over 445,000 people to improve their basic digital skills through the programme.

Tinder Foundation

Lastly Tinder Foundation has been nominated for Charity Digital Leader of the Year. The whole organisation was delighted by the news, and it is such a nice surprise. This award isn’t just for the Tinder Foundation team though, it’s for everyone who lives under the Tinder Foundation umbrella – the UK online centres network, the learners and our Board. Congratulations to everyone – you thoroughly deserve this.

Now that we’ve made the shortlist and I’ve told you a bit about our nominations, it’s time for me to add in my plug. We’ve made the 2016 Digital Leaders 100 list, now it has to be put into a final order through the judges and public vote, and I’d love for you to give us your support.

Simply visit the Digital Leaders website and find us in the ‘Charity Digital Leader of the Year’, ‘Cross-sector Digital Collaboration of the Year’ and ‘Digital Inclusion and Skills Initiative of the Year’ categories.

Thank you.


Wow. From the first moment I stepped into Manchester Central Library I was impressed. I visited another English city’s central library recently and they said, with a wistful look in their eyes: “If only we could become like Manchester Central Library”. Now I know why.

The beauty of libraries – like all UK online centres – is their diversity; the frustration is … their diversity. However, that long list of things that some libraries want to be or that some libraries want do, Manchester Central Library ticks them all.

  • An impressive space, well used. ü

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  • A blend of old, heritage spaces and modern services enabled and enhanced by technology. ü

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  • A virtual archive wall, designed for co-use by young and old people together. ü

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  • A bustling cafe embedded amongst the digital archives. (Including all maps now digitised.) ü

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  • A business library and support service for businesses. ü

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  • A music library where you’re encouraged to be noisy. ü

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  • 3D printing facilities. ü

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  • Lots and lots of people using it. ü(5 million people a day)

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  • A media lab with a weekly session for teenagers to learn coding. ü
  • Drop in support for basic digital skills. ü
  • Human beings smiling and helping. ü

Our Digital Libraries Hub (#digilibraries) is becoming the virtual place to go to talk about digital inclusion and libraries. And later next month I’ll be talking about the role of community assets – such as public libraries and the community centres in the UK online centres network – in deploying digital to tackle social challenges.

In the meanwhile, if you find yourself in Manchester, do pop into the Central Library, as I think you’ll say “wow!”

How digital can help lonely youths

I’m always talking about digital skills and how important it is for people to have them, but at Tinder Foundation our focus is not always on digital skills alone. Our goal is to have a world where everyone benefits from digital, especially those who are socially excluded, and recently we sat on the steering group of a loneliness project being run by ACEVO (the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) to see how we could help tackle loneliness amongst young people and contribute to their report, ‘Coming in from the Cold’, which was recently launched.

The numbers

The report contains some interesting findings. Until now there has been little in-depth research into youth loneliness, but this report is attempting to kick-start that research by using London as a test case to examine the causes and propose solutions. Focussing on people aged 16-32 the report estimates that the health, crime and unemployment costs – in part associated with loneliness – in London adds up to £34.5 billion. Young people who suffer from loneliness can often also have poor physical and mental health, a suppression of future job/earning opportunities or a drift into gangland culture.

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Image courtesy of ACEVO ‘Coming in from the Cold’

In a 2014 national survey by GetConnected, 34% of all people say that they often feel lonely but in 18-24-year-olds this number increases to 48%.

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The survey showed that 64% of 18-24-year-olds in London contacted GetConnected about loneliness. Image courtesy of ACEVO ‘Coming in from the Cold’

Although not specifically recommended in the report, digital can play a part in tackling youth loneliness and in turn, tackling the associated problems. Through technology young people have access to a world of possibilities: they can connect with other people through email or on social networks like Facebook and Instagram to combat loneliness – online dating could be useful here too; they can use the internet to explore any health issues they may have; or they can surf the web for job adverts and apply online. I really do believe that digital technology can be a powerful tool here in reaching that 48%, we just need to make young people aware of how they can utilise it.

A great example

We put together a case study for the report (you can find this on page 50) about the great work being done by our local partner and UK online centre, HEBA Women’s Project. Located on Brick Lane in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the project was originally set up to help BAME women in the area to learn English and develop their sewing skills. But through this approach HEBA then take the opportunity to introduce technology to their learners as soon as possible, helping them to gain confidence in using computers and the internet. Many of them quickly learn that the internet can extend their horizons and begin to go online to look for jobs and explore their interests – as well as making friends at the centre.

Last year they supported over 100 young women who were able to use their newfound skills to form connections with their local communities and beyond, in turn reducing their feelings of loneliness.

Read the report

There are so many social issues out there that a lot of people aren’t aware of, that technology could pose a solution for. It’s sad to read that 83% of 18-34-year-olds are ‘often, always or sometimes’ lonely and I feel like we can do a lot more to help. Thank you to ACEVO for allowing us to participate in this research, which has given us valuable insight into how we can help with this often overlooked social issue. Hopefully this London test case will be the start of something big. You can read the report here.