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.

 

1.1 million

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.

Panel session

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.

Dementia, digital, and doing things differently

At Tinder Foundation, it’s our job to make good things happen through digital technology – and to make them happen for the hardest to reach, most isolated and excluded audiences. That includes the 850,000 or so people in the UK with dementia – and their carers.

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Godfrey, 68, was knocked sideways by his Alzhiemer’s diagnosis. He describes the disease as like  ‘living life in slow motion’. He stopped socialising, and shut himself away. One day, one of our UK online centre research partners (Age UK South Tyneside) visited his care home, and were showing some YouTube videos of old music performances – including Frank Sinatra. He went over to see what was happening.

Gradually Godfrey learned how to use a tablet. He needed a lot of help – a few simple icons to press for each activity he wanted to do – and different smells to help him recall the processes for each one.

Now Godfrey can Skype his son or daughter with just a touch of a button. He can look up his favourite musicians, and find new music. He’s become a fan of Seasick Steve, and his Grandson in Australia thinks he’s ‘cool’. He’s ordering his prescriptions online now, and he’s found out more about Alzheimer’s disease – so he feels more in control. He’s also joined some specialist groups so he’s getting out and about more.

In Godfrey’s own words, “You don’t realise what you can do until you try it out and it has really helped me stop feeling sorry for myself, snap out of my depression and start looking forward to things again.”

I believe digital skills really can help everyone and anyone live better, more fulfilling lives. And at Tinder Foundation we’ve had a look in greater depth at the role of digital skills and community-based support in improving the health and wellbeing of families affected by dementia.

Today, we’re launching a new research report – Dementia and Digital: Using technology to improve health and wellbeing, that begins to track the impact of technology on both people like Godfrey who have dementia, and their carers. It also scopes out the challenges and barriers to engagement and delivery, and what really works to make technology work well for these audiences.

This small, in-depth research follows on from our three year programme with NHS England to widen participation in digital health. Our aim has always been to reduce health inequalities – recognising the huge crossover between those who are digitally excluded and those at risk of poor health.

It is important to note that carers deserve as much of our time and support as the people they love and care for, and have equal prominence in our report. With so much on their plates already, they were often reluctant to add digital skills to their to-do lists, or to facilitate the learning of those they cared for. Once engaged, though, carers have found digital technology a lifeline. It is a way to create space in their lives for themselves, accessing support, saving time on everyday tasks, and helping the people they care for find both coping strategies and memories.

Ken Brown looks after wife Val, who has vascular dementia. As her appetite has faded, he’s been able to use the internet to research if this was part of her illness, find reassurance and new recipes and tactics to help her start eating more. For Ken, the internet has just made life that bit easier. “It means I’ve got somewhere to go, rather than sitting and thinking ‘what do I do now?’”

Digital doesn’t solve any problems all by itself. But it can help us do things differently, and in doing so make a difference to health, wellbeing and quality of life. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with the NHS, with frontline health and care professionals, and with organisations that support people with memory loss and their carers, to ensure these benefits can be realised as widely as possible.

The full Dementia and Digital report can be found on our website. I do hope you enjoy reading it. If you can help us expand our work and take these findings forwards, please do get in touch – hello@tinderfoundation.org.

 

Miles together

At the end of August I spied the Australian Digital Inclusion Index – a new report highlighting the extent of the digital skills gap in Australia and setting down a benchmark to measure future action. I found it particularly interesting as we’ve just started working with an Australian organisation called Leep – and their CEO, Cecily Michaels, is coming to speak at our conference in November.

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Me and Cecily at Harbour Bridge, Sydney

 

As I read the Index, although we’re about 9,500 miles apart, I couldn’t help but feel like there are a lot of similarities between our two countries when it comes to digital exclusion – and here’s why.

In the UK there are 12.6 million people who lack basic digital skills; in Australia the key barrier for some people to getting online and maximising the benefits that doing so can bring is digital ability. It’s clear to me that there is a digital divide in both of our countries and it’s important for organisations – like us and like Leep – to make sure we’re bringing digital skills to those who need it most.

The UK online centres network supports several different groups, from jobseekers to homeless people to older people, and one group that we focus on in particular is disabled people. There are 5.9 million people in the UK who have never used the internet before, and of those 3.3 million are disabled. In Australia the stats are similar: the report states: “People with disability have a low level of digital inclusion (44.4, or 10.1 points below the national average). However, nationally, their inclusion has improved steadily (by 2.6 points since 2014), outpacing the national average increase (1.8 points).”

Leep and Tinder Foundation are now working on a project together in Western Sydney, called the “Leep in Network” – a movement for digital inclusion and people with disability. The aim is to support people with disabilities to develop the basic digital skills needed to participate in society and experience all the benefits that being online can bring. Anyone can join the network: organisations, businesses and councils who are offering services to increase digital inclusion for people with disability, such as learning opportunities, access to free WiFi or computers.

Partners will feature on the network’s free online searchable database – created by us here in the UK – so that people with a disability in Western Sydney can find an opportunity that suits them to develop their basic digital skills. We’ll also be keeping partners up-to-date with newsletters and resources to support them with their digital inclusion programmes.

We will be sharing and tweeting the new tools very soon, so watch out for those, especially if you’re working in or interested in Western Sydney.

It’s all about teamwork

I couldn’t be happier that we’re working with Leep to deliver this project, and hopefully this is just the beginning of working together. We may be 9,500 miles apart but we’re working very closely together.

As an organisation, Tinder Foundation wants a world where everyone can benefit from digital – not just people in the UK. We want to take the digital inclusion message far and wide and we want to reach out to those who need our help.

I really can’t wait for Cecily to share our partnership journey at the conference later this year – make sure you don’t miss out on that one. And in the meantime, please do take a look at the Australian Digital Inclusion Index. It’s a very interesting read and proves that digital exclusion isn’t a nationwide problem, it’s worldwide – and there’s work to be done.

Digital health skills: Reducing inequalities, improving society

Today I’ll be at the House of Lords, launching our final report on the NHS Widening Digital Participation in Health programme.

Over the last three years of the programme, our aim has been to help people improve their digital skills, learn more about digital health, and improve their own health and wellbeing as a result. We have targeted those with least digital experience and most health needs in the heart of their communities.

With all of the challenges we currently face as a society, and with all of the pressures on the NHS, giving people digital health skills may seem like it’s not that much of a priority.

I’ll try and explain why it is.

There are 12.6 million people in the UK who don’t have basic digital skills and these people are those who are most likely to be suffering from poor health. They are also those most likely to be further disadvantaged by age, education, income, disability, or unemployment.

The fact is that there is a huge crossover between those who are digitally excluded, those who are socially excluded, and those at risk of poor health. The Widening Digital Participation programme aimed to see how action on one front could influence the others.

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Ron Dale from Inspire Communities

Ron first went into Inspire Communities – a UK online centre in Hull and one of our pathfinder centres for this programme – because he was about to be sanctioned by Jobcentre Plus for not meeting his job search commitments. Ron was homeless, had a gambling habit, as well as serious mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. He was living in a tent on the motorway, on the occasional Pot Noodle and coffee. He was often hungry and cold, and his physical and mental health were going downhill.

Part of the problem was that Ron’s relationship with his GP surgery had deteriorated, and he refused to go. With the help of Inspire Communities, he was able to look at NHS Choices for advice on managing his symptoms, and to find a new GP. He was able to register and make an appointment online without having to run the gauntlet of travel, receptionists, and other patients.

Plugging him back into the healthcare system was key in helping to connect him to the wider support he needed – and digital was key in doing this. Now he’s found new housing, taking an active role in his own healthcare, meeting his Jobcentre Plus obligations and dealing with his gambling addiction.

Digital matters. Digital health matters.

And Ron’s story isn’t just a one off. Throughout the programme, we’ve found that giving people the digital health skills they need means they’re empowered to take control of their health, improving the ongoing management of chronic health conditions, and helping them to interact better with health and social care services.

We’ve also seen how digital inclusion can improve the social determinants of health – with better digital skills improving prospects for employment, income generation, educational achievement, and social connections. 52% of participants said they felt less lonely or isolated, and 62% stated that they felt happier as a result of more social contact. More than half said they have since have gone on to use the internet to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

On top of this, the programme has also shown that improving digital health skills has the power to reduce the pressure on frontline NHS services. By helping people to move non-urgent medical queries from face-to-face and emergency channels to online ones, we found we could potentially save the NHS an estimated £6 million a year, representing a £6 return on investment for every £1 spent on the programme over the last three years.

In summary, The Widening Digital Participation programme – and the local partnerships between UK online centres and local health and care providers that it has nurtured – has been proven to drive up the quality of care and drive down both health inequalities and health costs, ultimately improving society as a whole. And that’s definitely a result worth celebrating.

You can read more about the programme and download a copy of the report here: nhs.tinderfoundation.org.

Calling England’s libraries, the time to plan for the future is now

Back in October 2015 we launched a six-month project called the Library Digital Inclusion Fund in consultation with the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce, funding 16 library services in our network of community partners to run innovative schemes with the aim of increasing their digital inclusion activities, thus increasing their potential and cementing their place in society. Yesterday we launched our research findings from that project, proving that libraries’ community roots and partnerships can address social and digital exclusion – but that more needs to be done.

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The library sector seems to be suffering an existential crisis. They are facing tough times. This new project has established that libraries can, with help, reach those most in need (the 12.6 million people in the UK lacking basic digital skills), helping to connect them to digital information and skills. They work from the ground up and often have the resources – free-to-use WiFi and technology, such as laptops and tablets – that learners need. This makes them an integral part of communities everywhere and to lose any one of them is a great loss. Libraries need to live up to their enormous potential before time runs out. But what can we do?

England’s libraries need a solid digital inclusion strategy

The library sector needs to look ahead and develop a plan for the future. A key element is securing investment to make sure they have the most up-to-date equipment and services. During this year’s Be Online campaign I visited Leeds Libraries and went with them on an outreach session to visit a lovely lady called Molly. It was Molly’s first day with the project – she was learning about the internet through the Libraries@Home service and borrowing an iPad with a SIM card (which was developed as part of the Libraries Digital Inclusion Fund project). Without the proper investment, services such as this will no longer exist, and those already suffering social exclusion will be worse off as a result.

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We also need to think about how libraries can plug into other services to help communities and individuals to thrive. For example libraries could work together with local social housing providers to bring their outreach services to tenants who are otherwise unable to access technology and the online world. This kind of partnership would benefit libraries in so many ways, not least by helping them to prove their worth to local authorities, funders and the wider world, in terms of social impact and economic, digital-by-default support.

Now here comes the stats bit (you knew it would be in here somewhere). We’ve done a few calculations to work out the potential savings to local and national government in the areas where the library services participating in the project are based. Based on what we know about the way our learners shift from using face-to-face and telephone services to online channels, we would expect potential cost savings of more than £800,000 per year just through the project beneficiaries alone. If similar low-scale activities to those which took place throughout the project were implemented across all 151 library services in England, a potential £7.5 million per year of cost savings could be achieved.

Utilising technology and making plans to advance their digital work shows that libraries aren’t just about books any more – it shows that they’re moving with the times and planning for the future. I believe that libraries are not out-dated and not a thing of the past; I believe that libraries are an essential part of communities all across the UK and that they all have the potential to mould themselves and adapt to the developing technological world.

Our project supported more than 1,600 people to improve their digital skills at over 200 branch libraries. Target audiences included elderly people, families in poverty, disabled people and the long term unemployed, with activities ranging from job search skills to keeping in touch; connecting with essential government services to managing long term health conditions; understanding benefits to following hobbies.

Libraries may be an old concept but they are by no means obsolete. At Tinder Foundation we believe that we can help libraries with investment and strategy and this research very much shows that. The time to start planning for the future is now – let’s do it together.

Read our Library Digital Inclusion Fund Action Research Project evaluation report here.