Bridging the digital skills divide weeknote 22/09/20

30s read

  • Reserve your spot at our Dragon’s Den event with LOTI at DigiLeaders, and grab some inspiration from others on how to close the digital divide
  • Check out our Digital buddies website for buddies, beneficiaries and schools keen to learn more about the programme
  • Digital skills is popping up all over the borough following our publicity drive, and it’s paying off not only with residents but with referrals coming from the health sector
  • We’re looking towards how we can render this programme of work sustainable in the longer term

3min read

LOTI Dragon’s Den at DigiLeaders

Our Dragons’ Den event with LOTI at DigiLeaders is scheduled for 12-2pm on 14 October – get the date in your diaries and reserve your spot! The aim is for boroughs and organisations to share great products and projects they have proved work, and package them up for reuse by others. This way we can all get a leg up when trying to stand on the shoulders of giants. 

Southwark, Brent, Lambeth and, of course, Hackney are confirmed and we’ve got another 5 or 6 waiting in the wings. Really looking forward to this one, even though it’ll be virtual rather than in an East London warehouse with Deborah Meaden.

Digital buddies

We’re ramping up promotion of the Digital buddies programme to attract those in need of a buddy (‘beneficiaries’), by engaging with organisations working with older residents. We know there are a number of social groups and lunch clubs whose participants would jump at this service and we’ll be leveraging our existing relationships to get Digital buddies on their radar.

Similarly, Meg has briefed social prescribers about the scheme and we’re looking forward to working with them and seeing them ‘prescribe’ Digital buddies for those patients who warrant a one-to-one approach.

We’ve created a Google site for buddies, beneficiaries and schools who may be interested in participating in Digital buddies. Having everything in one place (including the risk assessment Lynn’s just drafted for schools), makes it easier for people to learn more about the programme before signing up, and gives us a consistent place to signpost to in our publicity and comms. 

We know what we’re doing is working as buddies and beneficiaries who’ve gone through the programme have told us via their evaluations. With that knowledge in hand, we’re now working on a plan to render Digital buddies sustainable in the longer term. 

Digital skills

On Digital skills, we’ve added some more signposting links including to Learnmyway and Makeitclick who are creating content for the digitally-challenged amongst us. Which is probably all of us at some point. I still can’t find Apple TV via the remote and I’m delivering a Digital Divide project for goodness sake!

We now have flyers and posters advertising the Digital skills page in Morrison’s, on estate notice boards, on posters in the HSC lobby and going out with new and refurb’ed devices from Hackney Council, Hackney Quest and Wick Award, Plus, as of last Saturday’s 11km walk around the back streets of Hackney, in one or two pharmacies. Next stop: park notice boards and the mobile library. 

Plus, due to Meg’s relentless publicity tour, we now have CCG, assistive technology and social prescribing teams referring patients to Digital skills should they be in need of a boost in tech know-how.

We are working with Comms on a campaign that will include press releases, posters in bus stops and active social media engagement to encourage click-throughs to our content.

As with Digital buddies, we need to consider the longer term options for our Digital skills page. Do we continue to scale with more content for different audiences – or do we step away? We’ll be discussing options with potential funders in the next couple of weeks.

As ever, get in touch via, or if you want to be added to or removed from the mailing list. Read our backstory on the HackIT blog.

Finding support services weeknote 14/09/20

30s read

  • Demo of front-end and admin interface went well
  • We need to keep a tight rein on budget
  • Service assessment on Tuesday
  • City has the formal go-ahead to join us
  • Funding sought for administrator
  • Lots of chatting to social prescribers, neighbourhoods, GPs, residents

3 min read

The assessors are coming

This week we’ve been busy prepping our ‘evidence’ for each of the 14 standards in Tuesday’s GDS Service Assessment. This process isn’t a gateway at Hackney but it is a vital part of our governance as we invite assessors to review and advise on our work. Thanks to Gill, Felix and our in-bound developer Hugh for ‘volunteering’. If we were in the office, I’d bribe you with crisps. You’re such a decent bunch I didn’t have to do anything but ask. 

While prepping for the assessment, we revisited our stakeholder map. We’ve always gone for core/consult/inform as, really, why obsess whether someone is in the ‘keep satisfied’ or ‘keep informed’ quadrant? We have 170 people on our weeknote distribution list plus whoever reads Google Currents and the HackIt Blog. If someone’s not ‘informed’ it’s not for want of trying. 

In other news, City has the official go ahead to add its services to Hackney’s; and we’ve finalised the verification resources for both City and Hackney so the administrator will know where to check whether the organisation is bone fide

One careful owner

Funding for the administration of this service is crucial. Though we’ve designed a model that requires minimal overhead, without what’s essentially a Product Owner, Find support services will suffer the same fate as every other directory and not be up to date. Indeed, any product or service without an owner will find its way to obsolescence pretty quickly. The role’s been graded, at PO1 and around £35k and we’re speaking to Comms and Public Health next week about where this role should sit. We’ve put a request out for a redeployed member of staff to cover the initial phase as it seems unlikely we’ll find someone by mid-October’s launch. 

Our digital partner Nudge demo’ed the admin interface and public-facing site on Thursday – the latter is looking very close to the mockups, which is always a relief. Writing the API and hooking it up to the database and front-ends is progressing also. 

Budget is getting extremely tight and we’re working closely with Nudge to make sure we don’t stretch those purse strings. We don’t have any more cash so that’s a good motivator for us all. We’ve moved to fortnightly sprints to limit the fixed costs of sprint-planning and demos, switched to a QA- rather than development-testing model to max out velocity; and deprioritised a couple of stories that could be a fast-follow if necessary. Hackney is a learning organisation and Nudge has suggestions for how HackIT could work more efficiently with agencies and we should take this advice on board. 

Talking heads

Meg’s been off this week so Kate and I presented to the North East London Social Prescribing Digital Technology Group instead. While NELSPDTG is not the easiest acronym, however, our work was very well received and we’re hopeful they’ll use our data, and bolt on any other functionality they require. Similarly, our own Front Door team (great Show and Tell, by the way) is finishing up the conversational prompts tool for customer services and we’ll be looking to incorporate Find support services resources into that as soon as our API is ready. 

I joined the London Fields Neighbourhoods team on Tuesday, and had a productive half hour with reps from voluntary organisations, Mutual Aid groups and social prescribers. It’s amazing what snippets of information you pick up in these calls and we’ll be running a similar workshop with the Shoreditch equivalent this week. Shame we couldn’t have actually had it in London Fields. 

As ever, we’ve been non-stop on the marketing. Emma’s been rocking the comms plan and has us in the GP Bulletin and our own staff newsletter. Meanwhile, I’ve taken 200 flyers over to Paul in Robert House so they can go out with Chromebooks headed to vulnerable young people and, right now, it’s off to Morrison’s to get flyers and posters in front of shoppers in Stamford Hill. And cat litter. 

Next week, once the service assessment is signed, sealed and delivered, we’ll be looking at metrics and how to visualise data best. Infographic, anyone? 

Finding support services designs show and tell 200820

Thanks to those who were able to attend the show and tell this morning about this project, which focussed on the front-end mockups for both residents and voluntary/community orgs.

If you couldn’t make it then, lucky you, as we recorded it. Who needs Netflix? Or there are the slides if you prefer to peruse at your own pace. We had a few questions on Chat during the presentation so, if you read those too, it’ll be almost like you were there.

Bridging the digital skills divide weeknote 18/08/20

30s read

  • How to Google Hangout added to Digital skills page
  • Comms live on waste trucks, estate digital notice boards, stickers on devices, flyers at food providers
  • Two buddies trained; two beneficiaries helped; comms plan for recruiting more buddies taking shape in time for Back to School
  • Working with LOTI and GLA on hosting a session at DigiLeaders

3min read

Our approach to the digital divide is strengths-based. This means, we ask individuals to first try and help themselves – by, for example, watching our how-to videos on the Digital skills page. This may well be the end of the journey for some but, if that doesn’t cut it, they can ring the helpline number on that page for specific advice. Finally, if they still feel at a loss, there’s always our Buddies scheme for one-to-one support around their digital issues. 

How to Google

Trying to help yourself first is not just about limited resources – though we can’t offer a buddy to everyone in Hackney who has a digital skills barrier. Helping yourself is a key skill in the tech world. Developers who are programming websites and software do not have all that knowledge in their heads, they are regularly Googling and researching how to do something just like the rest of us. It’s probably just a lot more complicated like ‘How do I request a packet for node axios?’ [me neither]. If we can get the message ‘It’s okay to Google’ across to residents and start them off with the tools to do that, we’ll have scaled a large part of the digital barrier. 

Of course, we do have a video of ‘How to search the Internet’ on the Digital skills page. This week, we’ve added ‘How to join a Google Hangout’. Exercise classes run by the Council have been using Hangouts since lockdown so this is a welcome addition for the keep fit crowd. Less so for Lynn (our Buddy hero) who’s had to teach some of those boxfit classes as part of her day job in Sports. Feel the burn!

Best of Buddies

Two buddies have now been trained by Lynn, and she’s gathered their feedback and honed the training process as a result. We’ve also ironed out any lingering issues around consent, GDPR and safeguarding with Nick in Info Management. Our waiting list has grown to about 15 beneficiaries wanting a buddy and, with schools back in the next couple of weeks, we’re ramping up recruitment of buddies to match them. Our comms plan is taking shape to drive this. 

We’re chatting this afternoon with Mons and Colin in IT Support about the possibility of adding Buddy experience to their apprentices’ curriculum. This would not only benefit the apprentices but would also allow us to make use of the share screen and video calling functionality that we’re not able to offer via our school age buddies. We’ll be following this up early September as the new ‘term’ starts.

We’re keeping an eye on what buddies want to learn and feeding it into our video production cycle. Two beneficiaries so far wanted to learn about Instagram so we are just finishing off the script for a ‘How to Instagram’ video. 

Winston’s been continuing his user research with residents and staff in care homes. As a result, we’ve added pauses to our earlier videos as the voiceover was too quick for some. 

Lorry at large

There’s no point in doing any of this if nobody knows about it. Comms remains a massive part of our strategy. Thanks to our friends in Waste, we tracked down one of the lorries taking our Digital skills message to the streets. The lorry’s creating quite a stir, and may need its own Instagram account soon. 

Minna in Comms did a great (and fast) job on the advert for Digital skills. We’ve used the same MP4 on the digital notice boards in estates and it’s gone out to surgeries for the digital screens in waiting rooms.

Talking of GPs, they’re now texting those patients who need a prescription of digital skills, a link to our Digital skills page. This week, we’re rolling out the ability to group text particular cohorts such as the over 60s with the same message. Individual and group texts use two different tools but at least all surgeries in the borough use the same two. 

Lots of LOTI

We continue to team with LOTI on the conference idea, and they received encouraging feedback from boroughs including Kingston and Newham when they floated the idea at their last meeting. Rather than going it alone, we’re hoping to tie up with DigiLeaders Week running 11-16 October so we benefit from their hosting platform and leverage their publicity machine to maximise reach.

We’re going with a pitch-style event where organisations try and ‘sell’ their ‘product’ for reuse to other organisations that might be in the market to ‘buy’ it. Obviously with no money actually changing hands as this is the public sector and we love to share. Rather than a blanket request for pitches, we’re considering targeting specific ‘products’ we know are ripe for reuse, and the GLA is helping us out with this. 

Gotta go. Off on my new bike to collect our Digital skills stickers from the Town Hall, ready to be put on every device we and our partners distribute. Likely back there tomorrow when our A5 flyers are ready (they’re headed to food and meals providers) and possibly again next week when the A4 posters going up in estates are hot off the press. All are promoting the Digital skills page so people know where to turn to for help.

At least by cycling to the Town Hall, I can legitimately skip Lynn’s boxfit class. Phew!

That’s us for now. Remember to check out previous weeknotes and you can drop us a note to

Finding support services weeknote 27/07/20

After a week of immersion in the project, Nudge (our IT Supplier) has really jumped on board with both feet. UX Designer Luke has drafted the first round of wireframes for the public-facing website and its associated admin interface*, based on the user needs we gathered both before and during our accelerated Covid-19 launch. Essentially our current service is a high-fidelity prototype that has been tested and iterated for four months and so we are in an excellent position to spec the longer-term product that Nudge is building for us. The drawing board is available for viewing but we don’t need to go back to it. 

*By the way, admin interface is a fancy term for the password-protected website where an organisation signs up or updates its listing, and where we manage those listings.

Meg and Winston are working with Luke to formulate the research plan and user-test the wires with Normal People (aka residents, VCSOs and frontline workers) next week. 

Bukky from our dev team is having daily tech standups with the Nudge team; and today we welcomed James (Nudge Delivery Manager) to our other daily standup. This is the one where we ponder things like ‘how can we get more organisations on the map?’ and ‘what’s a synonym for anxiety?’ Plus, Jordann and Annie from the City part of City and Hackney CCG are popping in weekly too as they’ll also be adding to the database.

We’re using the project management tool ClickUp to track the project and we’ll let you know how we get on with that; it’s always fun to test-drive other software. Clearly the definition of ‘fun’ has somewhat morphed in lockdown.  

Discussions are afoot with Children’s Services to ascertain how we verify organisations in their realm. This is not as easy as it sounds as community and voluntary organisations are not ‘inspected’ in a way that, say, schools are by Ofsted. In the absence of a national process, we need to understand how, for example, Hackney Council decides if an organisation that works with children is bone fide. 

On that note, Winston is busy talking to providers about getting children’s holiday activities on the map. Thanks to Young Hackney for helping us out with this. 

As ever, we can’t stop talking about the service and have shared it in the last couple of weeks via:

  • LBH Jobs newsletter
  • HCVS newsletters
  • Hackney Circle over 60s group
  • LBH food parcel recipients
  • Hackney Jobcentre advisors (Well Street initially)
  • CCG’s Mental Health Coordinating Committee

We’ve also created a roadmap of where we see this service going, longer term. 

An ‘administrator’ role will be pivotal to this project’s success and we’re working up that job description right now – hopefully with a better job title: nobody ever said ‘When I grow up I want to be an administrator’. We see this as an engagement role primarily because we need to showcase organisations and their services to health professionals, the public and each other; as well as carry out the nuts and bolts of verification of organisations. Ambitious targets will see us increasing the number of listed organisations from the current 140 to 500 by the end of the year. There are rumblings of well over 1,500 in the borough and we believe this to be an achievable number. 

There are a few directories that Find support services will replace, the principal one being iCare. The sunsetting (love that concept) of this service has begun and we have about 8 months to do a decent job of making sure that those organisations that should be carried into this new dawn, are [\end-metaphor].

As ever, get in touch via email, follow us on Twitter or read our back story on the HackIT blog