Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading tech for good funder, is proud to announce the launch of its Digital Reach programme – a pioneering initiative developed to support the UK’s efforts to increase digital skills amongst some of the UK’s most disadvantaged young people.

By harnessing the expertise of the UK’s leading youth organisations, which have longstanding and trusted relationships with the most marginalised young people, Digital Reach will demonstrate how they are perfectly placed to steer isolated young people towards positive futures.

The Basic Digital Skills UK 2017 report suggests that, despite an overall increase in the number of UK adults who have gained basic digital skills, at least 3% (300,000) of those aged 15-24 are still being left behind. Nominet Trust’s own research indicates that it is this group that is the most likely to be facing multiple forms of disadvantage. Digital Reach has been created to respond to this national challenge by reimagining digital skills delivery to the hardest-to-reach young people in our society.

With Nominet Trust’s funding and support, Digital Reach will be implemented through a consortium of delivery partners, all renowned for their work with disadvantaged young people. The programme will initially aim to engage with 4,000 of those on the wrong side of the digital divide; the effectiveness of models to scale will also be evaluated, allowing more young people to be reached.

Nominet Trust is investing over £600,000 into the following six initiatives chosen following a rigorous selection and pitching process. Twelve organisations will be involved in developing and implementing pilots over the next nine months:

  • Action for Children: Action for Children (ACF) will digitise their current paper-based content across three employability programmes in severely deprived urban areas in Scotland.
  • Carers Trust: Carers Trust will work with Good Things Foundation to develop an e-learning resource for young adult carers as an extension to Learn My Way (the most widely used tool for digital skills delivered through libraries and community organisations). Eight Carers Trust Network Partners will use the resource to help young adult carers gain the basic digital skills they need to achieve their aspirations.
  • Home-Start and #techmums: Home-Start and #techmums will collaborate to help 500 young mothers acquire basic digital skills to overcome the challenges they face in their daily lives, helping them become more confident and to achieve their personal and professional goals.
  • The Children’s Society and City & Guilds Group: The Children’s Society and City & Guilds will engage 550 young people across the Midlands and the North of England by helping them to improve their digital skills through accredited course development.
  • UK Youth: UK Youth will use the investment to create Digital Hubs in 10 member organisations, training a youth worker and three young people to become Digital Champions. They will then work with referral and outreach partners to support the most isolated young people that are engaged with the Digital Hubs.
  • Wales Co-operative Centre, YMCA Swansea, Llamau and GISDA: Wales Co-Operative Centre will work with YMCA Swansea, Llamau and GISDA to engage 375 of the hardest-to-reach young people across Wales through a series of workshops and by incorporating digital literacy into existing life skills programmes.

Vicki Hearn, Director, Nominet Trust, commented: “Digitally disadvantaged young people are amongst the hardest-to-reach and we need new models to engage with them to disrupt the cycle of disadvantage and exclusion. Our evidenced approach gives us confidence that Digital Reach will have a tangible impact on the lives of those who have so far been left behind.

“Over the coming months, we will be supporting the six pilots and evaluating which are the most effective in helping disadvantaged young people acquire basic digital skills. Through Digital Reach we hope to create models that can be replicated to address the issue at scale and inspire other organisations to take a fresh look at their approaches.”

Russell Haworth, CEO of Nominet which founded and funds Nominet Trust, said: “Working closely with expert organisations that have existing relationships with the young people we need to reach to support their broader confidence is positive a move, not only for those young people but for the future of the digital economy. Engaging those who risk being left behind economically and digitally is vital if we are to take seriously the development of our future hiring pool and strengthen our digital skills in the UK.”

The Rt Hon. Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital, said: “We are committed to closing the digital skills gap, giving everyone the knowledge and confidence to prosper in the modern economy. The work being done by Nominet Trust’s Digital Reach project, along with the Government’s Digital Skills Partnership, will play a pivotal role in encouraging and inspiring young people to find the training they need and identify digital job vacancies for them.”

To ensure Digital Reach demonstrates its social impact and generates shareable insights, evaluation will be an integral part of the programme. Nominet Trust will be working with Dr. Ellen Helsper, Associate Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science and leading digital engagement expert, to develop an evaluation framework and validate the findings.

To find out more about Digital Reach and the theory behind it, you can download our prospectus. You can keep track of our partner organisations and the progress of their pilots by following @nominettrust and #DigitalReach on Twitter.