What next for Joined Up Digital?

June 28, 2016

Joined Up Digital was originally conceived as a 6-month project from January to June 2016. With the end of June nearly upon us I have been reflecting on the original project outline to see where we are with achieving our goals.


We have achieved goal #1 and brought  the ageing space together to assess the challenge... we started with 3 founders and have grown to include over 50 organisations and nearly 90 people. This shows the appetite to tackle this. At our May event we collaborated to brainstorm a broad set of solutions for helping people, and have since openly shared the outputs and the resources (e.g. the JUD game) to help benefit any organisation.


However have we really made any significant progress to meet our ambition of “more people in later life enjoying the benefits of digital products and services”? Not yet.


This articles shares our latest thinking on how a follow-on Joined Up Digital project could go about achieving this ambition.

The Need (‘why do anything?’)


Everyone can benefit from digital technology and use it to enable a more connected and potentially fulfilling life - as we touched upon in the initial project introduction . People in later life are no different. However, the statistics show conclusively that older age groups are being left behind by the digital age.


As a group of organisations and individuals we came together as we knew more had to be done. We know the barriers that exist - from lack of skills in individuals and supporting organisations; lack of access to broadband and devices; and how investment in innovation is not reaching the front-line. We know that funding is limited, and that the social sector is many years behind the private sector in fully embracing the opportunity of digital transformation.

At our May event we saw that there is plenty of ‘supply’ out there in terms of digital solutions, but most of it is failing to cover the ‘last mile’ - end users (people) are not aware of the solutions out there, they are not being ‘sold’ the benefits, and digital is not adapting well enough to how people live their lives and see the world in terms of wants, needs, desires and opportunities. There is a gap to be bridged between people and technology if we are really going to see a significant increase in people accessing and benefiting from digital services.

The Response (‘what would JUD do?’)

Our aim is to develop JUD as:

A social platform to better connect people using digital technology

  • Designed around and co-run by the people it serves

  • Powered by a network of organisations bringing together the social and tech sectors

  • Pooling funding, skills and resources to more effectively bring about digitally-enabled change

We believe JUD can provide a catalyst for digital transformation of the social sector, starting with ageing. We will develop solutions with people to bridge the digital divide, and will share digital leadership and expertise across organisations to help the third sector ‘catch up’ and to better exploit the digital age for social good.

At a high level we will develop 3 key components:

1. JoinedUp.me - a front-line solution to bridge the gap between people and tech

A key finding from the event was that a ‘conduit’ was needed to help to get people connected to technology. Clearly this conduit is a person - possibly a family member, a carer, a charity worker, or simply a peer / friend. But what if we could enable that ‘conduit’ person with a simple and effective solution to help introduce digital technology and services to people in a personal, more tailored way? Not skills training, but an interface that leads by asking what people want and need, and that can connect them to services, solutions and people that can serve those wants and needs. Like a personal (digital) assistant to help find and connect you to what things are out there you may find interesting and helpful.

Our idea is a new digital offering called “JoinedUp.me” (working title). This may eventually be a smartphone / tablet app. But long before a line of code is written we will employ best-practice UX (User Experience) design principles, and work with lots of users to carefully define what people want and need, and how they communicate those things. We will develop a set of detailed user requirements working with a wide range of people in later life, and the people most close to them who may be more likely to be digitally connected.

We will look to capture and understand the user’s needs, wants and barriers. Things such as in th image below:

...and then explore their current user journey, and design a better one. We will create a ‘bottom-up’ specification for a tool that can deliver a more personalised experience in response.


We believe that this journey can be better served than by what is on offer today. We can sell the benefits much better using a personalised approach - by asking what they want - and using digital storytelling of peers’ experiences. We can enable close contacts or ‘conduits’ to drive the app and thus avoid the barrier of everyone needing a device, internet and skills. We can find the right solutions that fit the opportunities and challenges, by asking the right questions. And we will put the users at the heart of the business model - allowing them to be the ones that not only design, but roll out the solution through becoming advocates and helping peers to join in too.


What would the app do to serve the users’ needs? Match and connect them to the 1,000s of excellent digital services (apps, sites, devices) already out there. If they want to contribute by volunteering here is Do-it.org. Interested in meeting new neighbours, try Casserole club. This solution will help to address the broken supply chain: ‘enabling the market’ to get more digital solutions in the hands of end users, and help improve lives.


2. Digital leadership - bringing social sector up to speed


We know that many organisations in the third sector would appreciate support to improve their digital strategy and capability. We will develop JUD to try and support charities and other social organisations - large and small - so we can help them to help us to help transform the third sector.

We will aim to bring together the best digital leaders - from outside the sector and within - to help integrate digital transformation into charities’ strategic and operational plans. We can share resources and best practices and help embed a digital culture within organisations. We can look to align with the best digital training bodies like Google Labs and the Academy of Digital Business Leaders (ADBL) to offer access to digital leadership courses for key people in organisations - not just those in marketing and IT but chief executives and Trustees - so that we can start to transform organisations from the top. In that way we better ensure that digital is given the priority it requires at institutional level.


We will build relationships with the private sector, and in particular the tech giants, to help us create a pipeline of new digital technology that could tackle social challenges at a large scale. Shared platforms that can make it easier, for instance, to manage your work and career, your health, and your finances.

3. JoinedUp Network - open sharing to benefit all contributors

Underpinning all of the work we do is a network structure that can keep us all better joined up. This needs to be a network that can support organisations from all sectors yet retaining key principles around openness, sharing and alignment behind a single set of shared (social) goals. It is a network where all parties will have an equal opportunity to contribute and benefit, and is driven to action, progression and success by strong leadership.

We will aim to operate the network through innovative mechanisms like those used by Ethos with their ‘value exchange’ - which could allow very different organisations (in terms of size, status and mission) to contribute to the project and receive in return advice, support, resource and possibly funding.


The network will be served using digital technology, which will enable everyone to easily collaborate and stay connected, and will allow the network to scale as large as it needs to go.


The Plan (‘when & how’)

July - September: Proposal

We are developing a proposal to take JUD forward and we are in initial discussions with funders including Big Lottery, with a view to securing resources by September.

During this phase we will develop:

  • Detailed proposal for Phase 2 project - including scope, goals, resources, costs, timeline

  • Long term strategy - what follows Phase 2

  • JoinedUp.me user requirements - with the help of some people in later life who are willing to volunteer

  • Design for how the network will be formed - exploring options for the best-fit model, how is it led


September: Phase 2 Project

Following the current ‘Phase 1’ of JUD where we explored what could be done, Phase 2 would look to test the theory and start to build the three main components of JUD.

During this phase we could develop:

  • MVP (minimum viable product) for JoinedUp.me app

  • Digital leadership - connections, training agreements, tech giant relationships, pipeline

  • JoinedUp network - small scale at first, leadership, supporting infrastructure, initial members, key partners

  • Success measures

  • Long term strategy (updated) along with ambition / mission statement

  • Detailed proposal for Phase 3 project (‘Full implementation’)

The Benefits

Hopefully this outline is clear, please do get in touch with me if you have any questions. And if they are open questions feel free to raise in Slack.

I believe there are benefits to all of our organisation for taking JUD forward. We can all benefit by being more joined up and working more collaboratively with less duplication. From a digital perspective we know the sector needs new impetus to help organisations grasp the opportunities that the digital age can offer. For product suppliers, and charities aiming to roll out new services , the JoinedUp.me app can get your technology and services out to more people.


We can work together to improve the lives of people in later life by making many more individuals better connected.