Digital Evolution: A movement for social change

On 30th November we hosted our sixth annual conference – Digital Evolution: Social Change. There were around 200 people there – many of our partners in the Online Centres Network as well as many of our national partners. I wanted to share my opening speech from the event, I hope you like it:

Rather unconventionally I want to start by saying thank you! Thank you to everyone for all of the hard work you’ve been doing this year, particularly our Network Partners and my team who are amazing and who have had an incredible year so far.

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Last year I showed the trailer from I, Daniel Blake. Now, Ken Loach has made it free on YouTube, so if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s no excuse. The reason why I showed that trailer was because we know people like Daniel Blake are real. This is not fiction – it’s fact. We meet Daniel Blakes every time we’re in an Online Centre and many of you meet your own Daniel Blakes every day as you work in those tough communities, our poorest communities, where people are finding it hard to find work, to tackle the welfare system, to get on. The thing that I love about the work that we all do is that we don’t just give people digital skills, we give them confidence, resilience and we give them hope.

In February this year, we celebrated 2 million learners and I met two people that I want to tell you about. Marita who won the Learning for Health Award has an amazing story. She was actually someone that we featured when we reached one million learners when she had undiagnosed fibromyalgia and she had used her new internet skills to get diagnosed and get treatment. But, between the one million and two million marks, her teenage daughter Chance was diagnosed with spine cancer and Marita said if they hadn’t had the internet, they would have felt in the dark. It was amazing that she and her daughter can actually use Marita’s new skills, to use the internet for health, to actually feel like there was light at the end of the tunnel. Thankfully, Chance is now in remission.

The other person that I want to mention is Margaret. She was the winner in the Learning for Life category. She’d been struggling with alcoholism her whole life but luckily for her, she was able to get support from Blenheim REAL down in South London and they helped her to focus on something else, to focus on something new – learning on Learn My Way. The reason I’m singling out Margaret is because of my own personal experience in meeting her. When I gave her that award and shook her hand, she wouldn’t let go. She just kept saying “Thank you so much. My family are so proud of me. My family are so proud of me. They’ve never been proud of me before.”

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At Good Things, we have developed five underpinning principles for the work that we do and I hope that they resonate with you. The first and most important principle is that ‘we are committed to helping people improve their lives’.

Often when I talk to people about a ‘Network’ they think it’s a map with some dots on it. They think it’s bricks and mortar. But that’s not the point, it’s really about the people in the network. It’s about the people making that change and having that impact. It’s about us all working together to achieve social change. So our second principle is: ‘We lead a movement for social change’. Please do take a look at the video below to see for yourself the impact of the Online Centres Network.

Our third principle is: ‘We use digital technology to make change happen’ – of course we do! But the important thing here is that the work we do, the impact we all have – with people – is powered by digital. It’s digital in our back office as well, digital to provide you with those additional services, products and content, that really help you to turbocharge what you do. It’s digital to help us to unite, share and organise.

And it’s digital that supports your blended approach to supporting people to develop that digital understanding and personal confidence using Learn My Way. Today, we’re officially launching the new logo for Learn My Way. We’ve done this through working with you – with users. It’s like the conference it’s an ‘evolution’, not a ‘revolution’.

Our fourth principle is: ‘We do what works’. It seems so simple but it’s one of the ones I’m most proud of. We do what works and we’re tenacious. We keep on going. We deliver.

We also advocate and are advisors for government and other partners. We’re not buffeted by the world around us.

We’re also tenacious about piloting and testing and going back to the first principle, working with the people to make sure that we’re not doing anything that we don’t need to do. Because we’ve got to do the right thing.

We always do what we say we’ll do. An absolutely underpinning part of our behaviours is that we have integrity and every single one of the team would say that too. We always do what we say we’ll do.

Our last principle is that ‘we’re ambitious about the scale of our impact’. I’m ambitious and the older I get the more ambitious I get because I realise my time is running out and I want to use every minute of every day to have as much impact as possible in the world. I know my team and many of you feel the same way because the work we do is so important. It’s not just about helping one Margaret, one Marita or your equivalent of a Daniel Blake. It’s about helping tens, hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions of people like Margaret, and Marita, and Daniel Blake, and now by working together we’ve actually surpassed 2.3 million people that we’ve helped so far since 2010.

This year we’ve taken that ambition and that scale a little bit further by going to work in countries in other places around the world. In July, Emily and Michael went to Kenya to launch a new pilot working with libraries across Kenya to see if Learn My Way and the Digital Champion model can work for people across Kenya. Already we know that two people who have used Learn My Way in one of those libraries have now gone on to get jobs that they wouldn’t have got before. And we’re evaluating our work to see how digital inclusion can drive social inclusion and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

And the very big news is that in 2017 we set up a subsidiary organisation in Australia, we’ve set up a new office in Sydney. We have a $25m contract with the Australian Government ($20m of that is for grants, and it’s over 3-years) – to help older people thrive in a digital world. Then we have Jess, our new Director running things over there, and Jess is with us here today. In Australia, we have already set up a movement for social change with over 650 Network Partners joining us since August. Yes, we are ambitious about the scale of our impact.

I asked my team recently if they knew the story of JF Kennedy going to NASA and talking to the man he met sweeping the corridor. He asked him what he does and he said: “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” I asked my team what their equivalent is and they said: “I’m helping to create a world where everyone benefits from digital” – “I’m helping at least 3 million socially excluded people improve their lives through digital” – “I’m working not only in digital inclusion but in social inclusion or both at the same time.” They also said – “I’m helping empower and enable people all across the world” and one colleague said, “I’m helping to make the world more equal”. We can be ambitious about the scale of our impact when we all share the passion and commitment to improving people’s lives.

So that’s our strategy: We’re committed to helping people improve their lives; We lead a movement of social change, and that means everyone, not just us and our network partners, anybody that we work with and anywhere in the world; We use digital technology to underpin our work and to make change happen; We do works; and, We’re ambitious about the scale of our impact.

And it’s only by working together that we can make good things happen.

If you’d like to watch my full conference speech, you can do so here.

Making good things happen in Australia

I’ve been spending the last few weeks in Australia and this week was a big one. Christian Porter, Minister for Social Services, launched the Be Connected programme on Wednesday; he said: “Be Connected is another important step towards the Government’s goal to foster digital skills, access, and inclusion to empower everyone to thrive in a digital world.” We care about this as we’re working with the Australian Government to grow a digital inclusion movement for older people all across Australia. There is a great video about the programme you can take a look at here.

The last couple of months have been a bit of a whirlwind for me and the team – both in the UK and in Australia. It’s felt at times like we’re working for a start-up – meeting very important people in Canberra one day and getting phone lines installed, buying stationary and moving office furniture around the next. Of course, we’ve been working hard, meeting hundreds of new partners – national partners, state partners, and many, many local partners. And we’ve been getting used to our new policy and sector landscape and partners in Australia.

We’re excited to be working with the other Be Connected partners – the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and we’re learning lots from them.

 

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Me with new director Jess Wilson at the Online Safety – On the Edge conference

 

Looking back over the few months, I’m amazed at how much we’ve achieved; recruiting a team, including a great new Director Jess Wilson, holding nine events, meeting over 200 people and growing our network, which is now over 400 organisations strong.

I’ve met so many enthusiastic people, who are already having a huge impact on supporting older Australians to improve their digital skills and who are brilliant members of the network.

None of what we’ve done in Australia would be possible without the experience we’ve gained through running the Online Centres Network in the UK, and I’m proud that the UK government has been so forward-thinking in investing in a network which is now being replicated internationally.

The impact we’ve had in the UK has been amazing, as showcased at our 2 millionth Learner Awards earlier this year, and I’m already ambitiously planning on having a similar impact in Australia.

We’ve got exciting plans for the coming months, as we’ll be growing the network further, going out across the country to meet lots more people, and building many more partnerships that will help Good Things Foundation Australia to grow. Our mission is a world where everyone benefits from digital – and that’s just what we’re planning on making happen.

Seeing is believing

I’m currently in Australia working on the Be Connected project, setting up a new network of digital inclusion centres in Australia, quite similar to the Online Centres Network in the UK. A lot of what I do is inspired by the amazing work of the Online Centres and that’s why I’m so enthusiastic about using our UK experience here on the other side of the world. Now, thanks to two new videos which we launched in the UK last week, I can share that amazing work with others too.

The first video is about the impact of the Online Centres Network. The story is told by a handful of network members and it’s their passion and commitment to improving people’s lives and their communities through teaching digitals skills that really puts the point across in this video. I always say that Good Things Foundation and the Online Centres Network is a big club with a shared vision and I think this video really shows that we’re all in it together. Take a look and see for yourself.

If you run a community organisation or you know of one and you’d like to explore the benefits of joining the Online Centres Network more, take a look at our second video because not only does it summarise everything that being a member has to offer, it shows how great it is being a part of this big club.

If you’re a member of the Online Centres Network, if you believe in the work we do and share our vision for a world where everyone benefits from digital, or if you simply love the videos and feel inspired by them, please do share them on your channels (websites or social media) and spread the word about the Online Centres Network and all the amazing and dedicated individuals who are working hard everyday to help people overcome social challenges.

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.

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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.

An exciting future for Good Things Foundation

If you follow me or any of the team on Twitter, you’ll have noticed we’ve been advertising some exciting new jobs. These new jobs are part of a new way of working at Good Things Foundation that will see us grow as an organisation, develop new cohesive programmes that drive social change, and test and pilot the best approaches to helping people to improve their lives.

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Our mission is a world where everyone can benefit from digital. Everything we do is to help us achieve this mission. All our work is now focused in two new programmes: digital inclusion and social inclusion. We have projects and partnerships within these to ensure we’re having the biggest impact possible.

Our Digital Inclusion programme is led by Adam Micklethwaite. We want to close the digital divide once and for all, and ensure everyone has the skills, self efficacy and confidence to thrive in a digital world. The Digital Inclusion programme will include our large-scale DfE-funded Future Digital Inclusion programme, which has already helped hundreds of thousands of people to improve their basic digital skills, and it will include other important projects including training Digital Champions, developing new content, supporting rural hubs, and helping small businesses funded by partners including Lloyds Banking Group, Google, Prince’s Countryside Fund, and TalkTalk. The programme will also include place-based approaches, working with councils like Leeds and Sunderland. We’re also going global to share our digital inclusion expertise and ideas with projects in Australia.

Our Social Inclusion programme is headed up by Charlotte Murray. We want socially excluded people to have better lives and we achieve this by using digital to drive positive social outcomes and tackle some of our most pressing social challenges. Our Social Inclusion programme has at its heart tackling inequalities such as lack of English language skills, loneliness and isolation, and financial exclusion. The programme includes our work with the Money Advice Service, the Department for Communities and Local Government, Comic Relief, NHS, HMRC and the Big Lottery Fund. As with digital inclusion, we’re also going global with social inclusion with a pilot in Kenya to assess the social impact of digital literacy alongside the Sustainable Development Goals. Charlotte and her team will ensure what we’re doing in this space has deep impact on the most excluded in society today.

A third new Directorate will drive a new way of designing and innovating interventions that make a difference in digital and social inclusion. This new Design and Innovation Directorate is led by Bea Karol Burks. Our aim is to pilot and test new approaches to tackling both digital and social exclusion interventions and projects that can then be scaled. I’m really excited about this new approach that we’ll be taking, and piloting and design won’t just be a new team, but a new approach we’ll be taking to ensure our work is having an impact.

Thanks to everyone who has supported Good Things Foundation – from staff past and present, to our partners across the country who have made what we do possible. I’m really excited about the future, and I know we’ll continue to have a huge impact – through our network, our digital platforms, and our partnerships. If you think you can play a role, and you’re passionate about the things that we are, then do get in touch.

The biggest news of the week…

…to me anyway. Today, I gave the keynote for the launch of Lloyds Banking Group’s Consumer Digital Index 2017, where I talked about the importance of improving digital skills for the people who are most excluded in our society and how we can all be part of that solution by working together across sectors. One big piece of news to come out of the launch was that in the past year, 1.1 million more people in the UK now have the five basic digital skills they need to thrive in our digital society. This means that the 12.6 million that I’m always talking about has gone down to 11.5 million.

Of course this is still a considerable amount of people but it’s great news as it certainly means we’re moving in the right direction.

 

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Image courtesy of Lloyds Banking Group’s Consumer Digital Index 2017

 

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This is the second Consumer Digital Index that has been compiled by Lloyds Banking Group and it is a valuable resource for the tech industry, providing a unique view of, not only the digital capability, but the financial capability of the UK population.

This year’s Index has the addition of a ‘Basic Digital Skills measure’ which paints a clear picture of the state of our digital nation. The measure is designed by digital skills charity Doteveryone and looks at the five skills which help people make the most of the internet: managing information, transacting online, communicating, problem solving and creating.

Of course, the main focus on the Index is on money and financial capability, so it also contains the new addition of quantitative research from the financial inclusion charity Toynbee Hall, in order to paint a clearer picture of those who don’t have a bank account and their financial and digital needs. FYI, the number of UK adults who do not have a bank account is 1.71m.

Key findings

One of the main findings is that the 63% of people who do not have a bank account but who do have a smartphone cope fairly, or sometimes, well with money, however there are still 16.2m people who need more support with financial education.

Financial resilience is a big problem for a lot of people in the UK. The Index has found that without their regular income, 30% of people wouldn’t be able to manage financially for more than a month – this rises to 48% for low income households.

 

Financial capability

Image courtesy of Lloyds Banking Group’s Consumer Digital Index 2017

 

In terms of savings, digital can help. The Index has found that digitally capable people are saving more than twice as much as those who are not and the average amount that people can save per year by using discount and cashback websites is £444 – a massive saving. It also found that 67% of people have used online banking to help avoid paying overdraft fees.

Digital Capability

Image courtesy of Lloyds Banking Group’s Consumer Digital Index 2017

 

Digital Motivation

Despite the fact that there are now 1.1 million more people in the UK with digital skills, there are still challenges in motivating the people who have never used the internet (the “offline”). Motivation is very important, because without it, people simply won’t do it.

68% of the offline population actually said that nothing could motivate them to get online but 45% of people said they turn to friends and family to learn how to use the internet.

Barriers

Image courtesy of Lloyds Banking Group’s Consumer Digital Index 2017

 

In Online Centres across the UK, staff and volunteers are motivating people to get online. Whether that’s by tailoring devices to their needs, piquing their interest by showing them videos of their favourite music artists on YouTube or showing someone whose family lives abroad that they can speak with them via Skype. It’s all about engagement and once they’ve found that spark, more often than not, it’s followed by a roaring fire.

Powerful recommendations

One of the recommendations in the Index states that ‘the best way to increase the pace of change in the level of financial and digital skills’ is with direct dialogue, either through face-to-face support or peer-to-peer guidance. I am very much on board with this. Good Things Foundation works with over 5,000 local centres across the UK – the Online Centres Network. We’re a big club with a shared vision; a social movement and every day the volunteers and tutors in these centres help people, like Daniel Blake (from the film “I, Daniel Blake”). They are genuine trusted faces in very local places, reaching those most in need.

Another recommendation is to widen the conversation – according to the Index 43% of people don’t know where to go for help to learn digital skills. To reach this 43%, it’s more important than ever for us all to work together. For example, Lloyds Banking Group staff can point their customers towards their local Online Centre to gain help.

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On the panel with Leigh Smyth and Sarah Porretta from Lloyds Banking Group, Sian Williams from Toynbee Hall and Karen Price from the Tech Partnerhship

 

I was delighted that we were a partner in reviewing and advising on the Index, and I was also delighted to be given the opportunity to speak at the launch. Lloyds Banking Group is a great partner of ours and they really do get it. They get that helping people to be digitally included helps people to have a better life, and it’s better for society, and for the bank too. They are exemplar partners, embedding digital inclusion right across their banking divisions.

Final musings

Everybody can help – Government, big companies, small organisations, individuals – but we need to do this quicker. We can all do more, everyone including Lloyds and Good Things Foundation and the Online Centres Network. If we all work harder as well as better together, we can make sure everyone everywhere is on the same page and we’ll be able to achieve so much more – even if it’s simply pointing digitally challenged friends or family towards their local Online Centre.

At next year’s Digital Index launch, we don’t want to be celebrating another 1 million people helped – we want to be celebrating 2 million, 3 million, 4 million more.

As Nick Williams from Lloyds Banking Group said: “We shouldn’t give up, we can’t give up, we won’t give up.”

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.