Learning. Reflecting. Celebrating.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year. No, I’m not feeling prematurely festive but right on the coattails of another fantastic Get Online Week, it’s now time to think about our annual Digital Evolution conference. This year we’re calling it Digital Evolution: Digital. Social. Global and it’s taking place on Wednesday 21 November, at our regular venue of the BT Centre in the City of London.

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The conference has become an essential date in many people’s diaries, and, now into its seventh year, it’s an event you don’t want to miss. Not only is it an opportunity for us to bring together Online Centres, partners and stakeholders to celebrate all we’ve achieved over the last year, it’s also a chance to get inspiration for the future. Our speakers, panellists and delegates always come brimming with questions, ideas and ambition for their communities.

As an organisation Good Things Foundation has expanded hugely over the years – we now have a bigger team and broader horizons. Social inclusion and tackling social challenges through digital is a huge focus for our work.

We’ve also gone global. Good Things Foundation Australia has had an incredible first year (more on that next week), and we have a successful pilot in Kenya moving into its second year. As such, it seemed only fitting for this year’s conference to reflect these changes.

Self-described digital evangelist Dr Sue Black will be chairing the event. I’ve known Sue for many years now, and she’s a true inspiration and a real leader on the UK tech scene. I know she’s going to bring lots of energy, experience and knowledge, so I’m delighted to have her as part of the day.

During the day we’ll be discussing some new research we’re launching around limited internet users and how we can support them. We’ll be showcasing what’s new in the digital and social inclusion sectors, as well as what’s happening overseas as well. Plus, there’ll be a chance to network with peers, partners and friends – over coffee, lunch and even a glass of wine at the end of the day.

And following popular demand, we’ll also be bringing back our Design Studios – where we’ll be helping community organisations to develop practical ways to tackle some of the challenges they’re facing, leaving them with tactics we hope can make a real difference to the people they support.

The conference completely sold out last year, and we’re expecting this year to be the same, so make sure you book your tickets as soon as possible. They’re available on Eventbrite here.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Another spectacular Get Online Week

We’ve now closed the curtain on our twelfth annual Get Online campaign  – and what a week it’s been.

This year has marked several big achievements, including:

  • Going global: for the first time ever, Get Online Week has taken place in Australia as well as the UK
  • Exciting new marketing materials: sponsorship from Lloyds Banking Group meant we were able to provide event holders with tote bags, headphones and selfie frames
  • A campaign within a campaign: Get Online Week has fallen at the same time as our Bridging the Digital Divide campaign, meaning we’re raising double the awareness of digital exclusion.

A tour around Aus – #GOLWroadshow18

In Australia, members of our team went out to visit different events all across the country. This might not seem like such a big thing to us here in the UK, but with Australia being around 32 times bigger than the UK, it’s no mean feat!

National Director Jess braved a smaller aeroplane than most of us are used to, to make it to Canberra, and Partnerships Manager Cass was off to Adelaide. Meanwhile, Bridget made it all the way to Perth in Western Australia – almost 4,000 miles from Good Things Australia HQ in Sydney!

There were so many different events, from your familiar Get Online Week drop-in session to a ‘BBQ & Digital Skills’ or a ‘Digital Scavenger Hunt’. With 570 organisations registered and 768 events on the map, it was a spectacular first campaign for the Get Online Week Australia team.

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And in the UK…

The Good Things Foundation team were out and about at libraries, social housing providers, funding roadshows and more. We also made full use of the selfie frame in the office by seeing how many people we could squeeze into one picture!

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How many Good Things staff members can we fit into one picture? Lots!

My colleague Chris Andersson had a particularly good visit to Keighley in West Yorkshire where he met Barabara who’d seen an advert that Online Centre Airedale Enterprise Services had placed in the local newspaper.

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Barbara gets online to #Try1Thing

 

Barbara was a complete online beginner but had been bought an iPad by family members. Like many, however, she’d found that family are not always the most patient teachers so she jumped at the offer of free and friendly support. She was more than happy to board the community bus where the event was taking place and #Try1Thing!

There’s been lots of amazing activity taking place across the Online Centres Network and beyond, and I have loved seeing what you’ve been up to. Here are some of my favourite pictures that were posted throughout the week:

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Bridging the Digital Divide

This year, Get Online Week couldn’t have come at a better time – right in the middle of our Bridging the Digital Divide campaign. Just in case you haven’t heard of it, this is our big call to action for Government and other organisations to commit to the target of getting 100% of the UK digitally included, and to take steps to help us reach this target. Get Online Week is one way we can contribute to achieving this.   

Today, 11.3 million adults in the UK still lack the essential digital skills that are necessary for life and work. I’m delighted that these two big initiatives we’re running can work together to have an even bigger impact.

If you want to know more about Bridging the Digital Divide and what you can do to support it, take a look here.

Thank you!

Once again, thank you for making this another amazing Get Online Week and for helping us to reach more people with digital skills and confidence.

See you again next year.

Underrepresented Represented

Last week the government launched a new fund to boost the diversity of people working in digital and tech jobs. Welcome news to the sector and to people who would otherwise not be able to establish themselves in these fields.

The fund includes a “£1 million Digital Skills Innovation Fund and will help people from underrepresented groups gain the skills they need to work in digital roles’”and “an additional £400,000 to help older and disabled people get life-changing digital skills”.

According to a report by the British Computer Society, only 17% of the UK’s IT workforce are non-white and only 17% are women. It also says that 21% are aged over 50 and only 8% are disabled.

My work with DCMS on the Digital Skills Partnership Board and in thinking about how to make this happen in Local Digital Skills Partnerships has brought sharply into focus the issues we have with recruitment for digital roles and how essential it is to bring in more people and more people from the whole diversity of our nation (be it gender, ethnic background, or age). I’m pleased to see the Tech Talent Charter also got more Government support in this announcement – and they’re featured in the LDSP Playbook. (You might remember my blog about our own recruitment issues at Good Things.)

I’ve had a few ideas about career changers, inspired by people who have come to LDSP Creative Summits, that I voiced on this podcast recently.

Good luck to everyone who’s going to bid into this new fund – innovation is one of those over used words, but in this case the nation really needs to know how to crack this nut and to help grow a bigger, and a more diverse, tech sector.

Tech careers aren’t the only need out there

The additional fund of £400,000 to help older and disabled people is a welcome move to the Good Things Foundation team and the Online Centres Network.

Many of the learners who come into Online Centres are older or have some kind of disability.

According to Lloyds Banking Group’s Consumer Digital Index 2018, disabled people are four times more likely to lack basic digital skills – that’s 3.5 million people – and 28% of those aged over 60 are digitally excluded.

Disabled people and older people need equally as much help, if not more, to make the most of computers and the internet.

The solution we’ve been waiting for?

There’s no doubt that there has been more of a focus on digital upskilling in the past few years, with different sectors working together to make it happen. The Online Centres Network works hard every day to support people in their communities. But there’s only so much we can all do without financial support to do it.

We can’t go into this thinking that the new funding means we’ve found a solution to the UK’s digital skills problem. But we can go into it knowing that it will go a long way in helping millions of people to succeed in the online world and in digital and tech careers.

At Good Things Foundation, we’re always working hard to solve the digital skills crisis, and we have so many more ideas to bring to the table. We’re happy to talk any time.

Building a future that works for everyone. Double tick!

It was great to turn on the Today Programme this morning to hear Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sports and Civil Society, talking passionately about the new Civil Society Strategy, and her commitment to working with grassroots organisations to address some of the biggest challenges we’re facing in society today.

The strategy is subtitled ‘Building a future that works for everyone’ – a mission that chimes well with me and my work at Good Things Foundation since our vision is a world where everyone can benefit from digital.

So I eagerly read the Strategy and one of the things that struck me most is the recognition for the great work civil society is already doing, and a Government commitment to doing more to support this. Meeting with a number of Online Centres when putting our consultation response together I heard an overwhelming air of positivity and ambition about what we can achieve together. It is great to see the strategy committing to building on this aspiration.

There’s so much in this strategy to be happy about.

A key theme that comes through is the need to support community organisations, charities, and other organisations with a social purpose to strengthen communities, and to ensure people can have their say about the things that matter to them, combat loneliness, and drive inclusive growth. The Online Centres Network, who are based in thousands of communities across the UK, are already doing this on a daily basis. Tick.

And it’s about putting people and communities at the heart of decisions and decision making. Tick.

The Government will also be launching ‘Innovation in Democracy’ pilots, giving local people more of a say. I’m hoping our #VoiceBoxCafe pilots will get some local people – especially local women – ready and interested in taking part. Tick.

The Strategy commits the Government to a return to grant funding which we know provides greater security, particularly for smaller charities and organisations. We are also pleased to see again the plans to release £145 million of funding from dormant bank accounts to fund activity, particularly around financial inclusion. We know that inclusive prosperity is an area in much need of investment. Tick.

I’m really happy to see the Strategy’s desire to explore how technology can be harnessed to address complex social issues. As you’ll know if you read my blog often – this is something I’m passionate about and it’s right at the heart of what we do at Good Things. The strategy talks in detail about the role of tech for good, and the importance of using technology to solve complex social issues, like loneliness, healthy ageing, online safety, and digital inclusion. You’ll not be surprised to hear that this is music to my ears! Tick.

To do this, the government has committed to working in partnership with experts in both technology and civil society. As an organisation working at the intersection of these two sectors, I’m looking forward to the important role we can play in this. Double tick.

For me, the strategy hits the nail on the head when it says ‘digital technology does not bring progress when it simply creates efficiency. It brings the most progress when it puts the user first, and when digital services are focused foremost on meeting human needs’. We don’t need to get hung up on searching for clever tech solutions and building new platforms – sometimes the biggest impact can be had in using existing, and freely available tools – like using Facebook to bring communities together.

It’s important we don’t think of tech for good as a separate element of the Civil Society Strategy, removed from the people, places and partnerships that make our society thrive. Digital needs to become part of what everyone working in civil society does every day, and for every solution civil society develops, we should always be asking what role digital can play. Tech + people can bring holistic and scalable solutions. How can it be embedded by more civil society organisations more often to help to achieve an even bigger impact? This is something we will keep championing, along with our partners working across the civil society space.

There’s definitely a lot in it to be happy about. As Tracey Crouch said: “Our strategy builds on this spirit of the common good to help create a country that works for everyone. I want people, organisations and businesses to feel inspired to get involved and make a difference. .. Through collaboration, we will unlock the huge potential of this incredible sector, help it grow, support the next generation and create a fairer society.”

As with everything, the actual success will be in the delivery and I will be interested to see how the new strategy develops quickly into tangible action. As a resetting of the relationship between Government, and those driving social action, I think it sets all the right tone. I look forward to hearing more of the detail, and to playing a role to help with that and with the implementation both as Good Things Foundation and as a voice for thousands of community organisations across the Online Centres Network.

The first civil society strategy in 15 years. So, let’s get on with it.

Get Online Week is go go go!

The eagle-eyed among you will have seen my video on social media last week promoting our 2018 Get Online Week registration. That’s right, you can now sign up to take part in our big digital inclusion campaign, taking place this October from 15-21.

We’re going international with the campaign this year, running it in both the UK and Australia. There will be hundreds of new organisations taking part from the Be Connected Network and I’d also love to see lots of newbies in the UK taking part as well. It’s a great opportunity to reach new people, raise the profile of your organisation and to be part of something big.

Last year event holders reached 45,000 people with digital skills and confidence by encouraging them to #Try1Thing new online. This year, we want to reach even more.

If you have any questions about Get Online Week, tweet me on @helenmilner, or get in touch with my team at @getonlineweek.

Hey Matt, Let’s Make Sure the NHS is Wonderful for Everyone

Digital is wonderful – it brings the world into your front room, it enables people to communicate across time zones, save money and find out more about the things that interest them. Digital is convenient, flexible, it can give you the information you need when you need it, and you can use it at a time that suits you.

But digital isn’t always wonderful at everything.

Human beings are (usually) better than technology at being patient, being empathetic, listening to what people really mean rather than what they say. Humans are good at encouraging others, inspiring others, and empowering others to do things they didn’t think they could do.

(And digital has other issues too – just like the real world – to do with crime, security, consent, and other things … but more about that another day.)

The NHS is a wonderful institution and I was delighted to congratulate Matt Hancock as soon as he was appointed as the new Secretary of State for Health. He’s a good man and he understands both the power of technology and how many people still don’t know how to use the internet in a way that benefits their lives.

Matt Hancock gave his first oral Health Parliamentary Questions in the House of Commons yesterday, as well as making his first appearance at the Commons Health Select Committee. He’s been clear that he has three priorities:

  • Valuing the NHS and social care workforce
  • Transforming tech (starting with a new £487 million fund)
  • Prevention being better than cure.

They seem like three pretty good things to start with – assuming that a relentless focus on patients underpins all three.

At the Health Select Committee, Matt Hancock said “Technology in healthcare is coming. What we need to do is to make sure the NHS is able to utilise this in a way that achieves the holy trinity of allowing better care for patients, easier service provision for clinicians, and saves the NHS money.”

Although I’m passionate about tech, I am more passionate about people using technology, and not tech for its own sake. For over four years now, we’ve been working with partners to engage people who are more likely to experience poor health and lower life expectancy due to the wider social disadvantages they experience. In our first three years, we helped over 220,000 people who showed us that with the right support and encouragement they could change behaviours, and lift barriers to exclusion. Part of that behaviour change was helping them to use the best channel for them – such as the online NHS health information instead of a GP, or a Pharmacist instead of A&E. Our research showed that the group of people we supported in one year had the potential to save the NHS over £6 million in those 12 months alone.

Ron Dale, 61, was living in a tent on the A63 and through a series of interventions, including digital upskilling, he was able to re-engage with the health system, move GP practices and book his appointments online. “We helped Ron get familiar with the NHS Choices website and use the ‘Services Near You’ section, to find nearby GPs. He had a look at the reviews, opening times, picked a surgery and he was registered in less than a week,” said Dave Edeson from Inspire Communities in Hull, the Online Centre who supported him. “Ron suffers from particularly severe anxiety issues and he was really happy that the surgery lets him book appointments and order repeat prescriptions online. These services went a long way to alleviate his anxiety, especially once the Inspire Communities showed him how the system worked and how easy it was to make an appointment.”

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Ron and Dave

 

Dave continues: “Ron is much happier with his new GP too. Not only is it closer but he says the conversations he’s having with the doctor are making him feel much more included in decisions about his healthcare.”

In phase 2 of our NHS Widening Digital Participation, we are working with some of the most excluded groups in the country to investigate ways that digital can make a difference.

This ranges from working with homeless people in Hastings, people with sensory impairments in West Yorkshire, and those with long-term conditions in Stoke. By co-designing pathways for people with complex lives we are able to find out how digital can improve their lives – and ultimately the way in which they interact with the NHS. This includes:

We are so proud to be part of the Empower the Person workstream for NHS England. This recognises that designing systems, tools and pathways should leave no one behind. As Juliet Bauer, Chief Digital Officer at NHS England, says, “Technology is here to extend humanity, not replace it”.

We’ve learned some important things on our journey, including

  • To start with, and remain focused on, what matters to people – digital is an enabler not the end goal
  • To engage people in new innovations including digital tools we need to go to where they are, not expect them to come to us
  • People trust peers just as much as they trust clinicians in terms of recommendations around using digital resource
  • Digital is really good at prevention, for example supporting people to lose weight to avoid getting type 2 diabetes
  • People need relationships of trust, and open door whole person support can help to overcome both social and digital exclusion
  • The staff of the NHS are wonderful, but change is hard. Many staff aren’t confident about their digital skills – so they need to build their capability and confidence. But we also need to ensure a fear of change doesn’t block the culture change that will also be needed
  • People (patients) are not the problem they are part of the solution – digital services and products should be co-designed in partnership with them
  • Social prescribing can be really effective, but it isn’t a silver bullet and needs to be implemented in the right way – it needs to remain informal and based on the needs of the individual, so implemented well it involves local community organisations, and it is a shared decision between both the patient and practitioner.

A digital enabled NHS should offer a better, more inclusive, and 24/7 service, that is free at the point of use, as well as including Matt Hancock’s holy trinity of allowing better care for patients, easier service provision for clinicians, and saving the NHS money.

And, if 90% of the people who are socially excluded are also digitally excluded, it’s critical that all citizens are also, at the same time, enabled and empowered to be able to and benefit from this wonderful digital world and the wonderful digitally-supported NHS that Matt Hancock, his team, and hundreds of thousands of NHS workers all want to see.

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.