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Inside Conscious Communications' battle against tech inequality in Cambridgeshire


By Awards Analyst | writer

December 8, 2021 | 7 min read

Conscious Communications won ‘Best in Community Engagement’ at The Drum Awards for Social Purpose, with a project called ‘Digital Drive’. Launched under the umbrella of Cambridge 2030, it was aimed at addressing tech inequality – particularly important for children kept out of classrooms by Covid-19. The project put 3,000 laptops in the hands of students and raised over half a million pounds. Here, get behind the scenes of this winning entry.

Digital Drive

Digital Drive's aim was to ensuring every child in the county could access the internet and their schoolwork at home.

Despite the government’s pledge to provide laptops for all school children during the pandemic, in the autumn of 2020 there were still at least 8,000 children across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough without a laptop or PC at home, and over 3,000 did not have internet access. This meant they were unable to participate in lessons. Aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 10, our objective was to ensure that every child across our county could access the internet and their schoolwork at home.


We created the Digital Drive campaign and established partnerships with:

  • Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council – delivering the infrastructure with laptop drop-off points at all libraries
  • Cambs Youth Panel and Cambridge Digital Partnership – working together to build a team of technically able (DBS checked) volunteers to refurbish and deliver laptops to assigned schools
  • Cambridge News – see below

The campaign was conceived and launched by CC in just two weeks and all partners gave their time and resources pro-bono.


The Digital Drive campaign was launched under the umbrella of Cambridge 2030¹, ensuring its perceived independence from any commercial organization and facilitating involvement from the Cambridge 2030 Ambassador, Julie Spence OBE QPM, Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, and high-profile members of the Cambridge 2030 network. CC instigated the Digital Drive collaboration, led discussions with and coordinated all partner activity.

The Digital Drive appealed to the public and businesses to help in one of four ways:

  1. Donate unused laptops at library drop-off points. Cambs Youth Panel removed and destroyed all hard drives (and data) and refurbish the laptops before they were distributed to disadvantaged children.
  2. Make a financial donation, either through a dedicated Council Go Fund Me page or direct to Cambs Youth Panel.
  3. Purchase and donate an item from the Cambs Youth Panel’s Amazon Wish List.
  4. Volunteer time and/or expertise to the Cambs Youth Panel.

All laptops donated the campaign became the recipients own property to keep. New laptops purchased with donated funds were given to schools for an immediate onward (free) loan to families.

Awareness raising

A launch email alerted all 350+ Cambridge 2030 supporting organizations and encouraged campaign participation, and Cambridge’s largest business membership organization, Cambridge Network, distributed a call-to-action to its 1,500 members.

A media relations campaign across the county’s broadcast, print and online media channels, raised awareness and included interviews with, and photography of, key partners in Digital Drive, teachers from schools across the region, families who received the donated laptops and student volunteers.

A free, week-long editorial partnership with Cambridge News (which has the largest audience reach of all print and digital media across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough) was secured to deliver a strong call-to-action every day to participate in the Digital Drive.

LinkedIn and Twitter were used to amplify the campaign messaging.

Creativity and originality

While individuals, families and schools across the UK were also calling out for support with laptops for children at home, CC’s campaign took this thinking further and built a powerful collaboration and the infrastructure required to execute a county-wide operation with wide reaching impact.

CC created the campaign concept and designed the visual identity, which was then used across promotional activities, including in a poster at library drop-off points.

On 22 March CC released a bonus episode in the ‘Cambridge – In Pursuit of Equality’ podcast docuseries, entitled ‘Closing the Digital Divide’. The podcast featured interviews with Julie Spence, OBE QPM, Hazel Belchamber, Assistant Director for Education Capital and Place Planning, Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council and Phil Priestley, Cambs Youth Panel, about the success of the campaign and the need for individuals and organizations to continue ‘recycling’ their laptops and computers to stop them ending life as landfill, while benefitting other people in the community. (You can listen to the podcast series here:

The podcast also featured the first-hand campaign experiences of teachers and business owners. Eddie Latham, co-founder of Velocity Commerce and supporter of the Digital Drive said: “I really admire the work you’re doing. I would love to help however I can. The gulf between rich and poor is very worrying, both near and far.”


To date, over £567,000 has been raised, 3,000 laptops - new and repurposed - have been donated and 460 routers have been purchased and distributed.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust has also pledged to donate up to a further 1,500 used computers during 2021.

In addition to branded editorial coverage each day of the launch week in Cambridge News, editorial coverage was secured in other key media including ITV Anglia News, BBC Look East, Cambridge Independent, Peterborough Telegraph, Cambridgeshire Live, Cambs Times, Peterborough Matters, Fenland Citizen, In Your Area, Ely Standard, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Cambridge 105 radio.

The podcast series has had 1,504 downloads and has an average consumption rate of 66-89%, exceeding the industry average of 55-60%. The podcast series was also broadcast in its entirety on Cambridge 105.

Not only has the campaign delivered significant impact to disadvantaged families in the region, it has also reinforced CC’s reputation as a ‘force for good’ and opened doors for exciting new business opportunities for the team, and it has motivated staff by involving them all in aspects of the campaign.

We still have a long way to go but this is a massive achievement in a short time and demonstrates the power of collaboration between organizations to make extraordinary things happen.

CC is now working with the council teams to re-assess the need from students (including predicting the needs of Year 7 students starting school in September), so that a phase 2 campaign strategy can be devised to keep the Digital Drive and call-to-action for recycling technology front of mind.


All partners in the Digital Drive, including CC, gave their time and resource pro-bono. The only cost incurred was production of the podcast, funded by CC, at under a thousand pounds.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for Social Purpose. To find out more, including which competitions are currently open for entry, visit The Drum Awards website.

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