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. 

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