Why we need a digital solution to the cost of living crisis

Written by Jonathan Prew, MD, We Are Digital

I recently joined We Are Digital as their new MD. This comes after what seems like a lifetime of looking at P&Ls during which I realised I was losing touch with my true self; I had forgotten what my True North was.

A meeting with two social impact investors was the meeting that changed my direction. As we sat talking, I realised they were not interested in my experience but spent a lot of time asking about my values and social impact. As I looked at my future, I was clear that I wanted to feel the same buzz and satisfaction I had in my early career. I now wanted an organisation that was focused on doing the right thing, where I could leverage my experience of working across sectors, taking the very best from the public, private and 3rd sector to achieve social outcomes.  

It was, for this reason, I entered the world of Social Impact.

At We Are Digital, we are now 70 people and work with numerous partners across the UK. My new colleagues have already helped thousands of people in the last three years, overachieving 180% of their social value target and delivered in the region of £29m of financial gain for residents.

The problems and challenges, we want to address are huge:

 

  •       Around 1.7 million households are offline, and one in five children who had been home-schooled in 2021 did not have access to an appropriate device
  •       Almost a fifth of those who reported they had not gone online in the last three months said that “I want to, but I don’t know where to get help.”
  •       Around 11 million people in the UK lack the digital skills needed for everyday life, and 36% of the workforce lack Essential Digital Skills for Work
  • More than 1 in 5 of our population (22%) are in poverty in our country – 14.5 million people.
  • Child poverty continues to rise. The latest data tells us that almost 1 in 3 children in the UK is living in poverty (31%). Half of the children in lone-parent families live in poverty, compared with 1 in 4 in couple families.

 

In terms of our approach, we believe that in the same way we try to encourage people to use technology to be able to live their lives confidently; we ourselves need to use technology effectively in our own operating model to meet the scale of the challenge. 

To do this we are using a SIAM model. Those in technology will be familiar with the SIAM model, but to paraphrase Wikipedia, Service Integration and Management (SIAM) is an approach to managing multiple suppliers of services and integrating them to provide a single business-facing organization. It integrates interdependent services from various internal and external service providers into end-to-end services to meet business requirements.

This approach sums up what we believe in and how we at WAD work. Integrating interdependent services into a single forward-facing service means bringing together the UK sector. We talk about We Are Digital as our own SIAM model, albeit for community-based programmes.

The scale of this ecosystem we aim to support can be seen in the UK with a few statistics. 400 new charities are starting monthly, there are 180,000 charities overall in the UK. In the advice sector offering money and skills support and advice, there are 10,000 independent advice centres. Then there are 370 Monetary Financial Institutions, 333 Local Authorities in England and over 1500 Social housing providers in the UK

At We Are Digital, we work with many of these providers and see first-hand their challenges, be it professional support, technology or scaling.

We contract with Local and Central Government, Housing Association and FTSE 100 businesses, to provide the professional and technology “wrap” that brings together a range of providers from across various sectors and enables those providers to be part of a larger team delivering at scale with crucially the aim of an easier customer journey.

We do this by bringing as many service providers under one roof as we can powering it with a true transformational tech delivery platform that we are investing in over the next two years, which helps people wherever and however they need support. 

The multiple organisations in the sector have individual clients, residents and employees who would benefit from improved digital and financial wellbeing and support. One of the challenges they face is knowing where and how to seek help.

I think what we are creating is like having an NHS 111 for digital and financial wellbeing and support? We believe this should not be something new and created by the taxpayer with Government but facilitated by a social impact digital business working with community partners in one seamless transformative customer journey to wherever and however the customer needs the support.

Crucially, we don’t want to displace the vast ecosystem of providers already out there, but instead use technology to offer them a place which knits them all together for the first time to deliver their work.

Just think what the benefits could be like if we all worked together

If you want to be part of how we join it all up for the benefit of the millions of people facing the crisis, please contact me at [email protected]


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