A #UKDigitalStrategy for Everyone

As someone who has been campaigning for digital inclusion for more than 15 years, a Government Digital Strategy which starts with an ambition to “close the divide – to ensure that everyone is able to access and use the digital services that could help them manage their lives, progress at work, improve their health and wellbeing, and connect to friends and family” bodes well.

I have long argued that we need to be bolder and more ambitious if we are to become a truly digital nation and digital economy, outstripping the likes of Singapore, Finland, Sweden and Norway – and critically, if we are to create a fairer and more inclusive society by giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of digital technology.

So, does the detail of the Strategy match up to the ambition?

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Karen Bradley MP at the launch this morning

 

At the launch of the Digital Strategy this morning, I was heartened to hear Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Culture Media & Sport, commit to digital skills and digital inclusion as one of the seven central tenets of the Strategy.

The plan for digital skills and inclusion focuses on three themes:

  • Digital capability for all
  • Digital skills for the digital economy
  • Working together

In summary:

  1. Digital Capability for All

Government will:

  • Undertake a feasibility study on viability of using outcome commissioning frameworks such as Social Impact Bonds or payment by results, to tackle digital exclusion
  • Develop the role of libraries as ‘go to’ providers of digital access in partnership with Good Things Foundation and other national partners
  • Use the Council for Digital Inclusion to increase collaboration
  • Invest £1.1m through NHS on projects to support digital inclusion.
  1. Digital Skills for digital economy.

Government will:

  • Continue to invest in CPD for teachers
  • Support Raspberry Pi and the National Citizen Service to pilot inclusion of digital skills and careers in NCS programmes
  • Embed digital skills in technical education for young people
  • Implement a new entitlement to free digital skills training, as part of the publicly-funded adult education offer, ensuring a commitment to lifelong learning of digital skills
  • Fund Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, to develop an online learning platform to help develop coding skills
  • Develop a common digital skills language to help industry articulate the digital skills they are seeking in a widely understood way
  • Develop the Tech Talent Charter to ensure a more diverse tech workforce
  • Develop a Cyber Security Skills Strategy.
  1. Working together: a more collaborative, coordinated and targeted approach to digital skills

Government will:

  • Create a Digital Skills Partnership to examine options for improving the coherence of digital skills provision eg. by setting ambitions for increasing the types of training on offer and agreeing how it can be targeted where it is needed most.

Across other areas of the Strategy, I’m pleased to see that the government is committed to encouraging innovation in digital for social good, and investing in better digital skills for businesses.

Recognition of the cross-sector partnerships, which are so essential to the digital inclusion sector, is welcomed, including the significant new pledges by businesses such as Lloyds Banking Group – which has pledged to train 2,500,000 individuals, SMES and charities in digital skills – and Google – which will launch a Summer of Skills programme in coastal towns alongside its existing digital skills programme – with whom we’re already working to support digitally excluded people.

This is a comprehensive basket of measures which goes further than any other Digital Strategy in recent years in tackling digital exclusion and lack of digital skills. I welcome the bold ambition, and it feels like we’re at the tipping point of committing to a 100% digitally included nation.

As a member of the Council of Digital Inclusion, there are a few points which I’ll be picking up over the coming weeks:

  • Firstly, don’t forget the important role of the third sector in becoming a digital nation. Libraries are vital places for digital support, and commitments from the private sector are essential, but there are thousands of community and VCS organisations providing support for digital skills – often with no public funding – without whom this country cannot achieve its digital ambitions.
  • Ensure there is flexibility in the application of the universal entitlement to free digital skills for adults to include both those who want a qualification, and those who want to gain basic digital skills but don’t necessarily need a qualification, and also to make sure we get some innovation into the sector.
  • Embed digital skills in the work of Jobcentres, so that jobseekers have a much clearer route to gaining digital skills and applying for Universal Credit. This could be a key focus for the new Digital Skills Partnership, which will play a crucial role in helping people to access digitally-focused jobs at a local level. I spoke about this at the DWP Select Committee late last year.
  • On looking at new financing models for tackling digital exclusion, I’ve talked to a number of experts about Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) for digital inclusion, who have advised that SIBs may well achieve the same outcomes as alternative finance models, but for more money. I look forward discussing this issue with Government colleagues.

Social mobility is an underlying theme throughout the Strategy and it is clear that the driver is a digital economy which is both ‘stronger and fairer.’ Amen to that.

I’m confident that the Digital Strategy marks the beginning of a new, more energised, and cohesive framework to close the digital divide, putting digital skills on an equal footing to English and Maths as an essential skill.

I look forward to Good Things Foundation playing our part to make this happen.

Helping change happen in small steps and the DWP Select Committee

It’s always great when you start to see your hard work pay off. I am particularly proud right now that following what feels like many years of lobbying, my team and I have helped influence the Department for Work and Pensions in their decision to consider the potential for developing basic skills identification tools as part of their offer for claimants. It’s a small step, but it’s great to see any improvements happening.

Let me explain how this came about.

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Giving evidence at the committee. Image courtesy of http://www.parliamentlive.tv

Following a meeting with Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, back in November 2015, I was invited to give evidence to the Committee on their inquiry into the future of Jobcentre Plus. In July 2016, I was on a great panel with Kathy Corcoran OBE, Chief Executive of the Cardinal Hulme Centre and Tom Hadley, Director of Policy at Recruitment and Employment Confederation. You can see a transcript of the session here or you can watch it on Parliament TV here. Here’s the important bit:

“Helen Milner: I do think there has to be something done about the initial conversation at the Jobcentre, or ongoing conversations at the Jobcentre. On the scale of the problem, we have centres in our network that are still saying that people are being sanctioned for not being able to use the internet weekly and are coming to them. These are centres that only support a couple of thousand people a year. So it is still a problem. Obviously those individuals will have complex needs but they perceive that the reason for sanctions is that they are not able to use the internet. Therefore I think it is really important that the questions advisers are asking people right now are better questions, not, “Have you got the internet at home?”, not, “Do you know how to use the internet?” but, “Are you confident to use the internet, to use Universal Jobmatch, by yourself? Do you think you will be able to do this several times a week by yourself?” The people who are really falling foul that we are seeing are those who would say no, no and no to those questions but might say yes to, “Do you have the internet on your phone?” for example.”

I, and others on the panel, were then asked: “Could you write six questions, fairly short, that might guide the Committee to say that this would be an improved means of identifying people’s capability and where the risks might lie?” I submitted these to the Committee and they included a recommendation in their final report published in November 2016 which stated:

“Jobcentre Plus should include a digital skills assessment in the Claimant Commitment interview which goes beyond simply asking if a claimant has access to the internet or a computer.

This should draw on the good practice examples of digital skills assessments that are used by specialist support centres. Having poor IT skills should, for example, be grounds for claimants to be offered longer meetings with their work coaches.”

I was really pleased to see this recommendation as it is something which I passionately believe would make a real difference to the lives of job seekers up and down the country. Last year, the Online Centres network supported 89,000 jobseekers to improve their basic digital skills. Not only that, they helped them to gain confidence and self-esteem and supported them to change their behaviour and prepare for a return to the job market.

A couple of weeks ago, the Government response to the Committee’s report was published and I was over the moon when I saw a section on the digital skills assessment, taken almost directly from the DWP Select Committee’s report: Digital skills assessment Jobcentre Plus should include a digital skills assessment in the Claimant Commitment interview which goes beyond simply asking if a claimant has access to the internet or computer. This should draw on the good practice examples of digital skills assessments that are used by specialist support centres. Having poor IT skills should for example be grounds for claimants to be offered longer meetings with their work coaches.”

It’s great to finally see that the needs of those who are digitally excluded are being taken seriously and that the government is considering ways in which they can support them right at the beginning of their job search journey.

For me, this really demonstrates the impact that we can have if we pull together and influence about the issues which we feel most passionate about. Ensuring that jobseekers get fair and intelligent assessment and support during what is already a difficult time in their life is of paramount importance. Gaining basic digital skills so they interact with online Government job seeking services is also essential so everyone can thrive in our digital society.

“If we wish modern democracy to flourish, it is imperative we respond”

 

Today the Government published the long awaited digital strategy, as a Government Transformation Strategy.

There’s some good stuff in here about breaking down silos and making sure Government services are integrated, and a brave introduction from Ben Gummer admitting that Government isn’t responsive:

“To govern is to serve. Our purpose is to maintain the security, safety and prosperity of the nation and to deliver what we have promised the people who elect us.

“Yet it is too often the case that citizens feel that they live at the convenience of the state: that the government acts not as servant but as master. The result is a perception that the country works for the people who govern, not those whom the government is tasked to serve. Whether it is a lack of belief in the capacity of government to deliver the pledges it makes at election time, or the frustrations thrown in the way of people every day – from filling in a form to trying to talk to someone on the phone – government seems less and less capable of doing what people want.

“The result of that disenchantment is plain to see. Here in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the democratic world, people are expressing their wish for a more responsive state at the ballot box. It is a call that demands a reply; indeed, if we wish modern democracy to flourish, it is imperative we respond.

“This is no easy task. Government is more complex and wide-reaching than ever before. There is no company on earth – even the largest of multinationals – which comes close to having to co-ordinate the array of essential services and functions for millions of people that a modern government provides. Equally our duty is to serve everyone regardless of ability, age, gender, opinion or the places in which they choose to live. For these reasons and because bureaucracies are by their natures monopoly providers, government has been slow to use the transformative potential of digital technology to change the way it does business.”

While the Strategy presents a vision of a more joined-up Government taking forward transformation, it is disappointing that there appears to be a lack of joined-up leadership when it comes to tackling digital skills and digital inclusion. The Government Digital Service currently has responsibility for Assisted Digital, whilst the Department for Culture, Media and Skills has a relatively new responsibility for digital inclusion. Maybe these two silos could work closer together. The bold vision that has been set out for change ‘at pace and scale‘ risks being derailed unless there is action to address the needs of the 12.6 million without digital skills at a similar pace and scale. We know that the DCMS-led Digital Economy Bill is set to put an entitlement in place for free basic digital skills training for the people who need them. That’s great, but it’s not mentioned in this Strategy nor is there a plan for implementing it.

The rollout of Universal Credit is a good example of where this joined-up policy and leadership around digital inclusion and skills has become urgent. Last year, our Online Centres Network supported 65,000 jobseekers to gain digital skills. This support is provided because citizens need it. Some of the digital skills projects we run are funded by Government, but not by DWP. The Transformation Strategy states that the rollout of Universal Credit depends on “much stronger local partnerships to support vulnerable claimants, who are probably using other public services at the same time“. This is true, but there must not be an expectation that community organisations can support benefit claimants without a joined up plan to making sure this happens.

The small section on digital inclusion in the Government Transformation Strategy reads:

“Developments in the private sector may highlight opportunities for government, but some of these do not translate directly into public service provision. For example, private sector companies can choose to target certain customers and exclude others. Public service providers, on the whole, cannot.

“Many sectors have been disrupted by new companies making the best use of digital technology, but it is not a given that similar benefits will be realised by government automatically. It is not possible to disintermediate critical services like benefits and courts, where people depend on public services and have no choice about whether to use them. Services must work for the whole of society – not just the 77% of people who have basic digital skills, but for the 12.6 million adults who don’t. This is particularly important as financial exclusion and digital exclusion often go hand in hand. People who are the least online are often heavier users of public services, highlighting the need to design services to include them. Nearly one in four people in the UK will be over 65 by 2040.

“A significant proportion of the adult population may never attain the digital skills to use online services without support, because of disabilities or lack of basic literacy skills.”

I’m on record previously, arguing against that last point. At Good Things we’re helping people who are over 90 years of age learn to use the internet independently and many people who have disabilities use the internet confidently. There’s no numbers here of course, so it all really depends what ‘a signification proportion‘ means to Government – if that means 2% or 3% of the adult population then we’re not arguing. If that means 10% then we are.

In Ben Gummer’s introduction he says:

“The imperative is to change, therefore – and to do so at pace and at scale. This is the meaning of transformation. It is in essence a change of working, of culture and of disposition – changes that are made possible by digital technology. That technology is not change itself; it enables the change that is so transformative.”

Changing lives at scale and using technology to enable transformative change on people’s lives is what we’re driven by at Good Things Foundation as many of our 2 million people we’ve supported in the past six years told us last week:  “It’s not about computers, it’s about people … 2 million people”.

We hope that there will be a plan of action for how the Government will support the 12.6 million people without digital skills, rather than an acceptance that those who aren’t online now will never be. Its Transformation Strategy – and modern democracy – depends on it.

Join the conversation on twitter with #GTS17

 

“It’s not about computers, it’s about people… 2 million people”

In my job as Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation, I spend a lot of time doing the normal CEO stuff. But the best bit of my job is meeting people who have improved their lives through digital. I was delighted when we hit 2 million people reached through our work with the Online Centres Network. To celebrate, yesterday, we hosted the 2 Millionth Learner Awards at the BT Tower in London and myself and everyone else in attendance was reminded exactly why we do what we do.

To put it simply it was a very special day and one that we’ll all remember for a very long time.

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The magnificent fourteen

Every one of the winners and runners-up deserved this recognition. From, Jenny Bayliss, who used her new digital skills to build her confidence and find work, to Marita Sherwood who not only used the internet to research and push for a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, she also uses it to research her son’s ADHD and found it an invaluable source of information when her eldest daughter Chance – who was also at the ceremony – was diagnosed with cancer.


Watch Learning for My Business winner Dawn’s video.

Bob Dunkerley, one of the most upbeat people I’ve ever met, used the internet to research strokes after he suffered one himself at one of his computer classes. And Paul Blackburn, who has difficulties with his speech and mobility following a car accident some years ago, has built up his skills and confidence to become one of the most popular IT tutors at his centre.


Watch Inspirational Learner finalist Tasleem Akhtar.

I will never forget the inspirational Olwyn Popplewell, who completely turned his life around, going from sleeping rough in the park to a job with Amazon and a flat of his very own. His speech at the end of the ceremony will stick with me for a long time.

“I can’t believe that I’m here receiving this award,” he said. “I mean, a year and a half ago, I was sleeping rough. I had no where. My family had started to give up on me. But then they gave me a bit of tough love and told me that I had to sort myself out. I went to Evolve and got the support I needed and that was exactly what I did. I turned the negative into positives. Things were hard. Really hard at times. Sometimes, dark places.

“With the support of Crisis, Evolve Housing, the Council, and Good Things Foundation, I’ve got to where I am now. I’ve got a bank account and actually know what a computer is.

“I accept this on behalf of everybody. All homeless people. All people trying to make themselves better.”


Watch Inspirational Learner winner Olwyn Popplewell.

It was wonderful. One big part of that speech that stood out for me was the part where he thanked Evolve Housing. The centres in our network are the ones who reach these people. Who work with them every day and convince them to keep learning when they feel like giving up. I think that’s amazing. We keep saying that we’ve reached 2 million learners, and that is a really big ‘we’. It’s the Good Things Foundation team and the 5,000+ hyperlocal partners in the network who work so hard and make those good things happen. Thank you so much for being awesome.

What was so special for me about yesterday was not just the depth of achievement we saw, but the breadth. I think we often forget how much we do with so many great national partners – such as DfE, Lloyds, Talk Talk, BT, MIND, DCMS, and Google – and locally within the Online Centres Network and it was amazing to bring it all together on the stage.

We saw learners from English My Way, NHS Widening Digital Participation, Future Digital Inclusion, Reboot UK, beneficiaries of our Digital Champion training and our work with small businesses. We saw that the hard work is working. It’s helping people and it’s doing good through digital.

It was a privilege to meet so many of our finalists in person after hearing their stories during the judging process.

If you want to read more about them, please do head across to the dedicated page on our website. I promise you won’t be disappointed. You’ll be inspired. You might even shed a tear. You’ll definitely crack a smile.

These people are 14 in 2 million and I hope they now know just how special they are.

I <3 Cows

Hello and a big welcome back after the holiday period. I hope everyone had a wonderful break and if you were working over Christmas and New Year, I hope it was a calm and cheerful time for you. I really enjoyed the festivities, but, most importantly, I had a chance to reflect on our work tackling digital and social exclusion and focus my mind on the crucial areas that should be at the forefront of our work. One of these areas is Rural.

Just before Christmas, I attended the Prince’s Countryside Forum with two of my colleagues and a member of the Online Centres Network, Paul Davies from Destinations@Saltburn. Together with Paul, we hosted an interactive workshop and I gave a lightning talk entitled ‘Digital: Opportunity or Frustration’. We were also able to chat to The Prince of Wales, and I was interested to hear his thoughts on rural and share mine with him.

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One of the things that really stood out for me, was a lady who spoke at the event. She’s a farmer and she knew that from an early age she wanted to work with cows. “I love cows, I always have” is how she opened her talk. But her chosen career path presents many challenges. For starters, where she’s based is so isolated, she finds it hard to meet and interact with other people. She can’t even begin to think about digital inclusion when there are other such pressing issues, like isolation.

This made me realise just how big a social challenge rural is. It made me ask myself, what are the biggest challenges in rural areas and how can we help tackle them?

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When we talk about digital and social exclusion, we often focus on the urban environment where poorer people live. But people in rural areas also have big hurdles to jump, such as isolation – being so far from places where they can go to develop their skills – as well as availability of broadband.

Solutions

There are things being done. For example, the National Farmers Union are lobbying for fast, affordable and reliable broadband and mobile coverage for farmers, growers and their rural communities. Broadband helps rural businesses to thrive. It helps them to be more efficient; attract more customers. The centres participating in our Prince’s Countryside Fund project are helping rural businesses to do more with digital, and in year two – which we’ve just started delivering this month – there’s also focus on individuals, Digital Champions and community organisations.

Some of our centres based in rural areas are a member of our Online Centres Specialist Rural Network. Nyree Scott is a centre manager who works in rural areas running and working in many centres. She does outreach work, as do many centres in the network, bringing internet, devices and the power of online to individuals who would otherwise be left behind. In outreach work, online learning platforms, like Learn My Way, are ever so important, because it means that everyone can be supported wherever and whenever they need it.

The areas of teleworking and telehealth are opening up massive opportunities for people in rural areas that just weren’t there before. The ideas of being able to work from home or a specific location, and being able to provide healthcare remotely, through the means of digital technology, are going a long way in improving their quality of life. But that’s been talked about for the thirty years I’ve been listening!

Worlds apart but closer than we think

Often when we think about rural locations we think about places here in the UK. We definitely don’t think about places like California, especially with it being the home of Silicon Valley. But towards the end of last year I read a blog post about a project taking place there called: Bridging California’s Rural/Urban Digital Divide with Mobile Broadband.

More and more farmers in rural California and relying on tech to make their business more efficient and environmentally friendly through precision agriculture. But many rural communities there suffer the same lack of reliable, fast mobile broadband that we do here, and this means that many rural economies there are falling behind.

The project aims to tackle this issue by collecting data on mobile broadband performance in a specific area – Yolo County – and comparing that performance to what mobile providers claim they deliver, and what farmers actually need for precision agriculture. This information will be collated into a report and presented to state officials to inform public policymaking on rural broadband.

A really interesting project, and something I wonder if we could replicate here.

What does rural mean to you?

The Oxford Dictionary defines Rural as: “In, relating to, or characteristic of the countryside rather than the town.” I am quite sure that many of you would associate rural with ‘old-school’ farming and isolation, and define it as unconnected, perhaps even distant. With better connectivity and better transport links, it doesn’t have to be this way.

The online world can revolutionise the farming industry, revolutionise rural businesses and revolutionise rural life as a whole. With a little collaboration from those willing to help, I am sure we can make this revolution happen.

If we could do that, my friend from the Prince’s Countryside Forum wouldn’t have to travel to London to share her love of cows – she could get online and share it with the world. But I’m sure, as with all things digital, she would still like to come and meet Prince Charles in person, and balance her online and offline worlds to suit her.

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet…

…for Auld Lang Syne – or so the song goes that we sing at the end of every year. Christmas and New Year are great opportunities to reflect on the last 12 months and to celebrate all of your successes, and for Good Things Foundation there have been a lot.

Here are my top Good Things moments from 2016 (in no particular order):

  • Becoming a charity

We long talked about becoming a charity and in March, thanks to the efforts of my team, we were finally able to make that leap. I was really pleased because the status fits with our ethos of supporting people to improve their lives for the better. What’s more, we were also able to retain our mutual status, making us one of only a handful of organisations to do so. It was a long and challenging journey but it really set us up for the road ahead – to reach the 12.6 million socially excluded people without digital skills across the UK.

  • Receiving my OBE from Prince Charles

In the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2015 I was awarded an OBE for services to digital inclusion. In February I visited Buckingham Palace to receive my OBE medal from HRH Prince Charles. It was a really proud and fun moment for me, especially when I made Prince Charles laugh. It was great to receive such a high profile award for something that I feel so passionately about and that I just ‘do’ as part of my day-to-day working life. And I’ve been lucky enough to meet the prince again since.

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  • English My Way celebration event

The first phase of our English My Way programme ended earlier this year and we held a celebration event at the beginning of May to commend the achievements of all the amazing learners and centres who were involved in the project. We know that there are still so many people across the UK who are unable to speak English and they’re missing out on so many opportunities, from applying and obtaining jobs, to everyday things such as ordering food in a restaurant. Seeing the difference that English My Way made to the lives of people is simply heartwarming and I wanted to re-share the video from our celebration event, so that if you missed it the first time you can see all the wonderful things the project has done, and will continue to do as we progress through phase 2.

  • Liz Williams becomes our new Chair

In May we made the announcement that Jim Knight, who has been our Chair for the last five years, was stepping down but staying on as a Patron of Good Things Foundation. I was very sad about it but also very happy about the fact that we found a new Chair in our long-time board member Liz Williams from BT. Liz already knows us very well – which is fantastic. She’s exceptional, committed and inspiring, and she recently did a tremendous review for the government on a basic digital skills qualification. I’m really looking forward to working even more closely with Liz and I know she’s going to bring so many new ideas and insight to her role as our Chair.

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  • NHS celebration event

As our Widening Digital Participation programme with NHS England drew to a close, we wanted to do something special to recognise our three year partnership. So in July we held a celebration event at the House of Lords in London, marking the launch of the final evaluation report produced by our research team. We invited along a lot of our partners but, most importantly, we invited the people who worked so hard on the ground throughout the entire three years. From helping the elderly to transforming lives, these people were the ones that made the project so successful, and it was only fitting that they were there with us to celebrate everything it achieved.

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Alicia and Victoria from the mHabitat centre at the launch of our report

  • Reaching 2 Million Learners

Following Get Online Week 2016 we were delighted when the counter on the (old) website finally hit 2 million learners. That’s right – since 2010 Good Things Foundation and the Online Centres Network have helped this many digitally excluded people to realise the benefits of getting online – which is amazing. It’s a key milestone which shows the real scale and impact that our work is having across the UK. We’re celebrating this achievement with the 2 Millionth Learner Awards, which is currently open for nominations. If you know an inspiring and amazing learner who deserves a real treat at the beginning of next year (a trip to a prestigious award ceremony at the BT Tower in London to receive a distinguished award), nominate them today.  

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  • Get Online Week’s 10th birthday

In October we held our 10th annual Get Online Week and I wanted to celebrate the big birthday by going out to 10 events to meet amazing learners and partners. There were so many incredible people doing incredible things and I especially enjoyed The Connection at St-Martin-in-the-Fields, just a few steps from Trafalgar Square in London. This amazing day centre does everything they can to help homeless people in the capital, from a digital skills drop-in and lessons to the provision of job interview clothes. I met a Big Issue salesman called Steve and I gave him a Learn My Way certificate – he told me his story and how the internet has helped him. I heard so many stories when I went on my Get Online Week visits and I was just so pleased that we’re able to help those in the Online Centres Network to help the people that need it most.

  • Rebranding as Good Things Foundation

At our conference in November I announced that we were changing our name from Tinder Foundation to Good Things Foundation, and we’re taking the network along for the ride, rebranding them as the Online Centres Network. In a move that was either crazy or brilliant, we also launched two new websites on the same day. I love the new name. We do good things all the time and it used to be our tag line – ‘We make good things happen with digital technology’. I feel like it reflects what we do much better than our old name did – and, of course, we will no longer be confused with ‘that’ dating app. I love the new names and I hope you do as well.

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  • Our fifth birthday

So, my final amazing moment of the year was when Good Things Foundation, the little social enterprise that I started, had our fifth birthday last week (1st December). Along with the Online Centres Network, we’ve continued to grow and evolve. Although our birthday celebration was a bit sad with Jim stepping down as Chair, looking back on everything that we’ve achieved in 2016 I feel that we’re ready to press on with our mission to ensure that everyone can benefit from digital.

On behalf of myself and the whole Good Things Foundation team I just want to thank the network and all of our partners for your hard work and your role in our continued success.

I personally would also like to thank the Good Things Foundation team. You’ve achieved so much this year, the redevelopment and launch of new look Learn My Way and our new websites to name just a few. You are amazing.

2016 has been a truly crazy year. The Brexit vote happened, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, and so many talented people were taken from us – I personally spent a lot of time listening to Purple Rain back in April.

But for Good Things Foundation it’s been an incredible year of change.

I’m off to Australia today to round off the year working with partners doing digital inclusion down under. As I won’t return back to the UK until Christmas Eve, this will probably be my last blog post of the year. I think it’s very fitting. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year. I’m looking forward continuing our mission to ensure that everyone in the world has the opportunity to benefit from digital and information technology in 2017.

All the best, I look forward to working with you in 2017.

Ch-ch-changes…so the song goes…

Our annual Digital Evolution conference was yesterday, it was so great to meet old friends and to make new ones. Working with a network full of inspiring, committed and expert people is so fulfilling, and us all getting together is an amazing experience. And it’s not just digital that’s evolving – yesterday I announced a new name and brand identity showing how Tinder Foundation and the UK online centres network are evolving too. Just in case you missed it, I announced a new name and logo for both and two sparkly new websites to accompany them: say hello to Good Things Foundation and the Online Centres Network.

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The question that has occupied us for a very long time now, is ‘how can we make good things happen with digital technology?’ It used to be our strapline when we first became Tinder Foundation and ‘doing good things’ has always been at the heart of what we do. Whether that’s helping the 12.6 million people who lack basic digital skills in the UK to find work, become healthier or just to stay in touch with family and friends more easily. We like to think that these skills, to them, are ‘good things’.

As time has passed, the words ‘good things’ just seem to keep cropping up again and again. For the past six years we’ve focussed on bringing digital confidence to those who can most benefit from them – growing and nurturing the Online Centres Network, building the Learn My Way platform and supporting over 2 million people to take their first steps with digital.

The landscape we’ve been working in has been rapidly changing and we’re talking to more partners, and extending our work to focus, not just on digital skills and inclusion, but more broadly on the impact that technology can have on solving some of the challenges that disadvantaged people face in the UK today – and across the rest of the world.

We’ve grown and built our own skills and capacity. We can see the huge potential to address some of the key social inclusion challenges we face, seeking out the hardest to reach and leveraging digital tools to make good things happen for those who need it most.

Gradually, it became clear that we needed to find a new name to better reflect what we do and to bring the Online Centres Network even closer to us. When we sat down and had a good think about what our name could be, those two words that kept cropping up, cropped up again. And we knew we’d found what we’d been looking for. So we chose Good Things Foundation.

What our new name means

This new name reflects our strategy, our ambition to use digital to address some of the most pressing social challenges we’re facing, working together with partners to help make good things happen – to change the lives of millions of people.

Focussing on the future, we’ve rebadged and repositioned the UK online centres network, as the Online Centres Network, so we can focus on the huge impact that these grassroots organisations can have working together with each other, and with the communities that support them.

Of course, we’ll still be providing the same support as ever to the Online Centres Network, including accurate data and MI, high quality training, support and resources, and the chance to take part in national programmes, campaigns and initiatives that have a real impact. The new Online Centres website, will help us to do this even more effectively.

From talking to members of the network, and other partners who value them so highly, it’s become clear that being part of a network is the key element in what makes the Online Centres Network so successful – sharing ambitions and challenges, and working together to achieve a common aim.

It’s the good things we can achieve together that matter and at Good Things Foundation, working together will be key to what we can achieve.

Thinking back, it has been fun at times to break the ice with “No, not that Tinder” but the confusion hasn’t always helped us to connect with everyone in the right way. We’re really excited about our new name, new brands, and our new websites. If you haven’t had a chance to look yet, please do check them out.

Now let’s move forward and work together to make even more good things happen.