Enabling young people to shape the digital landscape (not just navigate it) is crucial both economically and socially.
Why did we do this?
A digital making skills shortage
Our Next Gen. report in 2011 stated that we were headed for a digital making skills shortage; schools were teaching children how to use IT software rather than how to build it, putting our position as a world leader in games and visual effects at risk.
Our landmark Next Gen work influenced the government to introduce computer science into the English national curriculum, making it the first G20 country to introduce compulsory computing education including computer science and programming from age five to 14.
But in order to foster a new generation of digital creators we knew that young people needed access to engaging digital making experiences outside, as well as inside, the classroom. In the same way that we encourage kids to read books, as well as study English; or to play sports as well as take PE lessons.
We wanted to ensure young people were at ease with digital making and had the skills, creativity and desire to participate and work in an increasingly digital world.
What did we do?
A campaign to mobilise the next generation of digital makers
The Make Things Do Stuff project brought together a consortium of 70 organisations championing the importance of digital making for young people - from Microsoft, Caffè Nero and O2 Telefonica, to Raspberry Pi, Apps for Good and Young Rewired State. Make Things Do Stuff helped to grow this emerging movement by giving it an identity and a voice through a dedicated website, social media channels and advocacy work.
Launched in 2013 by then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, the campaign aimed to provide 100,000 digital making opportunities through its partners, an online directory and maker-space and a series of UK-wide events.
The makethingsdostuff.co.uk website provided a unique non-commercial space for children and young people to learn about digital making opportunities on and offline by listing fab labs, makerspaces, clubs and events, as well as sharing information, tools and tutorials for making digital projects.
Nesta also supported organisations directly, spotting and giving first funding to key informal learning providers including Code Club and Technology Will Save Us.
What was the impact?
Over 100,000 digital making experiences for young people nationwide
During the two-year campaign, over 70 organisations from large technology companies to grassroots clubs provided over the target of 100,000 digital making experiences for young people nationwide, 30,000 of which were directly funded by Nesta.
Twenty thousand people had the opportunity to find out about Make Things Do Stuff face to face at Camp Bestival, and 6,000 passed through the technology workshops for kids run with Naturebytes and Technology Will Save Us.
The advocacy and media campaign championed the digital maker movement, raising its profile in the media and engaging high profile advocates such as the BBC, which went on to deliver Make it Digital, a season of programming and activity dedicated to coding and digital creativity, across all its platforms. The Director General of the BBC also provided the foreword for Nesta’s 2015 report Young Digital Makers.
Nesta also worked with the Scouts to shape and launch their new Digital Maker badge, bringing digital making to its network of 400,000 young people across the UK. Work that led to a new partnership between the Scouts and the Vodafone Foundation to launch a digital manifesto.
And organisations we supported have gone on to great things, for example, Code Club, which we supported through our Digital Makers fund and the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund, which has scaled up to provide over 10,000 clubs in over 100 countries.
Our work in education
Our aim was to support the groundswell of organisations educating young people to creatively harness the power of technology, to look at ways of assisting their delivery and promote the excellent work being undertaken across all fields of digital skills education.
National rhetoric has successfully moved from computer science and coding, to digital making and digital creativity both inside and outside of the formal curriculum. And we’ve moved on to new priorities, confident that organisations such as Code Club and Apps for Good - now household names - and platforms such as the BBC’s Mixital are continuing to provide digital making opportunities for children and young people on and offline.
We continue to think about how to educate young people for a future where work will be very different from today. We’re using our research to understand the future of work, testing and growing approaches to teaching skills that will complement new technologies and be relevant in a more automated world - including campaigning for more creative, robot-resistant skills. And we’re also focusing on improving access and effectiveness in digital learning technologies.
Read more about our work in education.