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.
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.