Building communities and changing lives

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and the halfway point of our English My Way celebration campaign – Say Hip Hip Hooray for English My Way. I visited Zest for Work, an Online Centre and English My Way delivery partner based in Sheffield, with my colleague Sarah, and I was blown away by all of the amazing women there and all of their achievements.

Zest for Work is a wonderful community hub in the Upperthorpe area. Not only do they teach English to speakers of other languages, they also have a gym and swimming pool, a library, a pay-as-you-feel cafe, and they teach employability skills. They have a truly holistic approach to supporting the people in their area and I loved seeing their work firsthand.

The party was organised by the tutors and volunteers, including Sharen Mathers, someone who was once unemployed following health issues. She did an ‘into work’ course at Zest, went on to volunteer at the English My Way classes and is now working at Zest, teaching English, leading on projects and inspiring the learners there. A real example of how Online Centres change people’s lives.


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Me with a small number from the group. Sharen is fourth from the right. 


The party was brilliant with more than 50 women there. There were balloons, decorations, and foods from all over the world – and the learners were from all over the world too! I was delighted to see so many people from different backgrounds and cultures coming together to celebrate their achievements. All of the women that were there were from three different cohorts at the centre. It really demonstrated the community cohesion and progression angles of the programme because some of the learners from the first cohort are now volunteers.


Me with one of the English My Way tutors. We wrote down some of the different countries that the women from the English My Way party are from.

I met a lady who first came to the classes and wasn’t able to speak any English. She’s improved her skills so much that she’s now at college and studying to further her education and get a job. She should be so proud of all the amazing progress she’s made.


Me with one of the many inspiring learners.


The learners progressed to an art class and made a tapestry.


Me and Zest for Work centre manager Lynsey and one of the volunteers enjoying the party.

I’ve talked a lot about progression and friendship here but seeing people come to classes, feeling nervous and uncertain, then blossoming and really coming into their own is what English My Way is all about. They make friends, they become less isolated, they improve their lives and they learn a very important new skill along the way.

English My Way isn’t just about teaching people English. It’s about building communities and changing lives.

Fuller Lives, Stronger Communities

Earlier this year I met a Polish woman in Luton who told me that the day before she had rung the school to tell them that her 10-year-old daughter was too ill to go to school. This was significant for her as it was the first time she felt confident enough in her English language ability to do this herself. Her husband had always previously made any phone calls that had to be made in English. She was so proud of herself. She was so determined to develop even more English language. She was inspiring the other women in the group, none of whom had ever spoken English on the phone.

Good Things Foundation is evolving, now we have even more emphasis on social inclusion and social change. Social exclusion is very broad; it includes unemployment, loneliness, isolation, and poverty. For a lot of people in the UK who don’t speak English, they’re affected by some or all of these issues. Our English My Way programme, which has been running since 2013, aims to help people with little English language integrate into their communities. That Polish woman in Luton was an English My Way learner and this week we’re celebrating the success of this programme – releasing a report, an infographic, videos and more.

Evaluating success

The ‘big news’ release is the final evaluation report from phase three of the project. This was the first time we’d put a particular focus on isolated women and we also supported community partners in their delivery through capacity building, identifying best practice, progression routes and programme/product development.

Headline stats for me are:

  • 2,789 learners completed the informal 24-week course designed to help people who speak no English to gain some everyday language for use in their daily lives
  • 63% of the learners reported improved English proficiency
  • 45% progressed onto a formal course to go onto that next step and develop more language skills (such as an Entry Level 1 ESOL course).

Seeing is believing

Sometimes describing a project and the impact it has on people simply isn’t enough. English My Way has helped so many people to improve their lives and we really wanted people to see that. That’s why we’ve put together some videos, which you can view below.

Nageswary is a learner at Benn Partnership in Rugby who fled her country after conflict meant she lost her house and husband. She’s a true inspiration and an excellent example of English My Way success.

The second video shows the group dynamic element of English My Way, which is one of the great parts of the programme. A lot of learners get involved because of loneliness or isolation and being able to come together in a group to learn something significant and life-changing helps them to overcome this and make friends. We filmed this video at Neighbours in Poplar in London.

What else is going on?

We’ve also released an infographic this week demonstrating the top stats from the first three phases of the project and from this we’ve created fun social media GIFs. My colleague Chris has also written a blog and we’ve released a special Delivering ESOL in Libraries handbook.

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You can download the full infographic on our website using the link in the paragraph above


There’s so much going on and rightly so because this project deserves all of the attention it gets.

This year we’re developing some mobile optimised online learning content and a taster of English My Way so that more local partners can use these resources to change more people’s lives.

Thank you to all the English My Way centres who have made the project such a success so far and a big thank you to the staff and learners who took part in our videos.

English My Way: confident people; stronger communities

Last week I had the very great honour of attending the English My Way celebration event. It’s crazy how quickly the two years have passed since we started this programme and it’s crazy to see the huge impact it has had on people’s lives. And when I say crazy, I mean in a good way.

I’m proud to tell you that over 9000 people were supported by the UK online centres network through the programme to improve their lives and integrate more to become part of their community in the 38 areas of the highest language need across England. 70% of those learners progressed to an Entry Level 1 ESOL course.

It makes me smile that so many of the learners have improved their confidence thanks to the programme:

  • 65% of them said they are now more confident talking to acquaintances
  • 68% are more confident talking in shops or on public transport
  • 61% are more confident in using their new English skills with doctors and other professionals.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to not be able to do something as simple as ask for a bus ticket to get into town, and I’m so happy that English My Way has been able to reach the people who couldn’t do this and make a real difference to their lives.

I’m a huge advocate for digital inclusion and the power digital has to eradicate social issues in society. But English My Way doesn’t just use digital to teach English language – it’s a blended learning programme. It understands what’s easier digitally and what’s better face-to-face, and uses this approach for the best and most efficient outcomes.

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Our new ESOL handbook and the final evaluation report for English My Way


In January David Cameron announced a £20 million plan to help Muslim women learn English, to help tackle extremism, discrimination and social isolation. English language skills are of deepest importance and I believe that English My Way can help. The sustainability of English My Way and ESOL in general needs to be embedded in the skills agenda, both locally and with devolved authorities. Tinder Foundation is committed to supporting the delivery of ESOL in communities across the country and our dedication can be recognised through this programme. The evidence speaks for itself: one woman who participated in the project can now speak to her neighbours and invite them over for a cup of tea and another used her new language skills to secure her and her family’s future away from an abusive relationship – that’s just two of the people we’ve helped.

A big thank you

The event brought together people from all backgrounds who made the project happen – stakeholders, learners, consortium partners – and we showed our ‘Thank You English My Way’ video. We also launched the final evaluation report, our ESOL literature review and our brand new ESOL handbook which you can download here.

I want to thank everyone who was involved in the project, including the guys from the Tinder Foundation team. Everyone worked so hard on it and made it all possible. The day wasn’t just a celebration, it really highlighted the ongoing need for ESOL support and funding, and programmes like English My Way for everyone in communities all over the UK, not just for Muslim women.

I really hope that Tinder Foundation can be part of that support.

The will to win

I really was delighted last month when we received three nominations in the Digital Leaders 100 Awards 2016. This annual ceremony has taken place every year since 2013 and celebrates innovative people, organisations and tech which contribute towards the digital transformation of the UK.

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Me at the Digital Leaders Awards last year when we were lucky enough to win for our Widening Digital Participation programme with NHS England.


These are our nominations:

English My Way

English My Way is a project we’ve run in partnership with The British Council and BBC Learning English for the past three years, supporting English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) from inside and outside of the UK online centres network to develop their English language skills, their confidence and to better integrate with their local communities.

From what I’ve seen throughout the project it has been a success and so beneficial to the project participants. Now as the project draws to a close it has been rewarded with a place on the Digital Leaders 2016 list, the ideal way to celebrate and reflect on its success.

Future Digital Inclusion

Future Digital Inclusion is our flagship digital inclusion project, funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. We know that people without digital skills are at a significant disadvantage in today’s society. They are less able to access information, learning opportunities and all the other significant advantages the online world has to offer.

Future Digital Inclusion aims to close the digital skills gap by reaching out to the 12.6 million people in the UK who don’t have basic digital skills. To-date through the UK online centres network we have supported over 445,000 people to improve their basic digital skills through the programme.

Tinder Foundation

Lastly Tinder Foundation has been nominated for Charity Digital Leader of the Year. The whole organisation was delighted by the news, and it is such a nice surprise. This award isn’t just for the Tinder Foundation team though, it’s for everyone who lives under the Tinder Foundation umbrella – the UK online centres network, the learners and our Board. Congratulations to everyone – you thoroughly deserve this.

Now that we’ve made the shortlist and I’ve told you a bit about our nominations, it’s time for me to add in my plug. We’ve made the 2016 Digital Leaders 100 list, now it has to be put into a final order through the judges and public vote, and I’d love for you to give us your support.

Simply visit the Digital Leaders website and find us in the ‘Charity Digital Leader of the Year’, ‘Cross-sector Digital Collaboration of the Year’ and ‘Digital Inclusion and Skills Initiative of the Year’ categories.

Thank you.

Community Transformers

On Tuesday I visited London Community College, a new community partner in Tinder Foundation’s UK online centres network. I was there with representatives from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and Baroness Williams, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Visiting London Community College July 2015

We met people learning English at the centre and found out about how the English My Way programme is helping them to feel more connected to their community. Our English My Way project, funded by DCLG, is now in its second year and is a classroom based learning programme aimed at people who have very, very little English language.

It was also good to see how the curriculum – led by the British Council – was working alongside the Tinder Foundation hyperlocal partner network. The BBC are also a national partner, developing great resources and running learning circles.

Meeting learners at London Community College

London Community College is a wonderful place and it was a pleasure to be visiting for the first time. I loved seeing their English My Way lesson plan (printed off from the national site) and how it’s been embedded into their wider learning programme. It was great chatting to Centre Manager Avinash Panchoory who said he thinks Learn My Way is the best progression route from English My Way, which was music to my ears!

Witnessing English My Way in action at London Community College

   Images courtesy of London Community College

He also said: “We have a very diverse group of learners who represent the local community and who require our support to help them integrate through English My Way. London Community College is proud to promote integration within the community and eliminate barriers to communication through English My Way.”

Places like London Community College are encouraging their learners to share their knowledge with their own communities. Imagine the difference it would make to a mother, for example, who has learnt about English My Way and now has the confidence to go to her son’s parents evening and speak to the teacher. Or a woman I met at a previous event who has the confidence now to say hello to her neighbour as they have share a common language.

I always feel privileged to visit organisations like London Community College that are really embedded in the heart of the most deprived communities. It’s places like this my entire team work so hard to support on a daily basis, and it’s places like this where people lives are getting transformed.

English My Way is a free website packed full of resources, lesson plans, and a learning platform: