Since we launched Digital Reach two months ago, all of our twelve delivery partners are powering ahead with the implementation phase of their pilots. Each of them will soon start working with the first of the 3,000 young people we aim to reach through the programme.

Over the last month, our partners have been recruiting and training digital mentors, hosting kick-off days and some have even started running co-creation sessions. These sessions are crucial in helping the youth organisations understand the needs of the young people they are working with, so they can tailor their programmes accordingly and deliver maximum impact.

On the ground

Last week we visited UK Youth’s first co-design session in Sheffield. Seven youth club leaders out of the 10 selected clubs from locations across the digital heat map gathered – in person and online – to assess the needs of the young people and design the programme activities. This was a great opportunity to reality check our theory of change regarding the diversity of the young people’s needs in terms of acquiring digital skills. They ranged from getting familiar with the keyboard to online safeguarding and looking for help online. It was also important to understand first-hand the barriers these young people face which prevent them from acquiring digital skills. Cultural norms, limited or no access to the internet, or the focus on ensuring their basic needs are met – such as having enough food and a roof over their heads – are just some of the factors preventing young people from benefitting from digital engagement.

The bigger picture

While things have been busy on the ground, we’ve also been delighted to see Digital Reach recognised at a policy level. When we first launched the programme, we received support from the Department of Culture Media and Sport and the Minister of State for Digital, the Right Honourable Matt Hancock, who publicly acknowledged the value of Digital Reach and the pivotal role it can play in inspiring young people to find the training they need.

Digital Reach has also been recognised in a recent parliamentary briefing paper that will inform a House of Lords debate on Thursday 7th September on digital skills in the UK and the importance of a digital understanding at every level of society.

This wider acknowledgement is vital. As much as Digital Reach is about having a positive impact on young lives, it is also about encouraging other players involved in digital skills delivery to refresh their thinking and consider new approaches to help close the digital skills gap for disadvantaged young people.

We’re looking forward to the outcome of the House of Lords debate and will keep you posted on this ongoing conversation on how we can best deliver digital skills to the most disadvantaged young people in our society.

Follow #DigitalReach on Twitter for the latest updates and download the prospectus here.