My Year in Review: top ten moments of 2019

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:

  1. 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.


  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Make It Click campaign

We’ve been doing lots of work with corporate partners this year, and our Make It Click campaign with 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 – 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.

  1. 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.

Digital Nation 2019.png

Aus Digital nation 2019.png

  1. DigiEvol19

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

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!


Healthier. Happier. Better Off.

Digi Evol Twitter 2019

Last Thursday, we were back at the BT Centre for our 8th annual conference – Digital Evolution: Healthier. Happier. Better Off. I know that success can’t always be measured through social media, but if it was, we can’t have done too badly – #DigiEvol19 was the 15th highest trending hashtag in the UK with more than 2,100,000 impressions on Twitter. I’m still smiling from such a positive, inclusive, and inspiring day.

It is by bringing together partners from a range of sectors – not least the community organisations that make up the Online Centres Network – that the Good Things Foundation annual conference has become a landmark event in the digital inclusion calendar. As well as providing a forum to debate some of the most important issues of the day and share ideas on how to support some of the hardest to reach groups, there are always inspirational speakers to give us food for thought – and this year did not disappoint. 

There were four Online Centres – Being Woman, Smartlyte, Leeds Libraries and Destinations At Saltburn – who spoke this year. And spoke very much from their hearts about the work they do and the people whose lives they have changed for the better. We’re so lucky to have people such as these in the network and I know the audience were hanging on their every word.

We heard from a range of interesting and inspiring speakers – including Hannah Cornick from BT who spoke about their partnership with Good Things Foundation for the Skills For Tomorrow programme, and Liza Belozerova from, who told us the story of 93-year-old Poul, a retired doctor from Denmark, who was able to participate in digital training from a bus tour through his hometown. When 20% of Europeans have never accessed the internet, these are the stories we come to the conference to hear – reminding us that whilst Good Things Foundation may focus on the UK and Australia, this is a global challenge.

There may be differences in how digital inequality manifests itself across the world, but it’s probably fair to say that many of the advantages of becoming digitally able are universal. At the panel event “Digital inclusion: can it make people healthier?”, the verdict was unanimous – yes, it can, and yes, it does.

And, this year we were fortunate enough to be supported by two former Lord Mayors. The first was Magid Magid, formerly the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, and now Green MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber. Channeling the power of modern technology, Magid sent over a video from Strasbourg to talk about the way digital can give everyone a voice in our democracy.

Peter Estlin was with us in person. He recently finished his term as the Lord Mayor of the City of London and has launched during his time in office – a coalition of Government, industry and the voluntary sector (with Good Things Foundation as a founding partner). You can read my blog about the launch here

Although the conference recognises a number of challenges faced in communities, it’s also a time to celebrate the success of Good Things Foundation and our fantastic Online Centres Network – improving more than 3,000,000 lives through digital since 2010.

This of course wouldn’t be possible without the Online Centres Network, who work tirelessly in communities to support people to improve their lives through digital. We asked centres what it meant to them to be part of the network, and you can see their answers below. 

It was no surprise that “support” cropped up as central to the experience of being part of the Online Centres Network.zzz

With the general election looming, one of my favourite sections of the day was asking delegates – primarily from the community sector – what they wanted to ask the new Prime Minister. And the questions weren’t surprising – from how we will close the digital poverty gap, to how we can support people to use online public services and how grassroots organisations providing this support will be funded. 

As we edge closer towards the election on 12 December, we’re calling on the next government to make bridging the digital divide a priority. Every party has made a pledge to roll out high-speed broadband in one form or another – and yet the manifestos have fallen short on their commitment to invest in people, and the skills and support they need to access this new infrastructure. 

When 11.9 million people lack the digital skills they need to function in the modern world, we’re a long way off achieving digital equality. For £734 million, alongside investment from companies, the Government could close the nation’s digital divide and ensure a brighter future for everyone. Genral_Election_Infographic_v6_page-0001

It’s always a privilege to be able to bring together hundreds of inspiring people at our conference, all passionate about making digital inequality a thing of the past. From the amazing staff in the Online Centres Network delivering digital inclusion at the grassroots level, to the Government departments and policymakers, to the third sector organisations and corporate partners who share a commitment to our mission.

And in a way, our conference is a microcosm of the kind of nation we want to create. Because we can fix this skills and inclusion gap – but only by working together with partners in industry, Government and communities.