…for Auld Lang Syne – or so the song goes that we sing at the end of every year. Christmas and New Year are great opportunities to reflect on the last 12 months and to celebrate all of your successes, and for Good Things Foundation there have been a lot.
Here are my top Good Things moments from 2016 (in no particular order):
We long talked about becoming a charity and in March, thanks to the efforts of my team, we were finally able to make that leap. I was really pleased because the status fits with our ethos of supporting people to improve their lives for the better. What’s more, we were also able to retain our mutual status, making us one of only a handful of organisations to do so. It was a long and challenging journey but it really set us up for the road ahead – to reach the 12.6 million socially excluded people without digital skills across the UK.
- Receiving my OBE from Prince Charles
In the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2015 I was awarded an OBE for services to digital inclusion. In February I visited Buckingham Palace to receive my OBE medal from HRH Prince Charles. It was a really proud and fun moment for me, especially when I made Prince Charles laugh. It was great to receive such a high profile award for something that I feel so passionately about and that I just ‘do’ as part of my day-to-day working life. And I’ve been lucky enough to meet the prince again since.
- English My Way celebration event
The first phase of our English My Way programme ended earlier this year and we held a celebration event at the beginning of May to commend the achievements of all the amazing learners and centres who were involved in the project. We know that there are still so many people across the UK who are unable to speak English and they’re missing out on so many opportunities, from applying and obtaining jobs, to everyday things such as ordering food in a restaurant. Seeing the difference that English My Way made to the lives of people is simply heartwarming and I wanted to re-share the video from our celebration event, so that if you missed it the first time you can see all the wonderful things the project has done, and will continue to do as we progress through phase 2.
- Liz Williams becomes our new Chair
In May we made the announcement that Jim Knight, who has been our Chair for the last five years, was stepping down but staying on as a Patron of Good Things Foundation. I was very sad about it but also very happy about the fact that we found a new Chair in our long-time board member Liz Williams from BT. Liz already knows us very well – which is fantastic. She’s exceptional, committed and inspiring, and she recently did a tremendous review for the government on a basic digital skills qualification. I’m really looking forward to working even more closely with Liz and I know she’s going to bring so many new ideas and insight to her role as our Chair.
As our Widening Digital Participation programme with NHS England drew to a close, we wanted to do something special to recognise our three year partnership. So in July we held a celebration event at the House of Lords in London, marking the launch of the final evaluation report produced by our research team. We invited along a lot of our partners but, most importantly, we invited the people who worked so hard on the ground throughout the entire three years. From helping the elderly to transforming lives, these people were the ones that made the project so successful, and it was only fitting that they were there with us to celebrate everything it achieved.
Alicia and Victoria from the mHabitat centre at the launch of our report
- Reaching 2 Million Learners
Following Get Online Week 2016 we were delighted when the counter on the (old) website finally hit 2 million learners. That’s right – since 2010 Good Things Foundation and the Online Centres Network have helped this many digitally excluded people to realise the benefits of getting online – which is amazing. It’s a key milestone which shows the real scale and impact that our work is having across the UK. We’re celebrating this achievement with the 2 Millionth Learner Awards, which is currently open for nominations. If you know an inspiring and amazing learner who deserves a real treat at the beginning of next year (a trip to a prestigious award ceremony at the BT Tower in London to receive a distinguished award), nominate them today.
- Get Online Week’s 10th birthday
In October we held our 10th annual Get Online Week and I wanted to celebrate the big birthday by going out to 10 events to meet amazing learners and partners. There were so many incredible people doing incredible things and I especially enjoyed The Connection at St-Martin-in-the-Fields, just a few steps from Trafalgar Square in London. This amazing day centre does everything they can to help homeless people in the capital, from a digital skills drop-in and lessons to the provision of job interview clothes. I met a Big Issue salesman called Steve and I gave him a Learn My Way certificate – he told me his story and how the internet has helped him. I heard so many stories when I went on my Get Online Week visits and I was just so pleased that we’re able to help those in the Online Centres Network to help the people that need it most.
- Rebranding as Good Things Foundation
At our conference in November I announced that we were changing our name from Tinder Foundation to Good Things Foundation, and we’re taking the network along for the ride, rebranding them as the Online Centres Network. In a move that was either crazy or brilliant, we also launched two new websites on the same day. I love the new name. We do good things all the time and it used to be our tag line – ‘We make good things happen with digital technology’. I feel like it reflects what we do much better than our old name did – and, of course, we will no longer be confused with ‘that’ dating app. I love the new names and I hope you do as well.
So, my final amazing moment of the year was when Good Things Foundation, the little social enterprise that I started, had our fifth birthday last week (1st December). Along with the Online Centres Network, we’ve continued to grow and evolve. Although our birthday celebration was a bit sad with Jim stepping down as Chair, looking back on everything that we’ve achieved in 2016 I feel that we’re ready to press on with our mission to ensure that everyone can benefit from digital.
On behalf of myself and the whole Good Things Foundation team I just want to thank the network and all of our partners for your hard work and your role in our continued success.
I personally would also like to thank the Good Things Foundation team. You’ve achieved so much this year, the redevelopment and launch of new look Learn My Way and our new websites to name just a few. You are amazing.
2016 has been a truly crazy year. The Brexit vote happened, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, and so many talented people were taken from us – I personally spent a lot of time listening to Purple Rain back in April.
But for Good Things Foundation it’s been an incredible year of change.
I’m off to Australia today to round off the year working with partners doing digital inclusion down under. As I won’t return back to the UK until Christmas Eve, this will probably be my last blog post of the year. I think it’s very fitting. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year. I’m looking forward continuing our mission to ensure that everyone in the world has the opportunity to benefit from digital and information technology in 2017.
All the best, I look forward to working with you in 2017.