My week in Digital Inclusion & Social Housing

25 Sep 2014 |Written by Victoria Stirling

Last week was a week of housing events for me, starting on the Saturday with Housing Camp 2014 and continuing with Good Things Foundation’s ‘Delivering Digital Inclusion in Social Housing’ last Thursday.

Good Things Foundation were proud to sponsor Housing Camp this year - it’s an event that we have lot of time for, full as it is of enthusiastic housing professionals, all happy to spend a day of their weekend working together to find solutions to some of the stickiest issues in housing right now.

No agenda is set at Housing Camp - instead the day is open to anyone to suggest a topic of discussion, and the topics that prove to be the most popular take place with contributions from everyone involved. It was almost inevitable that digital inclusion would come up (not suggested by me I might add!), but I was still pleased to see just how much it is on everyone’s minds.

(Housing) campers were a different stages of their digital inclusion journey from those who questioned whether they should ‘do’ digital inclusion at all to those who have integrated it across all of their services. It was fantastic to hear their stories and offer support & advice.

Bolstered by the exuberance of the Housing Camp participants, I was looking forward to meeting even more housing professionals at our own event. Thursday was a day designed to invite new people along to meet each other, hear the findings from the recent Digital Deal project, and ask the hard questions about how we can make digital inclusion work in social housing, both for tenants and for organisations. No one who was at the event needed convincing of the importance of digital skills - with Universal Credit on it’s way, it’s high on the priorities list for everyone.

So it was extremely valuable to hear the findings from the recent Digital Deal project on Thursday.

James Richardson, Good Things Foundation’s Research Manager, took the floor to give an overview of the findings, followed by Sue Jennings from Leeds Federated Housing and Johanne Presch from Thirteen Group who updated everyone on their particular projects. You can read the full Digital Deal findings online.

Good Things Foundation already manage - a place for social housing providers to meet online to share their thoughts and ideas on how best to approach their digital inclusion strategies - and we welcome SHPs into the UK online centres network, but we realised it was high time that a specialist network was set up for digital inclusion in social housing. Thursday seemed like the perfect occasion to launch this new network, and we’ve already seen an influx of new members to the network, ready to get started and build on their digital inclusion strategies. If you’re a social housing provider we’d love to have you on board.

There’s a tradition at housing camp of listing ten things you took away at the end of the day. It’s a great way to clarify your own thoughts and remind yourself of the important points without spending hours writing up notes. So, in-keeping with that tradition, here are my 'ten things’ from my week, both housing events included:

  1. Think people not technology!
  2. Partnership is key
  3. All about inclusion - financial, digital, health. community etc
  4. Embrace volunteering
  5. Understand your users!
  6. Find something that interests users and use that to get them using digital.
  7. Develop stuff iteratively
  8. Measure and evaluate as you go along - don’t wait til the end of a project.
  9. Use Learn My Way
  10. Get involved in Get Online Week

Obviously there’s a huge digital inclusion challenge hovering on the horizon for social housing providers, but with the kind of dedicated and resourceful people I met last week, I’m confident that we can work together over the coming months to make a real difference to residents and tenants.