1 million supported, but we’re nowhere near finished

Today we were delighted to announce that our Future Digital Inclusion programme, funded by the Department for Education (DfE), has helped over 1 million people, since 2014, to gain the basic digital skills they need for life and work. This has been the result of a great partnership with DfE, whose staff genuinely understand the wider social impact of basic digital skills on the lives of socially excluded people, and with thousands of hyperlocal community partners across the Online Centres whose special abilities both engage and support people in the heart of their communities for whom digital blended with great human face-to-face support is the lifeline they’ve been looking for.

It’s been an incredible journey to get here and I’ve met so many amazing people along the way. Here a few of them:

  • Bertram Henry was a learner in Manchester. He suffered a breakdown and could barely bring himself to leave the house. Eventually, he felt up to visiting the Jobcentre and they recommended he go along to his local Online Centre, First Asian Support Trust (FAST). He completed lots of courses on Learn My Way, improving his knowledge and confidence. Now he’s been able to find a job as well. Bertram says: “I feel bright in the morning now, because I’ve got somewhere to go, and something constructive to do. I’m not down in the dumps anymore”

Hear Bertram’s story, and how happy he was to win one of our 2 Millionth Learner Awards: 

  • Edith Ball from Preston learned digital skills at her local Online Centre – The Intact Centre. She was cautious about getting online but now there’s no stopping her – she’s using Skype and emails to talk to family abroad, surfing the internet to find out all sorts of information, and much more. She’s delighted with her new skills and is much less lonely as a result. Edith says: “Before I came here, I just sat in the house on my own, but coming to the IT classes brings me out of the house and gives me something interesting to do. I’m never bored and I enjoy everything I do there. I do still get a bit nervous using the computers but I would recommend it to anyone. The whole world is there online – you’ve just got to have the courage to go in and look!”

Hear more about Edith’s journey from the lady herself in this video, released as part of Get Online Week: 

  • Rory Whittaker from Lincolnshire is a young contract farmer. He learned digital skills with his local Online Centre Lincs Training to diversify his business in new and exciting ways, meaning he can be profitable all year round. Rory says: “For all businesses in today’s current climate, evolution is vital, and even more so if you’re a rural business. You don’t want to get left behind. You need constant financial and time investment and you need to learn how to do things more easily. I think the best way to grow a business is to find a model that works and apply it to what you know. Having great people and great projects supporting you like Rich and the team from Lincs Training makes that journey even better.”

See more of Rory’s story in this video, released as part of the Get Online Week campaign: 

An incredible journey

It has been a real journey to get to 1 million, made possible by the hard work and dedication of the 5,000-strong Online Centres Network. 80% of the people they’ve supported face some form of social exclusion, including poverty, low skills or a disability.

The programme has helped people to achieve a range of positive outcomes, with 86% of learners progressing to further learning, 76% increasing their employability, 60% improving their health and wellbeing, and 84% able to use public services online.

Our recently released Economic impact of Digital Inclusion in the UK report found that the benefits of learning digital skills are endless. From time savings (undertaking financial and government transactions online could mean an estimated value of £1.1bn saved by 2028), NHS savings (the more people that can use the online world to help manage their health, the more savings can be made – estimated at £141 million by 2028) and transaction benefits (being able to shop online, taking advantage of discounts and more, could collectively save people across the UK an estimated £1.1 billion by 2028).

Digital skills are so important in many aspects of life and reaching 1 million learners through the Future Digital Inclusion programme is an incredible achievement. I am so proud. Thank you to the Good Things team, the Online Centres Network, but most of all, the learners for being so brave and having the confidence to take that first step into online life.

There is still more to be done though. 11.3 million UK adults still lack at least one basic digital skill and 4.3 million have no digital skills at all. We will continue supporting Online Centres to help learners to make the most of the online world, but this is something that needs collaboration and, of course, the ‘F’ word (funding).

It’s not just about supporting people to be more digitally able and it’s not just about the new skills they’ve learned – it is what people can do with these skills that matters, and how they can apply them to their lives – to be digitally active – to apply for work for example, or to email a family member who lives far away, or join an online forum to help them lose weight and reduce their risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

At Good Things, we want everyone to be digitally equal – so they can participate in the digital society like others can and do. If people aren’t digitally equal, they’re excluded from an increasingly digital society. We don’t want this to happen – and so we’re campaigning for a 100% digital nation. These million people we’re celebrating today brings us that one step closer.

Wrapping up 2018 for Good Things Foundation

Tis the season to look back at the year we’ve had at Good Things Foundation. Earlier this month we celebrated our seventh birthday, and I’m so proud of our teams on both sides of the world. Seven feels like such a turning point, and what a good year we’ve had to show it.

Good Things Christmas

My Good Things UK colleagues cutting the annual birthday cake


Here are my top five of so many wonderful moments:

  • Celebrating English My Way’s successes

In February we usually host a smaller digital inclusion campaign – think of it as Get Online Week’s little sister – but this year we decided to do something a bit different and we hosted a campaign called Hip Hip Hooray for English My Way. This one focussed on our big social inclusion project which helps people who live in the UK and who can’t speak any English to learn to speak and read English and help them to integrate more into their local communities. The fab titled Hip Hip Hooray for English My Way campaign asked members of the Online Centres Network who are delivering English My Way to host parties and celebrate their learners’ successes, using a special party pack provided by us. There was bunting! I visited an event at Zest for Work in Sheffield and was blown away by the dedication of both the team running the course and the learners themselves and all of the food the people had brought along representing dozens of countries from around the world. It was an inspirational time.

  • Welcoming new faces to the Good Things Foundation family

This was a year of growth. We’ve expanded right across the digital and social inclusion sphere and that means we’ve welcomed lots of great new people into the Good Things family. And what a great bunch they are! I’m delighted by the enthusiasm and commitment they all have to our aim of a world where everyone can benefit from digital. Once again, to all the new people, we’re delighted to have you on board. To all of the not-so-new staff members at Good Things, you’re brilliant and fabulous, and passionate and committed too, thank you once again for another year of hard work.

  • Hitting 2,000 network partners in Australia

In 2017 we ventured out to Australia, establishing a new Australian subsidiary and winning a contract to run the Be Connected Network, supporting older Australians to use computers and the internet. There has been a crazy amount of hard work gone into getting everything set up, recruiting our team in Sydney, and persuading thousands of organisations to be part of the Be Connected Network. We had a target of 2,000 Network Partners and at the end of October, we did it! And of course, that number is still rising. What a huge achievement by the teams on both sides of the world. A big congratulations to everyone who made this happen and here’s to the hundreds of thousands of older people who will now be able to benefit from using the internet. Find out more about Good Things Australia here.

  • Get Online Week is 12 and goes global

This year may have seen the UK celebrating it’s 12th annual Get Online Week but it was very exciting that we also went global to bring the campaign to Australia as well. Not only were people being supported to #Try1Thing new online through 2,298 events in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but 768 events were also held across Australia by 570 community organisations to support people there too. Incredible achievements from both Good Things teams and all of the organisations that hosted events to support learners.

  • Awards, awards and more awards

We have been very lucky on the award front this year. Not only did we scoop a Women in IT Award, a Charity Times Award and a Connected Britain Award, in the last few weeks we won two awards at the Learning Technology Awards – the bronze for Best Blended Learning Product and our Learning Team won the gold for Team of the Year. The work that we do is very rewarding in itself but it’s been brilliant to receive this recognition. Congratulations to all.

On top of all of this, we had our amazing Digital Evolution conference; we continued to support people to learn digital skills through our FDI programme; we’re working on a brilliant project with DCMS to create a ‘Playbook’ for local digital skills provision (if you’d like to contribute, you can do so here); we ran a wonderful programme to support women to find their voice and participate in society and democracy, called Voicebox Cafes; we’re working on the local, as well as the global level, in Leeds, Salford, and Stockport; our NHS Widening Digital Participation project has been testing even more innovative approaches to tackling health inequalities in hyperlocal digital and human health systems with medical practitioners, CCGs, and Online Centres, and talking about our findings in the open on our digital-health-lab; of course we’re also working with partners in Kenya; and so much more. (No wonder we’re all looking forward to a rest this Christmas!)

We have continued to work with fabulous national partners who share our vision at Lloyds Banking Group, Mind, Homeless Link, TalkTalk, and Google, as well as new partners too.

And there are even more super exciting things in the wings that I can’t tell you about yet!!!

Thank you to everyone who has worked to make good things happen over the course of 2018.

I can’t wait to do it all again – and more – in 2019.

Digital. Social. Global.

Last week we hosted our Digital Evolution conference in the BT Centre. It was great to have tech evangelist and Desert Island Discs superstar, Professor Sue Black chairing the day. I have known Sue for a long time and knew she would be an exciting and engaging addition to our line-up. She did not disappoint. Sue, you did an excellent job chairing the day and we were so happy to have you there. Thank you.

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Me with Dr Sue Black and Victoria Rodney of the Mercy Foundation in London. Image courtesy of Victoria Rodney.

There were so many brilliant speakers who all set out to inspire the audience and share their experiences to bring new ideas and learning to the delegates.

A definite highlight of the day for me was meeting members of the Online Centres Network, as always. You might have been inspired by the speakers but you all inspire me. What you do every day, helping disadvantaged people to make the most of everything digital has to offer, to find work, to make new friends, to build their confidence … that’s just to name a few things, you are amazing and it was so brilliant to speak with you. If I didn’t manage to catch you on the day, I’m always happy to chat. Tweet me at @helenmilner.

Some delegates even came from as far as Australia, Belgium, and the Netherlands! The conference was called Digital. Social. Global after all, and it was great to welcome faces from afar. And it was great that Jess Wilson, our National Director in Good Things in Sydney was there and shared some stories and experiences from Australia.

For those who couldn’t make our conference, you can catch up on the different sessions below. I’m already looking forward to next year!

Another spectacular Get Online Week

We’ve now closed the curtain on our twelfth annual Get Online campaign  – and what a week it’s been.

This year has marked several big achievements, including:

  • Going global: for the first time ever, Get Online Week has taken place in Australia as well as the UK
  • Exciting new marketing materials: sponsorship from Lloyds Banking Group meant we were able to provide event holders with tote bags, headphones and selfie frames
  • A campaign within a campaign: Get Online Week has fallen at the same time as our Bridging the Digital Divide campaign, meaning we’re raising double the awareness of digital exclusion.

A tour around Aus – #GOLWroadshow18

In Australia, members of our team went out to visit different events all across the country. This might not seem like such a big thing to us here in the UK, but with Australia being around 32 times bigger than the UK, it’s no mean feat!

National Director Jess braved a smaller aeroplane than most of us are used to, to make it to Canberra, and Partnerships Manager Cass was off to Adelaide. Meanwhile, Bridget made it all the way to Perth in Western Australia – almost 4,000 miles from Good Things Australia HQ in Sydney!

There were so many different events, from your familiar Get Online Week drop-in session to a ‘BBQ & Digital Skills’ or a ‘Digital Scavenger Hunt’. With 570 organisations registered and 768 events on the map, it was a spectacular first campaign for the Get Online Week Australia team.

GOLW-Aus

And in the UK…

The Good Things Foundation team were out and about at libraries, social housing providers, funding roadshows and more. We also made full use of the selfie frame in the office by seeing how many people we could squeeze into one picture!

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How many Good Things staff members can we fit into one picture? Lots!

My colleague Chris Andersson had a particularly good visit to Keighley in West Yorkshire where he met Barabara who’d seen an advert that Online Centre Airedale Enterprise Services had placed in the local newspaper.

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Barbara gets online to #Try1Thing

 

Barbara was a complete online beginner but had been bought an iPad by family members. Like many, however, she’d found that family are not always the most patient teachers so she jumped at the offer of free and friendly support. She was more than happy to board the community bus where the event was taking place and #Try1Thing!

There’s been lots of amazing activity taking place across the Online Centres Network and beyond, and I have loved seeing what you’ve been up to. Here are some of my favourite pictures that were posted throughout the week:

GOLW-UK

Bridging the Digital Divide

This year, Get Online Week couldn’t have come at a better time – right in the middle of our Bridging the Digital Divide campaign. Just in case you haven’t heard of it, this is our big call to action for Government and other organisations to commit to the target of getting 100% of the UK digitally included, and to take steps to help us reach this target. Get Online Week is one way we can contribute to achieving this.   

Today, 11.3 million adults in the UK still lack the essential digital skills that are necessary for life and work. I’m delighted that these two big initiatives we’re running can work together to have an even bigger impact.

If you want to know more about Bridging the Digital Divide and what you can do to support it, take a look here.

Thank you!

Once again, thank you for making this another amazing Get Online Week and for helping us to reach more people with digital skills and confidence.

See you again next year.

Building a future that works for everyone. Double tick!

It was great to turn on the Today Programme this morning to hear Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sports and Civil Society, talking passionately about the new Civil Society Strategy, and her commitment to working with grassroots organisations to address some of the biggest challenges we’re facing in society today.

The strategy is subtitled ‘Building a future that works for everyone’ – a mission that chimes well with me and my work at Good Things Foundation since our vision is a world where everyone can benefit from digital.

So I eagerly read the Strategy and one of the things that struck me most is the recognition for the great work civil society is already doing, and a Government commitment to doing more to support this. Meeting with a number of Online Centres when putting our consultation response together I heard an overwhelming air of positivity and ambition about what we can achieve together. It is great to see the strategy committing to building on this aspiration.

There’s so much in this strategy to be happy about.

A key theme that comes through is the need to support community organisations, charities, and other organisations with a social purpose to strengthen communities, and to ensure people can have their say about the things that matter to them, combat loneliness, and drive inclusive growth. The Online Centres Network, who are based in thousands of communities across the UK, are already doing this on a daily basis. Tick.

And it’s about putting people and communities at the heart of decisions and decision making. Tick.

The Government will also be launching ‘Innovation in Democracy’ pilots, giving local people more of a say. I’m hoping our #VoiceBoxCafe pilots will get some local people – especially local women – ready and interested in taking part. Tick.

The Strategy commits the Government to a return to grant funding which we know provides greater security, particularly for smaller charities and organisations. We are also pleased to see again the plans to release £145 million of funding from dormant bank accounts to fund activity, particularly around financial inclusion. We know that inclusive prosperity is an area in much need of investment. Tick.

I’m really happy to see the Strategy’s desire to explore how technology can be harnessed to address complex social issues. As you’ll know if you read my blog often – this is something I’m passionate about and it’s right at the heart of what we do at Good Things. The strategy talks in detail about the role of tech for good, and the importance of using technology to solve complex social issues, like loneliness, healthy ageing, online safety, and digital inclusion. You’ll not be surprised to hear that this is music to my ears! Tick.

To do this, the government has committed to working in partnership with experts in both technology and civil society. As an organisation working at the intersection of these two sectors, I’m looking forward to the important role we can play in this. Double tick.

For me, the strategy hits the nail on the head when it says ‘digital technology does not bring progress when it simply creates efficiency. It brings the most progress when it puts the user first, and when digital services are focused foremost on meeting human needs’. We don’t need to get hung up on searching for clever tech solutions and building new platforms – sometimes the biggest impact can be had in using existing, and freely available tools – like using Facebook to bring communities together.

It’s important we don’t think of tech for good as a separate element of the Civil Society Strategy, removed from the people, places and partnerships that make our society thrive. Digital needs to become part of what everyone working in civil society does every day, and for every solution civil society develops, we should always be asking what role digital can play. Tech + people can bring holistic and scalable solutions. How can it be embedded by more civil society organisations more often to help to achieve an even bigger impact? This is something we will keep championing, along with our partners working across the civil society space.

There’s definitely a lot in it to be happy about. As Tracey Crouch said: “Our strategy builds on this spirit of the common good to help create a country that works for everyone. I want people, organisations and businesses to feel inspired to get involved and make a difference. .. Through collaboration, we will unlock the huge potential of this incredible sector, help it grow, support the next generation and create a fairer society.”

As with everything, the actual success will be in the delivery and I will be interested to see how the new strategy develops quickly into tangible action. As a resetting of the relationship between Government, and those driving social action, I think it sets all the right tone. I look forward to hearing more of the detail, and to playing a role to help with that and with the implementation both as Good Things Foundation and as a voice for thousands of community organisations across the Online Centres Network.

The first civil society strategy in 15 years. So, let’s get on with it.

Get Online Week is go go go!

The eagle-eyed among you will have seen my video on social media last week promoting our 2018 Get Online Week registration. That’s right, you can now sign up to take part in our big digital inclusion campaign, taking place this October from 15-21.

We’re going international with the campaign this year, running it in both the UK and Australia. There will be hundreds of new organisations taking part from the Be Connected Network and I’d also love to see lots of newbies in the UK taking part as well. It’s a great opportunity to reach new people, raise the profile of your organisation and to be part of something big.

Last year event holders reached 45,000 people with digital skills and confidence by encouraging them to #Try1Thing new online. This year, we want to reach even more.

If you have any questions about Get Online Week, tweet me on @helenmilner, or get in touch with my team at @getonlineweek.

Taking Be Connected on the road

One of the things I’ve been personally most proud of in the past year is establishing Good Things Foundation in Australia. In the UK, the Online Centres Network is essential to the way we operate. Together we’re a big club with a shared vision – a shared vision of improving lives using digital as an enabler, and a vision of a better society and a better world as a result. I know this is what we do in the UK because of our research and our evaluation as well as by talking to our Network members and to the people they’re helping. In Australia we’re starting to do this too with a new ‘big club’ – the Be Connected Network.

At the end of April I hosted six Be Connected Network Partner events in Australia – in Perth, Melbourne, and Geelong. It was great to take Be Connected on the road and lovely for me to meet organisations who are, or would like to be, part of the Be Connected Network.

It’s so nice to meet people face-to-face. In this digital world it’s great that I can co-work with people on opposite sides of the world virtually (in Sydney and Sheffield) but it’s also nice to meet people face-to-face sometimes too.

In Perth I loved it when one woman, who was thinking of joining the Be Connected Network said to me “I came along today to find out what the catch is; but there’s no catch!” Indeed there isn’t!

In Melbourne it was great to hear new collaborations starting there in the room with Network Partners talking about sharing resources as well as forming new ideas for how they could achieve more together.

And in Geelong a new cooperation was born between three Network Partners talking about how they could share volunteers and signpost between each other as they all helped people learn basic digital skills in Ballarat.

I was amazed and thankful by people travelling long distances to get to the events.

We talked a lot about all of the grant programmes that Network Partners can apply for – including the $50,000 Network Capacity Building Grants. I’m a bit jealous as we don’t have these grants in the UK, and they’re really going to help us to both innovate and scale across Australia with digital inclusion.

Not everything is perfect – a couple of Network Partners said they had older people they were supporting who didn’t want to set up an email address and therefore they couldn’t register on Be Connected. So we responded and we’ve written this guidance note which is now on our Resources page. All the Network Partners love the free online learning courses on the Be Connected website but wanted to know what new content is coming – so we responded with this overview leaflet. I’m glad the Good Things team in Sydney have been able to respond to these issues and are keeping the conversations going.

The thing that I loved the most is how similar so much of our work is in the UK and Australia. One Australian Network Partner said she had been working for 10 years and didn’t know other organisations helped older people to learn how to use the internet – I’ve heard the exact same thing in England. In Australia and the UK I love hearing the stories about people living in our countries having come from all over the world and now being in touch with relatives back home via the internet. Partners in both countries have told me about the 80 something year old or the 90 something year old who is now buying their pet’s food online or video calling a distant grandchild for the first time.

But most of all I loved hearing the passion from the staff and volunteers about spreading the message that the internet can help people to make their lives a little bit better. And then they just get on with it – be it in Geelong (AU) or Gravesend (UK), or in Perth (AU) or Plymouth (UK).

I’m really glad that Good Things is doing our bit to support community organisations and libraries in Australia, the UK, and in Kenya, to help people thrive in today’s digital world.

Thank you to our Good Things team in Sydney for making me feel so welcome.

Good Things Aus

Good Things Aus – hello world!

NOTE: If you’re in or near Townsville, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide, Sydney or Tamworth, you’re very welcome to come along to one of our upcoming Be Connected events. (Sadly I won’t be there but others from the Good Things Sydney team will be.)