It is almost that time of the year when we get together to reinvigorate our shared vision for a prosperous, fairer, disinterested future society where everyone can reach their full potential.
Every October, during Black History Month and immediately after Libraries Week, the Online Centres Network review our shared goal to tackle digital inclusion in England, and we use the opportunity to encourage more organisations to join the cohort while supporting more citizens to get online.
The Online Centres Network
The Online Centres Network is a cohort made up of thousands of grassroot and hybrid organisations amalgamated by Good Things Foundation to tackle digital and social exclusion in England and Wales.
The Online Centres Network achieves its purpose by providing people and organisations with the insights, skills and confidence they need to fully participate during technology-adoption maturity and beyond.
The Online Centres Network has supported over 13 million people in England and Wales, Australia, Kenya and IFB Gaming diversified to Nigeria in 2020 to support education through the Digital Inclusion Tour.
Get Online Week is a key part of our design and work at the Online Centres Network. In addition to supporting people with digital skills, it is also an essential motivator for the organisations that constitute the cohort. For instance, during the lockdown, member organisations were able to access funding and devices and broadband to support people and organisations in our communities through the Online Centres Network.
Get Online Week
Get Online Week is a digital inclusion campaign by Good Things Foundation. The campaign sees thousands of local events take place each year hosted by community organisations, giving everyone the chance to find the support they need to improve their digital skills and get motivated to learn more.
In 2007, a date in October was first marked out to bring digital inclusion to national attention in the UK – and Get Online Day was born. In 2010, and for every year since, the campaign became a week-long, annual celebration,
According to the figures released by Good Things Foundation in 2020, 400 community organisations in the UK held events for people with low digital skills, reaching over 20,000 people. This year’s Get Online Week campaign will take place from 18 – 24 October 2021, and you can be part of it too.
IFB Gaming is a hybrid games-based research and learning organisation focused on the intersection of play and lifelong learning and social inclusion.
At IFB, we believe that if people, communities or organisations don’t “mix” and “play” (integrate), then their ability to continue to learn in the future will evaporate and they risk being excluded.
IFB Gaming met Good Things Foundation at the launch of WebRoots Democracy at Whitehall in 2015 but we did not become a member of the Online Centres Network until 2018. Meeting Helen Milner, founder of Good Things Foundation, set IFB up for an epic digital transformation journey. At the time, she was basically doing what we were doing in gaming paradigm and with gaming clans and communities at University in real life, and with real organisations and charities.
Through the Online Centres Network, IFB Gaming has worked with prominent organisations and trusts such as NHS Digital, HMRC, Smartlyte, Learn For Life Enterprise and Park View Project.
Since joining the network in 2018, IFB has participated in four (4) Get Online Week campaigns and we are currently a health and wellbeing specialist within the network.
Benefits of being part of Online Centres Network
Being a health and wellbeing specialist at the Online Centres Network could easily lead to the assumption that it is a mandatory campaign and as such we are obliged to participate. No! That is not the case and you can get involved too. All you have to do is follow the instructions to become a member of the Online Centres Network and register to either host an event and/or simply support the campaign.
Below, I impart four (4) benefits of joining the network as experienced through my leadership at IFB Gaming.
1. Focus – Being a member of the Online Centres Network provided a focus and guiding point for IFB Gaming as we navigated the transition from longitudinal virtual ethnography to a hybrid learning and research organisation.
2. Awareness and reach – Being a member of the UK Online Centres Network has provided us with a conduit to channel our uniqueness and offerings to the English communities and lawmakers. The Online Centres Network creatively creates a voice for the thousands of grassroot organisation in the coalition.
3. Further B2B and B2C opportunities – Being a member of the network has exposed IFB to sophisticated business conduits and prominent personalities in England and Wales and in Australia. Through the Online Centres Network, IFB Gaming has been able to access new business opportunities bringing opportunities back to English communities and to the organisations that serve these communities.
4. Exposure to funders and investors – Being a member of the UK Online Centres Network has exposed us to funders and investors that we could not have imagined and designed for. Pre-membership, community and hybrid organisations in our sector often competed for the same fund-pot, and often for identical objectives – social and digital inclusion. Since becoming a health and wellbeing specialist for the network, we have been exposed to funders, investors and lawmakers that we did not imagine possible, at least, not any time soon.
The pandemic inherently catalyses technology-adoption maturity ushering in the new decline that puts on the path on new AI (Artificial Intelligence) making social integration an utmost priority. Today, 3.7 billion people are digitally excluded worldwide (ITU, 2020) and over 13 million people in the UK lack the digital skills they need for work (Lloyds Consumer Digital Index, 2020).
A lack of digital skills and access can have a huge negative impact on a person’s life, leading to poorer health outcomes and a lower life expectancy, increased loneliness and social isolation, less access to jobs and education. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s how vital digital and social integration are to the nations health and wellbeing. Personally speaking, I think the work that we do at the Online Centres Network is essential. Organisations such as the Online Centres Network are as important for reporting at the top as they are for accessing excluded communities and citizens at the bottom, but we cannot do it alone.
Learn how you can get your organisation involved on the Online Centres Network’s website.