The Tech Partnership

Love Your Place was created so we could build a joined-up community of skills, training and wellbeing provision as an accessible and scalable ecosystem. It brings together proven approaches to upskilling people with digital skills and delivers across the UK.

Alex Cole, Tin Smart Social

Digital inclusion means everyone

By Alex Cole, CIO at Tin Smart Social, and Founder of Love Your Place UK

23.06.2017

Digital inclusion means everyone

By Alex Cole, CIO at Tin Smart Social, and Founder of Love Your Place UK

23.06.2017

Alex ColeThe Tech Partnership’s Get Digital programme is working to ensure that everyone gains the basic digital skills they need to participate in today’s increasingly digitised world. One of the ways we do this is by sharing best practice about digital inclusion. In this guest blog, Tin Smart Social’s Alex Cole, tells us why he felt the need to build a joined-up community of basic digital skills and training by founding Love Your Place UK.


When I started my social innovation agency Tin Smart Social in 2015 after working with the long-term unemployed in Lambeth for a year as one of Business In The Communities (BITC) new Business Connectors, I felt passionate and convinced about my ability to make a real difference. I must say that I’m sure at my low points I became as jaded, as a number of others I met along the way as I really got up close to the scale and depth of the challenges facing our communities and local people today.

Everyone means everyone

I realised that I was living in a reality bubble of media rhetoric and my own ‘rose coloured glass’ regarding the opportunities available for local people. The long-term unemployed, ex-offenders, the digitally excluded and particularly young people were facing really big challenges. They also felt marginalised by the corporate ‘machine’ as they tried to build a career as well as find a purpose for their talent, not just financial reward.

I had really thought that if you wanted work you just needed to get out there and get a job. Easy peasy. Not true as it turned out. Yes, there are an abundance of jobs, but there exists a recruitment and corporate culture that somehow fails to translate those opportunities in a way that excites and includes the sort of people who should apply. There was also an engagement process that is disjointed and ‘clunky’ at best and seemed to disengage people. The result is that large swathes of women, black and minority ethnic workers, as well as those who are just not confident with their abilities in the workplace of today are excluded from applying for local jobs or training.

I became energised with a new clarity of purpose. I now knew we needed to ensure we deliver on the aspiration that we hear from politicians daily, that everyone means everyone. That meant ensuring our information and guidance communications about skills, training, and jobs, recruitment and publicity messages and physical spaces where people engage with industry, educators, and public services are all hyper inclusive. In short, we need to believe and pass on that belief to the people we want to engage with.

Love Your Place

While every place is unique, many share common challenges that can be addressed with the same approaches once we have worked them out. Love Your Place was created so we could build a joined-up community of skills, training and wellbeing provision as an accessible and scalable ecosystem. It brings together proven approaches to upskilling people with digital skills and delivers across the UK.

Some very committed and talented people have been working on digital inclusion for over two decades, but this model pushes that work forward in three key ways:

  • It creates a pathway from low or no digital skills to accredited skills that will support local businesses and removes a key barrier to gaining skills for employment
  • It is based on a sustainable local partnership rather than short term projects that sit in narrow stove pipes and often rely on external support and funding
  • It connects the thought leaders from industry, public services and academia directly with local skills development to ensure training is relevant and useful.

Local skills pathways

The digital world evolves quickly and people can find their skills are no longer sufficient for their wellbeing; including their ability to find and keep a job. Young people are arriving in the job market without the basic digital skills needed by modern employers. Skills can also become out of date when technology moves on, when lives change or when the jobs we have change.

Love Your Place recognises this and the fact that individuals and whole communities need skills pathways that allow them to not just to get on the skills escalator, but to stay on it for life by:

  • providing access points for the most disadvantaged individuals within communities which include support and mentoring as well as training
  • designing training and support in ways that make it relevant to individuals and local businesses or service providers and which delivers clear benefits to them
  • removing barriers so people can – if they wish - progress from very basic skills to accredited training in a way and at a pace that fits their lives, jobs and personal priorities.

If you would like to find out more about how to create a path from basic digital and life skills to the skills that business and places need, register at letstalk@tinsmartsocial.com to attend the Love Your Place event on Monday 3 July 9.30am-2pm at iCentrum, Innovation Birmingham, B7 4BB.