Off to a flying start

22 Feb 2017

by Paul Davies, Destinations@Saltburn

In December last year I was delighted to have been asked by Good Things Foundation to join them in London at the Prince’s Countryside Forum, celebrating the many projects, activities and developments the Princes Countryside Fund has been involved in and the tremendous impact they have had. It was a thoroughly inspiring day and a great way to begin the second year of the project.



This year with a wider audience to help and some new areas to be involved in, the event really was a fantastic way to understand how important to the rural economy and to those who live and work there, digital can be. Many times during the day people spoke of the tough challenges ahead, the difficulties and uncertainties being faced in rural areas, and the changes that many were facing. Throughout I was thinking of ways that we can help by bringing digital skills and solutions to our rural communities.

In these early weeks of the project we have already had some notable successes and brought in some key local groups that will provide us, Good Things Foundation and the Prince’s Countryside Fund with some invaluable knowledge and reach as we go forward.

Gaining new digital skills often means learning a new bit of software, a new package, app or navigating around a website. When learning for work or for a business, this is often even more the case. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the less tangible benefits of going digital.

Emma came to us after feeling “more and more frustrated” at how she had to do things for her business, Light Up North. Essentially doing everything by hand and always having to repeat tasks, she found that the joy of seeing the business grow was tempered by the anxiety of tighter deadlines, longer hours, much less family time, and no time to plan. The final straw was when new business had to be turned away simply because orders were not being fulfilled - a terrible scenario.

Emma came to us and we discussed the priorities and where things were falling down. It turned out that a few new skills using Word and Photoshop would, at a stroke, speed things up. Add a few templates for invoicing, ordering and cash flow and things really began to turn around. Emma summed up this work by saying:

“It’s only been a few sessions but it’s no exaggeration to say that by using digital tools I have done in 3 hours what had been taking me a week to do. I have orders with some significant clients, including abroad, I just couldn’t go on letting them down. Now they see a slick, professional outfit. But I have hours back too, I can’t tell you how nice it was to look forward to half term knowing I would have time with my children and not thinking that I should be working. With my new found digital approach the work had already been done.”



Emma working hard at Destinations


This year the project is also looking to have an impact on rural community groups and we were delighted that our local Community Foundation has offered to support the project, promoting its activity to its members and providing us with knowledge about what is needed, as well as insight into local and regional developments and policies. Hugh McGouran, CEO of the Foundation said:

“Digital skills are crucial to our rural communities. In the tough times we are in, projects like this are such a benefit and for Prince’s Countryside Fund and Good Things Foundation to provide such outstanding support is to be highly commended. As a Community Foundation we are very happy to support Destinations in anyway needed and to continue to recommend digital solutions wherever they can be used.”



Paul (left) with the guys from Community Foundation


It’s been a wonderful start to the new year. The changes to Emma’s life, both professionally and personally, are lovely to see. With Emma’s order book full and with more family time, what better way to demonstrate the impact of using digital and how the support Prince’s Countryside Fund and Good Things Foundation provides to centres like Destinations is so important to our rural economies?