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

Sheffield Rotherham 5GCC Bid

At the Sheffield City Region CBI Annual Dinner on 10th May 2018, Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn said that “Sheffield was right at the centre of the industrial revolution and is now right at the centre of the digital revolution”.

Carolyn recognised what we already know here in Sheffield; that the city has successfully harnessed its world-renowned heritage in manufacturing, arts, crafts and creative innovation and set a new trajectory which is aiming to make the city a thriving digital cluster that can create new growth opportunities and enhance and transform the lives of those who live, work and play in the city.

The most recent Tech Nation report would support this. Tech Nation has a vision to make the UK the best place to imagine, start and grow a digital business. Each year, they publish the Tech Nation report to capture the strength, depth and breadth of digital tech activity in the UK. The first Tech Nation report was published in 2015 to help develop an understanding of the vibrant digital tech landscape in the UK. The latest report showed that Sheffield is on the up.

Figure 1

Figure 1 shows Digital Tech Turnover Growth – that is the difference between the turnovers produced by digital tech firms (those the Office for National Statistics classifies as being in the digital technology sector) in 2017 and that produced in 2016. The chart shows this as a percentage of 2016 turnovers, i.e. the percentage it’s grown by. It shows this for Sheffield, London, and the next 15 largest urban areas in the UK, as defined by a combination of Travel to Work Areas, which Tech Nation’s Data is based on, and the top 10 most populous cities in the UK according to the Centre for Cities’ Data Tool.

Sheffield’s tech industry turnover grew by £82m last year to £745m, an increase of more 12% – the largest increase of all major UK cities, beating Manchester (4%), Leeds (7%), Bristol (1%), Birmingham (6%) and Glasgow (0%) with only London (11%) near Sheffield’s growth. This demonstrates that our tech and digital sector is growing but is also harnessing productivity.

Figure 2

Figure 2 shows that Sheffield’s Tech Industry also added a lot of jobs last year, growing by 7.48% to 6,209, which ranks it 4th in this list. Note that these figures are specifically for high-value technology jobs that have been created by digital tech companies. Those firms also created many non-technical jobs, of course, and overall there are more than 22,000 people employed in digital technology roles across the city – the vast majority for firms where their core business does not classify them as being in the digital tech sector. Again, Sheffield’s performance beats other leading digital cities like Manchester (6%), Leeds (3%), Bristol (-1%), Birmingham (6%), Glasgow (0%) and London (6%).

This is not accidental and is the result of focus and hard work to establish strong local partnerships that make Sheffield a perfect digital and tech ecosystem.

The full Tech Nation Report 2018 is here:

Credit: Graphics and some content by Chris Dymond, Sheffield Digital.

Sheffield’s first annual digital conference

Sheffield’s first annual digital conference

Sheffield held its first annual digital conference at the Electric Works on 15th November 2017. It is an opportunity for Sheffield’s digital community to come together and learn more about the plans for the digital coalition (dotSHF) and the domain model that we will use to frame all of our work in the coming months and years.

The conference helped to set out and asked for people’s views on our ambitions for the city in relation to the city’s economy, infrastructure, governance, mobility, living, people and resources (the 7 domains). We heard from a number of speakers addressing the challenges and opportunities in each of these areas. Each domain has a Trello board on to which we would encourage you to contact us with your contributions

Speakers included colleagues from The Good Things Foundation (People), the Advanced Wellbeing and Research Centre (Living), Sheffield Digital (Economy), Sheffield City Council (Governance), University of Sheffield (Mobility), Sheffield Hallam University and Arup (Infrastructure) and the Urban Flows Observatory (Resources).

We’re keen to use the conference and the related policy sessions, as a way of engaging with Sheffield’s digital community and to help us shape this agenda going forward. Further details will be announced as available.

We plan for the conference to be annual event, updating interested parties on the work of dotSHF, our achievements and the work of the 7 domains.

We look forward to seeing you at our 2018 conference.

Sheffield’s Digital Coalition nominated for national award

Digital Leaders, the nationwide initiative for promoting effective, long-term digital transformation across government, industry and charities has shortlisted the dotSHF – Sheffield’s Digital Coalition for the ‘best cross-sector collaboration award’.

The council is a founder member of dotSH and has worked with Sheffield Digital and other local partners to establish a coalition of people and organisations, representing different areas of expertise and interest in making Sheffield a thriving digital city.

The members share a collective ambition, and some responsibility, for developing the city’s digital capabilities in particular areas. There are over 100 organisations who are currently engaged including the Council, Sheffield Digital, the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, The Floow, Zoo Digital and the AMRC.

The coalition, which was founded in July 2017 is working on joining organisations and individuals to drive better outcomes for Sheffield in areas such as the digital economy, transport, connectivity, data sharing and digital inclusion.

Mark Gannon, Director of Business Change and Information Solutions at Sheffield City Council said: “We are delighted to be nominated for the award which recognises that Sheffield is a collaborative place and has a big ambition to be a leading digital city and creating a smarter and digitally connected society that can lead to better opportunities for people and businesses in Sheffield.”

Councillor Olivia Blake, deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “We have some big challenges in the city that our digital work can help overcome, from air quality to connectivity. This nomination recognises the great work we have been doing to address these challenges collaboratively across the city.”

The winner will be decided be members of the public who can cast their vote online at,

The outcome will be announced at the DL100 awards dinner in London on 21 June 2018.