Our thoughts

Closing the Digital Divide: we’re looking for NGOs in Europe to test our model – are you interested?

Our Director of Digital Social Inclusion explores how our model of digital inclusion through a network of community organisations could be applied to other countries and regions.

By Good Things Foundation · 13/05/2021

Good Things Foundation is a digital inclusion charity operating in the UK and Australia. Our vision is a world where everyone benefits from digital. We lead a network of thousands of community organisations operating across both countries, focusing on helping people access and use the internet to have better lives.

Our model is based on embedding and supporting digital inclusion within the critical work undertaken by the community sector at the front line: whether helping people find employment, improve their health, or manage money.

By embedding digital inclusion, those helped by the community sector gain digital access and skills as part of the support they receive. This allows us to provide digital inclusion at scale, for those in greatest need.

This reflects the size of the challenge– in the UK, 9 million people still cannot use the internet without support, and 7 million lack internet access in their homes – and the strong association between digital exclusion and poverty – people with an annual household income of £50,000 or more are 40% more likely to have Foundation digital skills, than those earning less than £17,499.

Community organisations recognise that their beneficiaries need digital access and skills, but frequently do not have the confidence or tools to build this into their local offer.

Going beyond this, we have worked to raise awareness of digital inclusion as a social and economic priority, advocating for investment and running digital inclusion campaigns, and we have built partnerships with the UK Government, the and philanthropy to deliver funded programmes. The effect has been to grow the network into a powerful national resource for digital inclusion.

We have also been able to take this model to Australia, working with the Australian Federal Government to create and fund a digital inclusion network that supports older Australians.

Now, more than ever, digital inclusion is a priority. Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of technological change, leaving billions worldwide even further behind.

In September 2020 we ran a roundtable in partnership with Google.org, hearing from inspirational NGOs from across the EMEA region about their experiences of delivering digital inclusion during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the lessons they had learned.

Across the UK and Australia, since social restrictions were introduced our community partners have pivoted their offers, moving to remote and blended models of delivery that have allowed them to maintain reach with those locked out of the digital world. Their efforts have been extraordinary, and have shown that digital inclusion – based on human relationships – can continue during these extraordinary times.

Recognising this challenge, we’re looking to explore how our model of digital inclusion through a network could be helpful in other countries and regions. With support from Google.org, Good Things Foundation is building and testing a set of assets that could assist NGOs in other geographies to learn about and apply the key features of our digital inclusion model in a way which can work for them and for the populations they serve.

Now we’re seeking partners who can work with us to test these assets, applying them to their own work and beginning to make changes to their operating models for greater digital inclusion. During the second half of 2021, and into 2022, we’re looking to work with two NGOs, ideally from Southern or Eastern Europe. We’d like to test the assets, see how they can be applied in a real life context, and in the process, refine the assets to create a model that NGOs in any country can use to start and grow a digital inclusion network. The testing process will involve a small amount of grant funding that could be distributed by the NGO to organisations in an emerging network.

Ideally we’d like to find NGOs that have a strong interest in digital inclusion, as well as a strong social mission – for example, to help people who are homeless, or to build the financial capability of those on low incomes, or to improve mental health for those in crisis. We’re also interested in finding NGOs that already operate through a network, or have access to people and organisations that could provide the basis for a network. Or an NGO delivering digital inclusion in just one place – a town or city, for example – but with an ambition to scale across your region or your country.

We believe that networked digital inclusion is vital to address the global digital exclusion challenge in a post-Covid world. So we’re excited about the opportunity to share our learning and in turn, learn from others.

  • In June we ran a market engagement event focusing on this opportunity, giving interested NGOs from across Europe the chance to ask questions. Following this, we issued a formal call for expressions of interest – see below for how to respond. If you missed the event but you’re interested in finding out more, the slides we used can be viewed here.

Call for expressions of interest

The deadline for submission of expressions of interest is Monday 12th July 5pm (CET).

Profile photo of Adam

Adam Micklethwaite

Director of Digital Social Inclusion

With responsibility for Good Things Foundation’s programmes in the UK, Adam builds ambitious and innovative partnerships with Government, local councils, charitable foundations and the private sector to address society’s biggest challenges using digital.

Before joining Good Things Foundation, Adam was a Deputy Director in the UK Government responsible for education and skills policy, new research, and the delivery of large-scale change. This role involved creating the National Careers Service, leading the Further Education Student Loans programme from concept to completion, and leading Spending Review processes for adult learning and skills.