People and Digital in Sheffield

People and Digital in Sheffield


Friday 13th, after lunch, at the end of a dismal week in politics. On paper it shouldn’t have worked, but it did! Firstly people did turn up and secondly the inaugural ‘People.SHF’ event was an energetic and productive conversation.

“It went really well! Considering the subjects covered and the fact that few people knew everyone, it was hugely productive (to be honest, it exceeded my expectations).”

People.SHF is a part of the Sheffield Digital Coalition of the Willing movement. It is the part which focuses on how we can work towards everyone benefiting from digital in Sheffield. The approach we use at Good Things Foundation, which I hope will be utilised here is bringing together those with community building expertise with those who have digital expertise.

There are many challenges to ensuring this goal is reached, not least the fact that over 11.3m people in this country do not have basic online skills, and that many of these people have complex lives and can experience multiple social exclusion issues. The Good Things Foundation Digital Nation infographic provides more information on digital and social inclusion challenges.

When I was asked to chair People.SHF by Mark Gannon (who together with Chris Dymond is driving the Sheffield Digital Coalition), I said yes, but with three caveats:

  1. Only if Greg Fell, Director of Public Health would co-chair because digital inclusion is a major public health agenda, and because we need local system leaders to engage and help to drive change.
  2. That we only focus on 1–3 issues which are meaningful to people in Sheffield and where we can add value to existing activities through digital,
  3. That I only chair for 6 months and then it is someone else’s turn!

So the priority issues we settled on were:

  • Welfare Benefits — digital inclusion and the roll out of universal credit in Sheffield in November 2018 (Here is a link to our ‘How To’ Universal Credit Guide)
  • Health and Wellbeing — exploring how digital can act as an enabler to person centred care (A link to the Health Foundation summary of Person Centred Care)
  • Digital Inclusion — setting up the Local Digital Skills Partnership (A blog from Good Things Foundation CE Helen Milner OBE on Local Digital Skills Partnership)

We have proposed to host a scoping event, work in partnership to deliver 3 specific summits on the priority issues and host a final findings and reflections event.

At the scoping event held on Friday 13th July we explored these challenges with the 3 activities and began to shape the summits:

Review of the Fab City Manifesto: Looking at the manifesto principles to see if it’s something that Sheffield could adopt as is or with some customisation.

Understanding the themes: Working in groups to unpick the challenges faced and the opportunities available for each of the priority themes.

Design a summit: Working in groups to design what a summit could look like for each of the three priority themes.

Tim Brazier, Good Things Foundation Head of Service Design did a fantastic job of the design of the activities and materials and also produced a brilliant engaging record of the event.

There was widespread agreement on a slightly adapted version of the Fab City Manifest. Martin Smith from Hive IT has kindly agreed to put produce a Sheffield Fab City version.

There was lots of discussion in the groups about the challenges and opportunities in the themes.

A big thank you to the three facilitators Sooze Tooze and Martin Smith from Hive IT and Rob Shapiro from Good Things Foundation.

The Universal Credit group expressed concerns for more vulnerable groups, identified that there is a need to map resources and an opportunity to use this as a hook to engage and support people in a digital journey.

Summit Ideas: Focus on vulnerable adults and map their UC user journeys in this city, identify key barriers and current and potential digital resources. Do this using UC as a hook for the beginning of a digital journey.

The Person Centred Care group identified that we have lots already happening in the city but not shared and widespread knowledge of it or evidence that it works. There is an opportunity to share knowledge, build evidence and further collaborate across sectors. In particular digital, mental health and young people was identified as a gap in the city.

Summit Ideas: Use a co-design approach to exploring what we have and new project ideas

Digital inclusion was similar in that there is plenty going on but it needs linking together, funding and more efforts to engage students, businesses and other potentially useful partners. A foundation was set for the development of the local digital skills partnership.

Summit Ideas: Should address :

Digital and engagement skills…

  • That gives reasons for business and the council to engage
  • That understands priorities for business
  • That demonstrates reasons for business, funding organisations, public and big independent funders to fund a long-term, holistic approach to funding and resources.

Further details are all in Tim’s write-up.

We finished off with a ‘retro’ looking at what went well, what didn’t go so well and what we would change.

Of course not everyone agreed but many people seemed to enjoy the conversation, style and pace of the event and got something from it.

Some people felt it was not long enough, there was some language issues and that it didn’t go into enough depth on the summits.

More time, more networking and more diversity in the room were all things that people would change.

Key takeaways for me were that we are a city full of talented people who care, that the 3 issues we focused on are interlinked, that there is plenty of opportunity to use digital to improve lives and that getting together where you live to do something good can be rewarding and hopeful!

Next Steps are:

  1. To get a core group of people together to look through the results of this session and plan the three summits including when, format, engagement, connections with other activities.
  2. To open up the conversation beyond the room/event through trello and slack (two digital project collaboration tools)
  3. To produce the Sheffield version of the Fab City manifesto

Thank you to Tim who voluntarily put time, creativity and energy into designing the format and materials, to the excellent and skilled facilitators Sooze, Martin and Rob, and to Chris, Mark, Sarah and others behind the scene who helped organise the event.

And not to forget thank you to all the participants who shook off the dismal week in politics and that Friday feeling and willingly shared their time, insights and ideas in the hope of making a difference to the lives of people in Sheffield.

If you would like to join the Sheffield Digital Coalition of the Willing and have an interest in making sure everyone benefits from digital in Sheffield please do have a read of the write up and get in touch with or

Join us on slack and trello or by tweeting using the hashtag #PeopleSHF

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