Earlier this month, we launched Carnegie UK’s new strategy: Learning how to live well together. One of the biggest changes to the way we work is our shift from being theme-driven to being mission-led. The programmes we will deliver will instead adopt a more flexible rolling programme of “wellbeing outcomes” which we have identified as being particularly relevant to wellbeing over the next few years.
Where have we been?
We’ve been engaged in digital issues at Carnegie UK for many years – we first published work back in 2012, calling for a new approach to improving the supply of superfast broadband in rural areas – and a focus on the relationship between digital technology and wellbeing was one of the core themes of our 2016-2020 strategy.
Our relationship with tech as individuals, communities and as a society has transformed during these years with many of these changes felt particularly acutely during the past 18 months. Each year, digital technology is impacting ever more on how we consider relationships, concepts of privacy, our understanding of independence and agency, how services are delivered, and how decisions are made.
“Digital can be the driver for greater social and economic equality but just as surely it can be the barrier to such equality too.” (White, 2016)
Carnegie UK’s work on digital has sought to understand how we can maximise the benefits of technology for individuals, communities and society while mitigating the many, varied and ever evolving associated risks. We’ve addressed digital participation as a critical social justice issue across much of our work, seeking to better understand the drivers and solutions to digital exclusion, including:
We have summarised a number of the key messages from across this inclusion work in our accompanying blog.
While our work on inclusion has been the dominant strand of our work on digital, our portfolio has also included work on: improving digital public services, particularly since the pandemic; bridging the gaps between digital policy, process and practice to improve outcomes, introducing kindness as a value to underpin an organisational approach; exploring at the societal level, the use of data for public benefit; and at the individual level, research on the privacy paradox and levels of ‘digital savviness’ amongst the public .
We are so grateful to the dozens of partners, organisations, individuals and particularly our associates from across the UK and Ireland who have worked with us over the past decade and collectively enacted change.
So where are we going?
While our new strategy does not have digital as a distinct part of the portfolio, instead, considerations of digital and particularly digital inclusion will be embedded where relevant throughout our programmes, both in the work we do and how we do it. This follows recommendations we have made in much of our recent work on the need to integrate thinking and processes around digital rather than treating it as a standalone issue. Our focus has always been on wellbeing, but moving forward our wellbeing-first approach will mean all our programmes are rooted in the four domains of wellbeing (social, economic, environmental and democratic) and will address the wellbeing tests that we have developed, which include:
Within our new portfolio of programmes, this might look like ensuring representation of digitally excluded voices; advocating the importance of human experience and emphasising that tech cannot and should not be the default or replacement; continuing to champion wider and more transparent access to data and evidence and supporting communities to use that data to act; or recognising that digital exclusion is a symptom and driver of poverty that intersects with many other aspects of our wellbeing.
This methodology will not preclude us from working on more specifically digital programmes in the future or from working with digital partners, the focus or form may just be different. Furthermore, under this new approach, we are very pleased to be continuing our programme of work on online harms, recognising this as a highly current and prominent threat to wellbeing.
As we transition into our new strategy over the rest of 2021 we still have a few final digital publications to launch including reports on the cancellation of automated decision making systems and results from public engagement on a digital ethical Scotland.
All our previous research and publications can still be accessed here.
We have spent the best part of a decade trying to understand how to maximise the benefits and mitigate the risks of digital for individuals, communities and society. Over the course of our next strategy and beyond, we hope to see yet more substantial, sustainable change responding to the needs of our collective wellbeing.
White, D (2016) Digital Participation and Social Justice https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/role-digital-exclusion-social-exclusion/