A movement for social change

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

House of Lords collage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paving the way for a leading digital nation

Recently I attended a breakfast debate and the launch of a publication called ‘The UK: A leading digital nation’, a project between Matt Warman MP and Brands2Life – a digitally-led communications agency. The government are in the process of creating a digital strategy and in parallel to this, project experts were invited from technology, business and politics to put forward their thoughts on what they think will really help make the UK a leading digital nation. I was delighted to be one of those experts.

Helen quote

My quote in the publication. Image courtesy of Brands2Life ‘The UK: A leading digital nation?’



The publication looks at particular key areas:

  • Upskilling the nation with digital skills and to use new technology, with particular focus on young people and businesses.
  • The provision of 10Mbps broadband for everyone.
  • The digitisation of public services.
  • How the process of changing laws and decision-making creates a challenge for getting the regulatory environment right, when tech innovation changes the sector.

At the event Matt Warman MP said that ‘infrastructure and skills must go hand-in-hand’. He said ‘skills are not just about coding but about preparing for a digital working life’. I recently read a piece of research that found UK businesses aren’t doing enough to upskill their current workforce, instead choosing to hire younger staff for their digital output. On the other side of the spectrum, despite their tech-savvy reputation it was also found that one in three 18-34 year-olds are worried about being left behind at work because they lack digital skills.

If Britain wants to be a leading digital nation we have to put time, effort and money into upskilling everyone, so they can survive in our new technology-driven world. The government has a big part to play in that. As my quote says, they need to show sustained leadership to tackle the three key barriers to digital inclusion: motivation, skills and access.

At the event Anthony Walker, deputy CEO at TechUK, said that ‘digital should make the world a better place: fix finances and bring everyone together’ and I agree. We all need to work together to make sure that can happen. With more and more services moving online – especially public services – most people need even the most basic of digital skills to get by.

For basic digital skills, Learn My Way is a great resource for people looking to begin their learning journey and if they want to talk to someone face-to-face they can easily locate their local UK online centre by using the search on our website. Our community partners are more than happy to help. To date we’ve supported over a whopping 1.8 million people to get online through the network and by 2020 we want to have helped even more.

Have a read of the ‘The UK: A leading digital nation’ report here to see what you think, but I believe that if everyone in the UK – public and private sectors, government, and the population themselves – commit to making sure every single person in the UK has even just the basic digital skills, then that’s a start to making sure we can become a truly leading digital nation.

Transforming people’s lives, building a stronger economy

This is my speech from Tinder Foundation’s Digital Evolution: Building a digital nation conference. 

We’re all here as we share the same passion and the same ambition. We all want everyone in the UK to have the opportunities and benefits of digital.

It wouldn’t be the Tinder Foundation conference if we didn’t launch our annual infographic with all the stats and facts you need if you’re thinking about digital inclusion. That great chasm – that cleft, an abyss – between the people who benefit from basic digital skills and those who don’t is a fitting metaphor for the divided society we live in and the wasted opportunity that we as a nation are facing.

Digital Nation infographic

This year there are a few differences – and one is the number of people lacking basic digital skills has gone up! It’s a good thing .. believe me. Thanks to our very good friends at Go On UK we now have a clear definition of the five basic digital skills and a robust measure of who’s lacking them. 12.6m people – that’s 1 in 5 adults who need support.

Of course it’s a picture of exclusion but it’s also important to have the stats on the benefits too. A report we published earlier this week shows the economic benefit to the NHS for everyone having basic digital skills is £131 million a year.

We commissioned economists CEBR to measure the net present value of everyone in the UK having basic digital skills. Digital is an amazing benefit but also a huge threat as it levels the playing field and makes the economic competition truly global.

Here’s the maths. Taking the cost of investment, the benefits to people and to government the NPV (net present value) is over £14 billion, or £2.5 bn a year from 2024. We’re facing a new industrial revolution and digital is the architect – with all jobs and all workplaces underpinned by digital.

Today is the spending review announcement we know that Cameron has already pledged £1.7 bn in broadband over the next five years, let’s see today if George Osborne will announce investment in the people and the new basic skills they need to use that infrastructure and to fuel this new, digital £2.5 bn annual productivity boost.

Let’s not talk about digital inclusion – it makes people think of technology and this is a revolution about people. It’s not digital inclusion, it’s about transforming people’s lives, and about building a stronger economy.

It’s about people like Pat and Wendy who use digital to make the NHS work better for them and to improve their health and Mike who had no hope for a job moving to multiple job offers. It’s about transforming their lives and the hundreds and thousands of people helped every day across the country by organisations – community organisations and libraries – like many of you in the room today.

Every single person having the opportunity to be part of this digital revolution, every person making our economy stronger.