by Emma Stone, Director of Design and Research
Today is my one month anniversary at Good Things Foundation. I've already visited a couple of Online Centres (Zest in Sheffield and Refugee and Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton). It's been great to see the work we support - helping people to improve their lives and overcome social challenges, using digital as an enabler.
I've always believed that if we want to make change happen on big social issues like poverty and loneliness, then we have to listen to the experience of people who live it every day, and enable communities to develop and act on their ideas to make lives better. That's why I championed JRF's support for Poverty Truth Commissions and Hartlepool Action Lab. And that's why I'm delighted that Good Things Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Foundation had the vision, reach and expertise to invest in community-led ideas through the Community Challenge Prize.
The Community Challenge Prize was launched at the Digital Evolution conference last year. Entrants were asked to answer the question 'how would you spend £2,000 to help people spend less money?' The challenge was set following the launch of JRF's groundbreaking report, 'We can solve poverty in the UK' - a comprehensive, evidence-based strategy calling for governments, businesses, services and civil society to work together to solve poverty.
14 million people live in poverty in the UK, which is over one in five of the population. Changing this will need sustained action at all levels. Top-down and bottom-up. Already, local Online Centres are enabling people to improve their lives, including thousands whose lives are restricted by poverty. Hopefully, this prize will allow the winners to reach further.
Every Online Centre who entered the competition got something out of it – everyone came up with an idea to help solve poverty locally. That's amazing. Some also took part in design workshops, with skilled service designers from Good Things on tap to help people develop their ideas further.
All the winners are doing something different. Talk about an innovative bunch! Here are some of my favourites:
· Board game: The Wai Yin Centre in Manchester is developing a board game on reducing costs and saving money. This is hard for most of us, and even harder when there's just not enough money for you or your family to live on due to low and insecure pay, high costs or reduced social security.
· Travel classes: High Wycombe Library is focusing on transport costs - so people can find cheaper alternatives to travel.
· Cookbook: foodbanks are a stark sign of the realities of poverty. In the New Forest, they're developing a cookbook with healthy recipes that use ingredients from foodbanks, such as dry store cupboard items.
I'm proud of the brilliant work that JRF does in talking about poverty, developing evidence-led solutions, and championing the participation of people with experience of poverty. In my new role as Director of Design and Research at Good Things Foundation, I'm so happy that I can continue working to solve poverty and help create a world where people facing social and economic exclusion are able to improve their lives. HUGE congratulations to all of the winners and to everyone who entered the Community Challenge competition!