Powering through, a time to reflect

James Richardson blogs about what the 15 grantee partners have achieved in the first year of the Power Up inititiative.

Power Up is an ambitious programme. As well as aiming to improve the economic and digital inclusion of more than 4,000 people, we’re also trying to create a new model for the delivery of digital skills, and to improve communication and referral pathways across the areas in which they operate.

It’s a lot to achieve in eighteen months, but the fifteen grantee partners who are delivering Power Up with us have all risen to the challenge we’ve set them, and have been working incredibly hard – especially since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis – to find ways to reach people who lack the skills, confidence or access to use digital technology in ways that make a real difference to their lives.

We’ve also been hugely fortunate to be working with a funder who understands the importance of a research-based approach to programme design. The J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation has given us the time and space to collect evidence from stakeholders ranging from academic and policy experts through to the end users of services, and it’s this insight which has laid the foundations for the success of Power Up. Twelve months on from launching our original research and three months into the Covid-19 lockdown, we share our interim research report. We hope that this report will not only show what the programme has achieved to date, but also continue to move forward the national conversation about digital inclusion.

The report shows how the core concept of ‘embedding’ digital within wider support services has been interpreted in different ways, depending on the unique conditions in which each project is operating. We’ve seen just how important it is to give grantees this flexibility since the beginning of lockdown, which has disrupted normal delivery, driving new approaches to engaging and supporting learners remotely. And with many of these learners coming from backgrounds with limited opportunities, grantees have also told us about the importance of building confidence and a sense of community, which helps to create enthusiasm for learning.

Power Up is about working collaboratively. Whether it’s learners supporting each other, grantees sharing ideas and experience, or new local partnerships that improve engagement, retention and the quality of learning, we think that collaboration is the key to success, and we want to do everything we can to encourage it. We can’t wait to find out what we can achieve together over the next year.

Read the full Progress and Learning Report to find out more about the the first of the Power Up initiative.