Some people might think that the highlight of my job is the (very rare) opportunity to attend swanky black tie events at fancy venues in London, being wined and dined and playing roulette until the early hours. It's not. The highlight of my job is visiting the amazing community organisations that make up the Online Centres Network, who work tirelessly every day to support people to overcome challenges by providing them with the skills and confidence they need to exist in our digital world.
Over the last couple of days, I've been lucky enough to do both - as well as to receive the award for best cross-sector partnership at the Charity Times Awards for our Reboot UK programme
Receiving the award has made me reflect on the power of partnership, how we can do it effectively, and why it's so important.
Earlier this week, I visited one of our centres - Destinations@Saltburn - who really embody how important partnership is - run job clubs to support people to look for jobs online, helping people to interact more confidently with HMRC Benefits and Tax services, while providing a friendly, familiar environment where people can go to feel connected, heard and supported.
After seeing their work in action, it felt pretty special that our work - and that of the Online Centres in our network - was honoured.
Reboot UK - the winning project - is a perfect example of how partnership can really make a difference to the lives of socially excluded people. The project, funded through the Big Lottery Fund, has been running since 2015 and to date has supported over 2,500 people, who are homeless or suffering from poor mental health, realise positive health and wellbeing outcomes by improving their digital skills.
Digital support for these groups of people is scarce. Reboot UK has addressed this by providing flexible and diverse digital support and embedding it in trusted frontline delivery.
One learner said: "I was so anxious about attending the first session. I was worried that the paranoia would get the better of me but I quickly became comfortable because nothing was forced upon me. I was able to work at my own pace."
The project marries our digital skills expertise with the reach that our consortium partners Mind and Homeless Link have with excluded groups, so we can reach people most in need of support by embedding digital skills support in frontline service delivery. We've got big ambitions for the project, and want to produce a sustainable model, to ensure the work we have started continues way beyond the end of the project.
Our community connector model, a new element of Reboot UK that we have introduced this year, takes people with lived experience of the issues faced by the people we aim to support, who will engage, train and advocate the role digital can play to our existing networks but also wider civil society organisations, creating systemic and cultural change.
"Your confidence grows and as you get comfortable in terms of doing things for yourself. Then you realise that it's not actually that hard, it's something you can learn. I think it's really helped me in terms of confidence, me doing it for myself"
I know our partnership with Mind and Homeless Link will continue beyond the lifetime of the Reboot UK project as together we strive to support the people that need it most. But for now, it's heartwarming to know that all the positive outcomes our joint work has and continues to achieve has been recognised in such a widespread and prestigious way.
To find out more or to get involved in Reboot UK, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org