One of the things I’ve been personally most proud of in the past year is establishing Good Things Foundation in Australia. In the UK, the Online Centres Network is essential to the way we operate. Together we’re a big club with a shared vision - a shared vision of improving lives using digital as an enabler, and a vision of a better society and a better world as a result. I know this is what we do in the UK because of our research and our evaluation as well as by talking to our Network members and to the people they’re helping. In Australia, we’re starting to do this too with a new ‘big club’ - the Be Connected Network.
At the end of April, I hosted six Be Connected Network Partner events in Australia - in Perth, Melbourne, and Geelong. It was great to take Be Connected on the road and lovely for me to meet organisations who are, or would like to be, part of the Be Connect Network.
It’s so nice to meet people face-to-face. In this digital world, it’s great that I can co-work with people on opposite sides of the world virtually (in Sydney and Sheffield) but it’s also nice to meet people face-to-face sometimes too.
In Perth, I loved it when one woman, who was thinking of joining the Be Connected Network said to me “I came along today to find out what the catch is... but there’s no catch!” Indeed there isn’t!
In Melbourne, it was great to hear new collaborations starting there in the room with Network Partners talking about sharing resources as well as forming new ideas for how they could achieve more together.
And in Geelong, a new cooperation was born between three Network Partners talking about how they could share volunteers and signpost between each other as they all helped people learn basic digital skills in Ballarat.
I was amazed and thankful for people travelling long distances to get to the events.
We talked a lot about the grant programs that Network Partners can apply for - including the $50,000 Network Capacity Building Grants. I’m a bit jealous as we don’t have these grants in the UK, and they’re really going to help us to both innovate and scale across Australia with digital inclusion.
Not everything is perfect - a couple of Network Partners said they had older people they were supporting who didn’t want to set up an email address and therefore they couldn’t register on Be Connected. So we responded and we’ve written this guidance note which is now on our Resources page. All the Network Partners love the free online learning courses on the Be Connected website but wanted to know what new content is coming - so we responded with this overview leaflet. I’m glad the Good Things team in Sydney have been able to respond to these issues and are keeping the conversations going.
The thing that I loved the most is how similar so much of our work is in the UK and Australia. One Australian Network Partner said she had been working for 10 years and didn’t know other organisations helped older people to learn how to use the internet - I’ve heard the exact same thing in England. In Australia and the UK, I love hearing the stories about people living in our countries coming from all over the world and are beginning to stay in touch with relatives back home via the internet. Partners in both countries have told me about the 80 something-year-old or the 90 something-year-old who is now buying their pet’s food online or video calling a distant grandchild for the first time.
But most of all I loved hearing the passion from the staff and volunteers about spreading the message that the internet can help people to make their lives a little bit better. And then they just get on with it - be it in Geelong (AU) or Gravesend (UK), or in Perth (AU) or Plymouth (UK).
I’m really glad that Good Things is doing our bit to support community organisations and libraries in Australia, the UK, and in Kenya, to help people thrive in today’s digital world.
Thank you to our Good Things team in Sydney for making me feel so welcome.