It’s that time again – time to reflect on the year we’ve had at Good Things Foundation. Now, I would normally share my top five moments at the end of the year, but since it’s been such an amazing year (and yet another year of growth), I think it’s only fair to bump up the highlight reel. So here are my top ten moments of 2019:
- Dear Prime Minister, please can we have a 100% digitally included UK?
In the run-up to the general election, we sent out a clear message – digital inequality is holding us back as a nation. Now that the election is over, we’re looking forward to working together with the Government to make sure digital inclusion is a priority. We’ve worked with the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, and Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport before – and we know they recognise that tackling digital exclusion should be high on the agenda. Together, we will develop big plans for #BridgingTheDigitalDivide, ensuring that the Online Centres Network is at the heart of those plans.
- Get Online Week 2019
With nearly 4,000 events held across the UK and more than 1,000 events across Australia, our 13th annual international campaign had to make the top ten highlights. I was lucky enough to visit a different UK centre every day – there were beginners’ classes, informal tasters, lots of Get Online Week cupcakes, and even a ‘digital disco’! A huge, huge thank you to everyone who took part and made this the most successful campaign. Keep your eyes peeled for the UK’s Get Online Week report, which will be released soon …. and of course we’ll be publishing the dates for Get Online Week 2020 really soon.
- ONS Online Census rehearsal
I’m a big fan of numbers, and with the Census coming up in 2021, I’m excited. But even more exciting is that we’re working with the Office of National Statistics to deliver it. It’s going to be ‘digital first’, which makes sense in this day and age – but it does mean that digitally excluded people are going to need some support. So we’re delighted to be working with the ONS and specific centres in the Online Centres Network to ensure everyone can participate. We recently took part in a Census ‘rehearsal’ – it was a success, of course. Roll on 2021! Lots of work getting ready for that.
- Make It Click campaign
We’ve been doing lots of work with corporate partners this year, and our Make It Click campaign with Google.org is reaching the 7 million people who are online but only use the internet in a limited way. Helping them build their digital know-how… until it clicks! We’ve launched the Make It Click campaign in Sunderland and Portsmouth alongside Good Things Foundation’s delivery of Google Digital Garages, in those cities and in Belfast. On top of that, we’ve developed the Digital Skills Directory as part of Learn My Way where anyone can learn how to improve their digital skills for free.
- Power Up
It’s been another year of combining thought leadership with action, and with the support of J P Morgan, we published our Powering Up report in June. It calls on the Government to embed digital skills in major initiatives for jobs and skills, financial health, and small business support so that digital is integral, not just a ‘bolt-on’. But the report isn’t just a list of nice ideas – it has informed a pioneering £1.5 million initiative, putting the recommendations into practice. We’ve now awarded the Power Up funding to fourteen projects in England and Scotland – you can read about them here.
- Working as a global charity
That we’re now a global charity has to be in the top ten. It’s a bit of a pinch me moment each time I think about how we’ve achieved this in just a few years. With more than 15,000 km separating our offices in Sheffield and Sydney, I’m proud of the way the teams have worked together so well again this year. We’ve had staff visiting the offices on both sides of the world (I’m writing this from Sydney!), allowing us to share expertise and inspire each other. Plus, with a little help from digital, we recently had our first International Board Joint Committee meeting with Board members joining from nine different locations in the UK and Australia using Google Hangouts. Although we were all joining from very different time zones it was an incredibly productive meeting – looking at our next five year strategy.
- Getting bigger and better in Australia
Talking of the Good Things Foundation work in Australia, a couple of months ago, our Be Connected Network in Australia turned two. In that time, we’ve engaged 250,000 people in digital skills programmes and seen how many of them have gone on to be happier, healthier and better off by being online. In October we published this infographic. We were thrilled to have 2,700 local community partners – now, just before Christmas we’re just six orgs short to getting to 3,000 Network Partners. To have achieved all of this in just over two years is quite remarkable, and it would never have been possible without our talented and committed staff in Australia or our brilliant network partners.
After a successful year of cross-sector collaboration, we’re ambitious for more organisations to follow suit. Enter future.now – a brand new coalition of companies, public sector organisations and charities, the brainchild of the former Lord Mayor of the City of London, Peter Estlin. Good Things Foundation is one of the founding board members of this industry-led attempt to boost the UK’s digital skills, and you can join the coalition here! Plus, our Chair, Liz Williams MBE (who received her well-deserved honours from the Queen for services to digital inclusion and social mobility last month) has just been appointed as CEO. Congratulations, Liz, on your many achievements this year. Let’s grow this coalition together.
- Digital Nation 2019
Reviewing the state of the nation is really important for us to evaluate digital exclusion across the UK and Australia, so here are the Digital Nation 2019 infographics. They might look pretty, but they show that despite a year of going from strength to strength, there is still much more to be done.
As ever, our UK annual conference was inspirational. One of my favourite moments was when we asked delegates what question they would like to ask the next Prime Minister. Here’s a selection:
- Where would you be today without digital skills?
- What are you going to do to bridge the digital poverty gap?
- Will there be more local funding available for digital inclusion officers to help people access the services they need?
Prime Minister, I’m sure the Online Centres Network and their communities would love to hear your answers to these questions. We’d be more than happy to receive them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you missed the conference, you can watch the highlights here:
A couple more things I’d like to mention:
It’s been great working with our friends at BT who have just launched the Skills for Tomorrow programme designed to give 10 million people the skills they need to flourish in the digital future – there will be lots more on that in 2020. Another positive step towards a digitally included nation came in the form of the Online Harms White Paper (read my blog about it here), pledging a national commitment to digital media literacy. I’m looking forward to working with the new Government to make this a reality.
All in all, another fantastic year to send us into the next decade. We’ve got a lot done this past 10 years, supporting more than 3,000,000 people to gain digital skills since 2010 – a truly staggering achievement.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this year such a success.
I can’t wait for 2020 and all the exciting opportunities the new decade will bring!