Today sees the start of the eleventh annual Get Online campaign – the biggest digital inclusion campaign in the country. With over 1,000 organisations registered to take part, there will be thousands of events taking place in communities across the country, where people can get free and friendly help to Try 1 Thing.

We’ll be asking thousands of people to do just one thing online that they usually do offline. It could be their first online shopping experience or video call with friends or relatives, setting up online banking, booking a GP appointment, claiming benefits, or applying for a job online: anything that they haven’t had the skills or confidence to try before.

Why are we doing it?

Earlier this year we released a piece of research in partnership with BT and Professor Simeon Yates from the University of Liverpool analysing the 2015 Ofcom Media Literacy Survey – The real digital divide?. This broke down the demographics of people who are not utilising the full benefits of the internet. We found that there were people who did not use the internet very often but also there were people – previously thought of as internet users – who use the internet every day but only use two or three websites or apps. We called these two groups limited users.

In today’s digital society it’s more important than ever not to leave people behind and that’s why campaigns like Get Online Week are so important.

There were so many great stories from our ‘poster men and women’ of the campaign. Ravi Sundararajan is one of them. When he was younger, his prospects for the future were looking better than ever but a change in circumstances meant that he found himself homeless and alone. He was picked up by a homeless charity and eventually found his way to Adult Education Gloucestershire where he’s learnt digital skills, built his confidence back up and is feeling better than ever.

My plans

As always I will be out visiting events throughout the week, as will other Good Things Foundation staff. We’re all really looking forward to it as it’s a great opportunity for us to get out there, on the ground, and experience the great work that the Online Centres Network do firsthand.

There were a couple of fun new additions to the marketing pack this year – the #try1thing cut out and the #try1thing bingo game. Here’s me with the cut out – the one thing that I’m trying online is making a vlog about Get Online Week (and I’m a bit scared about it actually). I’d love it if you could use the cutout and encourage others (colleagues or even friends and family) to do so too to show us what you’ve been up to during the week. The bingo is a great way to engage learners and there’s lots of different ways you can play it. Check out the Get Online Week website to find them out.

Helen's blog

As well as community partners holding campaign events, Get Online Week is also supported by committed private sector partners and I’m delighted that Lloyds Banking Group is sponsoring Get Online Week for the second year running. Lloyds are leaders in digital inclusion, having trained thousands of their staff as Digital Champions and pledged to help millions of people, businesses and charities improve their digital skills. Their support is vital in addressing digital exclusion across the UK. Thank you. 

That’s all from me for now but I’ll be back blogging again after the campaign to share all the wonderful things that I see and do. To everyone taking part, have an amazing week and together we can help tens of thousands of people to #try1thing online.

A movement for social change

Good Things Foundation hosted an event at the House of Lords on Monday. It’s a bit of an annual do where we take the opportunity to launch something new and exciting or to celebrate the end of a big project. Since our last House of Lords event in 2016, we’ve continually built on our successes and grown our organisation both in terms of our scope and objectives and team.

House of Lords collage

Hosted by our Patron Lord Jim Knight, it was great to see so many of our partners – national and hyperlocal – as well as members of our Board and colleagues from the Good Things team too, alongside our Chair Liz Williams.

Those of you who know us, will know two things:

  • We do what works – and we always do what we say we’ll do
  • AND, we don’t let the grass grow under our feet – we’re ambitious about going further and faster.

It’s all about the people. The world for many people is difficult. They feel that life is a series of hard knocks and that they don’t have the power to soften the blows. They don’t have enough money and find juggling with the little they have hard. They feel isolated from family and community. We are committed to helping people improve their lives.

And so we’ve changed internally too to face this challenge with not only staff dedicated to digital inclusion, but we also have staff dedicated to social inclusion too.

That’s Emily and Tim from the Design team out in the streets of Hastings at 4am to talk to rough sleepers about their health needs.

That’s Nicola and Rob and Charlotte, working with almost 100 Online Centres to help migrants learn English, like the Polish woman I met in Luton who just that day had for the first time rang herself to tell the school her daughter was ill. Her daughter is 10 and was born in Luton. It was a huge milestone for her.

Working with partners is important – we’re not just a network but we’re a movement. A movement for social change. Public sector partners, corporates, community organisations, volunteers, and the Online Centres Network. We make lasting social change happen through empowering and embedding new behaviours and relationships.

Our thousands of local partners are very important. They are grassroots organisations who understand the experiences and needs of the people they support every day in their local communities; they engage people that other parts of formal systems fail to reach. Our collective impact, across all our partners, is greater than any one would achieve alone.

I am ambitious – I am ambitious not for me but for all of us – ambitious for the scale of the impact we can make if we do the best we possibly can do. I am ambitious about the change we can make to people’s lives. It’s great to help a few people make a really big and positive change to their lives and to understand those micro journeys we followed 20 people over 18 months – the Longitudinal Learner Study.

It’s essential to help individuals but it’s even more important when we can help millions of individuals benefit. We’re committed to helping people significantly improve their lives and we’re committed to doing this at scale.

I started by saying it’s all about the people – and at the event I interviewed one of the stars of the new booklet, Mark Revell:

We also took the opportunity to launch our new Digital Nation infographic, which demonstrates the current state of digital and social inclusion in the UK, which you can see here.

To finish off this train of thought, I say let’s all be ambitious – and I ask all of you if you can do more. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done already and that you’re already committed to doing. But, let’s do more, reach further and move faster – together.

Going global with social digital inclusion

Those of you who know me and know Good Things Foundation will know that we’re ambitious to help excluded people to have better lives. That’s excluded people in my suburb, in my city, in my country, and all over the world. So naturally we’re going global with social digital inclusion. And we mean it.

This blog has (at least) two bits of very big news!

Emily, Michael and KNLS librarians

Emily and Michael meet the librarians from KNLS

Last week we kicked off our pilot project in Kenya. We’re working with the Kenyan Library Service (KNLS) and 10 Kenyan libraries to test some approaches to digital literacy. My colleagues Emily and Michael have just spent a week working with our local partners in Kenya – do read their Tumblr Blog “Digital Life Kenya”, and you can watch their welcome to Kinyambu Library on YouTube too (1 minute, can’t watch without smiling). I want to blog more when Emily and Michael get back, so watch this space for more news from Kenya.

Our other big international news is in Australia. Good Things Foundation has been appointed, by the Federal Government in Australia, as the National Network Manager for a new programme to support Digital Literacy for Older Australians (DLOA). Our job is to establish, maintain and support a national network of local partners to support older Australians to learn how to use the internet. This is very big news indeed and means we’ve set up a subsidiary in Australia, we hope to bring some of our UK expertise to Aus and we’re planning on learning lots of new ideas from Australian partners too.

The DLOA programme has three key elements:

  • A national network of participating community organisations delivering one-on-one and small group support to older Australians, including a national helpline for community organisations and people over 50 (this is what Good Things will be delivering).
  • A dedicated website hosting a range of new interactive tools and resources to provide information and learning opportunities for older Australians, their families and friends, and community organisations (this new website will have some of the great Learn My Way content embedded in it).
  • Communications and marketing activities to help raise awareness of the new programme at the national and local level.

A big club with a shared vision

We know what a big job is it to create a big club with a shared vision – which is how I see our work in the UK – and now we’re going to try to do this, working with loads of partners, in Australia. A shared vision of a world where everyone benefits from digital – and our hope is that Australian people and organisations want to collaborate to create a ‘big Australian club’ that believes in a better world.

When I was in Australia this month I visited one partner, who’ve we’ve been working with for a while, and who I know will be joining the DLOA Network as soon as we launch the joining process – that’s Leep, in Western Sydney. The Leep in Lab is a real exemplar in how to recruit and train volunteer Digital Mentors, as well as in providing that one-on-one personalised support that people with low digital literacy need. I tested my digital skills when I visited the Leep in Lab to make a short film:

DLOA will officially commence on 3 October 2017, so as you can imagine, there’s a lot to do! We’ve established an Australian subsidiary (Good Things Foundation Ltd), our office is at WeWork in Pyrmont in Sydney, and we’re very excited to begin recruiting staff Down Under and expanding our team. One of our Network Specialists from the team at UK Good Things – Vanessa Kirby – will be heading over to Sydney with me next week to get the project off to a flying start. And we’re about to begin recruitment for our Australian Director.

If you’re in Australia and would like to be kept in touch with what we’re doing please subscribe to our mailing list via our website: www.goodthingsfoundation.org.au.

A Philippines Pilot

Thinking about going global all started back in 2015/16 with a pilot in the Philippines. We created a customised version of Learn My Way to support Philippine people to develop digital skills, and they were inspired and supported by two of the Philippine government’s Tech4ED centres in M’lang, North Cotabato and ALS Ana Kalang in Nagcarlan, Laguna.

The pilot was successful with 165 people registering on this unique version of Learn My Way over the five month period, with 95% of learners developing skills on how to use a computer. The impact of the pilot is sustained with over 400 people having used the Philippine Learn My Way since the pilot ended. You can read the final report here.

What’s next

These international opportunities are very positive as they can help us to apply our core expertise in digital inclusion, as well as being a good fit for our strategic mission. For Australia we have built a strong reputation and now we’re establishing ourselves in the country itself. The Kenyan Library Service are keen to work with us, so that they can bring the social value of digital skills to their beneficiaries and we are very keen to test and learn and see how we can contribute to social inclusion and sustainable development goals.

We’re very excited to move ahead with our Australian organisation and I’m really looking forward to the next few months as we work tirelessly for the 3 October soft launch.

Our Kenya pilot project is now in full swing and I am so excited to see how this model will work and how it can benefit the people who live in Kenya, and maybe in other countries in Africa too. (We’ll see what’s next when we’ve finished this year long pilot.)

Moving the Good Things model onto an international stage is such a big endeavour but it’s a logical move that I think we’re ready for. If you’d like to partner with us and potentially be part of this journey then do get in touch.

And, I know I’ve said it before, but seriously, watch this space for more (global) updates!

15.2 million people still aren’t benefiting from the internet

How much and how often you use the internet is a useful insight into who is digitally excluded. This gives us a way of assessing how the internet is impacting people’s lives – so how they are applying their basic digital skills to their lives or not.

Today, we’ve launched new research that for the first time breaks down the demographics of people who are not getting full benefit from the internet – either because they’re complete non users, or that they’re using the internet in a limited way – be it only using one site or a couple of apps, or going online less than once a week.

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The infographic accompanying our report.

The demographics of these people don’t really come as any surprise – 90% of non users are likely to be disadvantaged – which takes into account poor health and disability, social class and those who left school at 16 or under.  48% of non users and 47% of limited users have a long standing health issue or disability,  50% of non users are in social class DE, and 38% of limited users.

I’m thrilled that this new analysis is helping to build a fuller picture of what it means to be digitally excluded. We know basic digital skills is a big issue (18% of people say they aren’t online as they don’t have the skills), but it’s not the only measure of whether people are digitally excluded. Looking at usage helps us to show that digital exclusion is a much more complex issue.

For people to thrive in today’s increasingly digital world, using the internet on a regular basis and using the breadth of what’s on offer is vital. For most people, this means at least every day, if not several times a day. This might be to keep an eye on your bank balance, check on the price of your utilities, or to find work. Most people in work are using the internet on a daily basis. If people aren’t using the internet weekly, they’re likely to be excluded in a range of ways – including having less money available, fewer opportunities to find work, and less access to information that might make their lives better – such as health information, information to help their children with their homework, and more. So the way people are using the internet – how much and how often – is vital to understand whether they’re really getting the benefit they could be.

My presentation from the National Digital Conference 2017.

This analysis opens up lots of new questions and areas of work we’re keen to investigate – and understanding why people are non or limited users, and how we can better support them to thrive is going to be key.

Although we already support non and limited users through our work, and through the Online Centres Network, this new analysis will help further inform how we support these groups. It will help us to work with government and corporate partners to understand issues of digital exclusion and how together we can support it. We’re delighted BT have supported us to carry out this research, and we enjoyed working with Professor Simeon Yates to get the analysis right. We’re hoping to continue working with BT to take this further, to empower more people to have better lives and realise the opportunities the big wide web has to offer. We’re keen to hear from anyone else who wants to get involved.

Moving In; Moving More

We’re a very active bunch here at Good Things Foundation. We’re an organisation made up of walkers, runners, cyclists, climbers and more, so when we heard about the Workplace Challenge as part of the Move More Sheffield campaign, we knew it was something that we had to take part in.

Move More is an initiative which aims to make people more active and in Sheffield, through June, it pits individuals, teams and organisations against each other to see who is the most active out of the whole city.

At the moment Good Things Foundation has racked up over 27,000 minutes between 30 of us, and, thanks to my new walking to work lifestyle, I’m enjoying being in the top three of my team’s leaderboard. Not sure it will last…

We’ve got some office sessions planned with Seven Hills Fitness as part of the initiative too. Last week, some of the team enjoyed a boxercise session and for the next three weeks we’ve got a crazy core session, a pilates session and a yoga session planned, which we’re really looking forward to. Well some of the team are!


Fitness in progress! Our team boxing it out at the boxercise class.


New recruits move in

It isn’t just our new – and sometimes competitive – exercise regime that’s happening in the Good Things Foundation office right now. We’ve also got some new faces who’ve moved into the team:

  • Tim Brazier is our Senior Service Designer, joining our new Design and Innovation team
  • Pete Nuckley is our Service Delivery Manager, also joining our Design and Innovation team
  • Jonathan Bradwell is our Network Communications Specialist, joining our Network team
  • Zoe Howard is our Digital Inclusion Manager, joining the Digital Inclusion team
  • Charlotte Self is our Social Inclusion Manager, joining the Social Inclusion team.

I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to all of these new people and I look forward to seeing their exciting ideas coming to life as part of the Good Things Foundation family.

Fuller Lives, Stronger Communities

Earlier this year I met a Polish woman in Luton who told me that the day before she had rung the school to tell them that her 10-year-old daughter was too ill to go to school. This was significant for her as it was the first time she felt confident enough in her English language ability to do this herself. Her husband had always previously made any phone calls that had to be made in English. She was so proud of herself. She was so determined to develop even more English language. She was inspiring the other women in the group, none of whom had ever spoken English on the phone.

Good Things Foundation is evolving, now we have even more emphasis on social inclusion and social change. Social exclusion is very broad; it includes unemployment, loneliness, isolation, and poverty. For a lot of people in the UK who don’t speak English, they’re affected by some or all of these issues. Our English My Way programme, which has been running since 2013, aims to help people with little English language integrate into their communities. That Polish woman in Luton was an English My Way learner and this week we’re celebrating the success of this programme – releasing a report, an infographic, videos and more.

Evaluating success

The ‘big news’ release is the final evaluation report from phase three of the project. This was the first time we’d put a particular focus on isolated women and we also supported community partners in their delivery through capacity building, identifying best practice, progression routes and programme/product development.

Headline stats for me are:

  • 2,789 learners completed the informal 24-week course designed to help people who speak no English to gain some everyday language for use in their daily lives
  • 63% of the learners reported improved English proficiency
  • 45% progressed onto a formal course to go onto that next step and develop more language skills (such as an Entry Level 1 ESOL course).

Seeing is believing

Sometimes describing a project and the impact it has on people simply isn’t enough. English My Way has helped so many people to improve their lives and we really wanted people to see that. That’s why we’ve put together some videos, which you can view below.

Nageswary is a learner at Benn Partnership in Rugby who fled her country after conflict meant she lost her house and husband. She’s a true inspiration and an excellent example of English My Way success.

The second video shows the group dynamic element of English My Way, which is one of the great parts of the programme. A lot of learners get involved because of loneliness or isolation and being able to come together in a group to learn something significant and life-changing helps them to overcome this and make friends. We filmed this video at Neighbours in Poplar in London.

What else is going on?

We’ve also released an infographic this week demonstrating the top stats from the first three phases of the project and from this we’ve created fun social media GIFs. My colleague Chris has also written a blog and we’ve released a special Delivering ESOL in Libraries handbook.

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You can download the full infographic on our website using the link in the paragraph above


There’s so much going on and rightly so because this project deserves all of the attention it gets.

This year we’re developing some mobile optimised online learning content and a taster of English My Way so that more local partners can use these resources to change more people’s lives.

Thank you to all the English My Way centres who have made the project such a success so far and a big thank you to the staff and learners who took part in our videos.

Digital skills in Sheffield: Just Google it!

We work with lots of partners across sectors to make good things happen with digital and to reach those 11.5m people without basic digital skills. One of those partners is Google and today I was delighted to speak at the launch of their Digital Garage, right on Good Things Foundation’s doorstep here in Sheffield.


With our new ways of working, we’re doing a lot more internationally – we’re setting up offices in Australia, we’ve done work in the Philippines and we’re doing a pilot project in Kenya. But Sheffield is my home and I’m so pleased that Google has chosen to open a Digital Garage here.  

Our project with Google is based around their Digital Garage training and it’s aim is to help learners improve their digital skills and grow their confidence or business online. It’s great for both small business owners and individuals looking to boost their CV.

I was delighted to be invited to speak at the launch, along side Sheffield Heeley MP and Shadow Digital Minister Louise Haigh and Vice President of Marketing for Google UK Torsten Schuppe.

Learners who attend the one-to-one mentoring, masterclasses and workshops here will be able to boost their digital skills, very much like Alison from Cheshire.

A mixing bowl of skills

Alison owns her own business called Alison’s Bespoke Cakes and Balloons, but being dyslexic she lacked the confidence needed to use computers and the internet. After a little convincing from her friend Sue, Community Librarian at Eccles Library in Salford, she decided to pop along to their Digital Garage classes to get the help she needed to boost her business.

Alison is still taking part in the classes but her knowledge and perspective on computers and the internet has come a long way. She now has a Facebook page and is working on a website and logo with a professional designer.

Alison is great example of how the Digital Garage is helping people to not only boost their skills but also their confidence in using computers and the internet to make their business a success.

How you can get involved?

If you think you can benefit from the free training at the Digital Garage, they’ll be in Sheffield for six months, so there’s plenty of time to pop in and see what it’s all about.

For those who need to get to grips with the basics, the Google staff will be on hand to get them started on Learn My Way, while those who are a bit further in their learning journey or are specifically looking to use digital to further their business will be using the Digital Garage resources.

Any Online Centres Network members who are based in Sheffield – Learn for Life, Southey Forum and Foxhill Forum, to name a few – feel free to drop in and see what’s happening.

You can find out more about the classes and book on to some of their sessions here.