Building Bridges! My first week at Good Things Foundation

24 Apr 2018 |Written by Roz Davies

New Director of Social Inclusion, Roz Davies, reflects on her first week on the job and why her role is a vital one.

Last week, the United Nations hosted World Creativity and Innovation week #wciw2018, beginning on 15 April which was Leonardo Di Vinci's birthday and finishing on April 21, a 'day of observance' to encourage people to use creativity in problem-solving to help achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.


A timely week to begin my new role of Director of Social Inclusion at Good Things Foundation, a global charity whose vision is a world where everyone benefits from digital, and goal is to help at least three million socially excluded people to improve their lives through digital.

Through creativity, innovation and determination, Good Things Foundation have already achieved a great deal since 2010, helping over 2 million people through a national network of more than 5,000 community organisations and a range of activities and digital resources.

Well known for its digital inclusion successes, Good Things Foundation takes a holistic, person centred approach to supporting people and recognising that social and digital inclusion are intrinsically linked.

Social Inclusion

The social inclusion work to date has included a range of programmes which focus on achieving social inclusion related outcomes such as finance, employment and skills through the blended approach of community building and using digital as an enabler.

Examples include English My Way programme through which over 20,000 people have learned English, and Reboot UK which has involved supporting 1,412 multiply excluded people.

But perhaps one of the biggest social inclusion areas that Good Things Foundation are currently working in is health and wellbeing, through the NHS Widening Digital Participation programme, which has engaged 221,941 in learning digital health skills and saved the NHS over 6m in one year.

Health and Care

In the health and care arena, there is a growing recognition of the value of the 'wider determinants of health' and the value of community building at the heart of improving health and wellbeing.

There is a mention in the NHS England Five Year Forward View, Public Health England developed a publication full of Community Centred Approaches to Health and Wellbeing, the Marmot Review examined this in detail and more recently the Health Foundation has begun a journey of exploration of Healthy Lives for People in the UK. For those wishing to encourage commissioners you might also wish to look at New Economic Foundation's Commissioning for Coproduction and Nesta's Realising the Value.

Day 1 - A Visit to the West Country and 65 High Street

In my first week at Good Things Foundation, I was delighted to have the opportunity to take a two day visit to my homeland – the West Country. The first day we spent in Nailsea visiting one of our online community centres and the second day we participated in one of the NHS Testbeds (NHS innovation programme) collaboration events. Both were focused on the same goals – improved health and wellbeing and less use of formal services through creativity and innovation but very different approaches and sets of resources.

The online community centre we visited has taken part in the health innovation lab work developed as part of the NHS Widening Digital Participation Phase 2 work. This innovative co-design approach has already helped 13 pathfinders and through the online community network we have engaged and supported 104,300 people to use digital skills to access health services, manage their long term conditions and improve their health and wellbeing.

'65 High Street' in Nailsea is a fantastic example of grassroots led community development. Full of energy and passion for positive change, the local community leaders and connectors including Ian, Nancy, Malcolm and Clare, worked with the Good Things Foundation design and innovation team to co-design the development of a run down building on the high street into a community centred hive of activity. In less than a year they have engaged 870 people, supported 120 people in-depth and recruited 21 Digital Champions. Diabetes peer support groups, activities for the 'techno timid', art groups and exhibitions, happiness drama sessions and much more are all hosted at the centre.

It was a truly wonderful day full of informal conversation, laughter, planning for the future and inspiring community stories.

Day 2 - NHS Testbeds

On day two, the NHS Testbed collaboration event had a very different tone. We were formally introduced to the event in the usual way through a series of speeches on stage from the organisers then the group split into NHS areas who would like to run Testbed programmes and innovators who had digital products which could be tested in those programmes. The 'Innovators' were given a number and asked to sit at the designated tables whilst the Testbed leads were invited to stroll round the tables to talk to the product owners. Connections were recorded by connecting electronic tags we wore around our necks.

All of the people I spoke to were equally enthusiastic about the opportunity to make a positive difference. There were some really interesting digital products in the room, e.g. Dr Farhan Amin, a GP from Cumbria who had been trialling using VR to enable people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) to build the confidence, skills and knowledge to manage their condition at home. There were also some great ideas coming through the prospective Testbeds including patients as innovators and integrated approaches to healthy aging.

On both days I met people who were innovative, creative and dedicated to improving lives and seeking to build connections and collaborations with others but I couldn't help noticing that there is still a disconnect between the two. Without connecting and blending digital resources with a more holistic and community centred approach, the NHS Testbeds may fail to really engage and help the people who are most likely to need their help. Our research shows that those who are most digitally excluded are also most likely to need health and care services. At the same time it is important to value and unleash the strengths, insights and ideas that people bring through building genuine relationships of trust, respect and understanding.

The Good Things Foundation provides a connecting bridge between these two valuable parts of a 21st century approach to health and care. Together with our online community centre network, our three-fold offer is:

  1. To engage and build the confidence, skills and connections of more vulnerable and socially excluded people in our communities to ensure that they benefit from digital resources and tools.
  2. To help build the capacity and understanding of frontline workers, health care professionals and managers to support people to benefit from the digital resources and tools.
  3. To enable the co-design of services, processes and facilities in partnership with more vulnerable and socially excluded people and other stakeholders.

We look forward to continuing our work with the NHS Widening Digital Participation Pathfinders and perhaps to working with future NHS Test Beds.