Handing over to the experts
With our questions in place, we invited Online Centres from across England to apply to take part in the Test and Learn project, asking them to join us in experimenting with new approaches and sharing their experiences of what works and importantly, what doesn’t.
We’re now working with 25 Online Centres, some who have delivered the Future Digital Inclusion project before, some who haven’t.
Each month, we’re talking to each Centre to find out what they’ve been doing differently, what’s working well, what isn’t and how they’re adapting their model along the way.
What we’re discovering
After just 4 months, we’re already starting to see some common themes across the project that will be invaluable to helping us design a Future Community-based Essential Digital Skills Programme.
The overwhelming theme is flexibility. Flexibility for Centres to bid for the right amount of funding for them, flexibility for them to top-up their funding to support more progression for learners and flexibility to tailor each learners journey, starting with the essential skills that are most relevant to them and the outcomes they desire.
Getting more specific
So far, our approach has been to take a step back, giving Centres space to experiment. Over the next few months, we need to get a bit more specific. Focusing in and asking more specific questions that will allow us to design a programme that is flexible without being so bespoke that it can’t be scaled.
We’ll be working closely with the Online Centres network to ensure we’re accurately representing them and their learners needs and creating the right conditions for them to continue to provide this essential support.
What we’re learning about our Test and Learn approach
One of our guiding principles at Good Things is that we design with, not for people. The Test and Learn approach we’re taking is grounded in that principle. We’re not the experts, but we can help the experts in the Online Centres Network to influence the future.
It sounds simple in theory, but comes with its own challenges in practice.
We’re still the funder
The relationship between funder and grantee is a traditionally paternal relationship. Trying to turn it on it’s head is possible, but it takes time and trust. Time for Online Centres to get used to being asked for more than their progress towards a target and trust that we’ll treat their feedback with the respect and care it deserves.
People need permission
Asking people to do things differently doesn’t mean they will or can. Saying that they can use some of their funding to buy much needed equipment is one thing, taking the extra step to allocate a specific amount of funding for buying equipment gives explicit permission to do so.
One size doesn’t fit all
What makes the Online Centres so effective is it’s diversity. From libraries to coffee shops, scheduled classes to drop-in outreach sessions, each and everyone of them is unique. So we need to make sure our approach allows for this uniqueness. Providing a framework and guidance over a checklist and rules is helping us to push ourselves and the Online Centres to try new things and discover things that traditional funded projects wouldn’t.