Case Study: Ending the Digital Divide in Camden Schools

by Ben Gill | Nov 18, 2020 | Stories

Case Study: Ending the Digital Divide in Camden Schools

Project: End the Digital Divide for Camden Pupils

Project Creator: Camden Learning (a joint enterprise between all Camden schools and Camden Council)
Amount raised: £59,779 in 11 weeks
Number of donors: 303

Camden’s Rocketfund page raised almost £60,000

Objective: Every young person in Camden should have access to the digital kit and connectivity they need to learn

Problem: When schools closed due to the Coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, more than 3,000 Camden pupils were without access to a computer and so unable to access online learning at home. This exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and is likely to widen the attainment gap for disadvantaged young people.

Their solution:

  • April: Tried asking people to donate devices, but had limited success: 78 devices were offered, of which only 45 were usable. They found the devices often didn’t meet their requirements and many companies already had established device disposal processes in place.
  • April: Applied to the Department for Education device scheme. 1,085 devices and 240 routers were distributed to disadvantaged pupils in Year 10 and pupils with social workers
  • May: Explored grant options – found difficult due to eligibility criteria
  • September: Launched a crowdfunding campaign, asking for donations from businesses and the general public.

Here is an insight into how they did it, from the staff who are running the campaign

(Ally Round and Philip McCorkell)

How did the project come about?
The MD of Camden Learning approached the Council’s Policy Director for assistance, who encouraged the team to look into Crowdfunding. After comparing several different crowdfunding platform’s pricing, functionality and Ts&Cs we chose Rocketfund.

Which department is running the project?
The campaign was created by Camden Learning, but extensive support is being provided to them by the Policy and Communications teams at Camden Council.

What happened?
We raised more than £30,000 in the first two weeks.

What were your criteria when choosing a platform?

  • Free to use
  • Keep what you raise
  • Allows organisations to raise money (not just individuals)

What was your full process?

  1. Researched crowdfunding platforms
  2. Planned the comms campaign
  3. Planned the video production
  4. Got the project signed off internally across both Camden Learning and the Council
  5. Got political clearance from their key councillors
  6. Launched the campaign

How did you make your video?
Philip (the Communications Manager) set up interviews with students, headteachers and youth organisations. We asked our Creative Services Team to create the animations and used a filmmaker who was already working on another project to film the interviews.

How did you attract donors?

  1. Started by sharing internally, with senior directors and high-profile councillors to help get things going. They raised £1,000 in the first day
  2. Then presented to the Camden Business Board and the London Office of Technology and Innovation
  3. Launched paid facebook ads
  4. Did a social media push
  5. Encouraged all of our schools to share our tweets, share with their networks and PTAs
  6. Asked everyone to share in their networks
  7. Sent out via mutual aid / community groups via WhatsApp groups

“Support from schools was very important, especially early in the campaign. We encouraged all of our schools to share our tweets or post their own via their school twitter accounts, share with their networks and PTAs.”

Largest single donation so far: £10k

How much are you aiming for?
Our total needed is £680k, but £50k will make a big dent and is a nice round number to aim for, so we set that as our initial target. Since hitting £50k, we’ve added a stretch target of £100k. One of the other schools in Camden had already raised £20k via their own crowdfunding campaign, so we thought we could raise more due to our bigger network and connections with people in Camden.

What are your ambitions for the future?
To ensure that every child has the technology they need to learn. We’re going to look at every option to try and close that gap.

“Some of the biggest donors came out nowhere, they came directly and messaged the team about the project before making large donations. Whilst some were through established partnerships or networks.”

Any advice for other councils thinking about doing the same?

  • Have a clear objective (e.g. Every £227 raised buys a computer for a Camden pupil who needs it)
  • Focus on the price of one device, to make it more tangible for donors
  • Make the target a stretch, but achievable. Don’t just go for the full amount you need immediately if it’s huge
  • Invest in the comms campaign
  • Put young people and their teachers centre stage
  • Make a good video, with students, teachers and youth representatives to clearly and directly explain the need.
  • Make sure you have a comms plan for the early stage of the campaign to build momentum.
  • You need to have internal support to make it happen
  • Reach out to local media and celebrities once you have momentum (via Twitter / email)
  • Just try it!

Celebrity support
Our Media Team helped us attract celebrity support by Direct Messaging Camden celebs on Twitter, including:

  • Gary Kemp (of Spandau Ballet)
  • David Baddiel (comedian)

Press Coverage
Our media team also got press coverage in the Evening Standard and Camden New Journal

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