Isabel ChapmanWhat happened next for Isabel Chapman?

In this ongoing series, we speak to our winners about life after winning a TechWomen100 Award.

Now in their fifth year, the TechWomen100 Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in tech – the emerging tech talent and role models for the future.

We spoke with Isabel Chapman, who won a TechWomen100 Award in 2019.

Isabel is a communications expert who has worked with young people, parents and disadvantaged, isolated communities for the last twelve years in various settings, including the Criminal Justice System, Peabody Housing Association, the Charity Sector and inner-city schools and estates.

Isabel has extensive experience and specialises in increasing access to opportunities through technology, co-creation of technology tools, demystifying technology, platforming the voices and experiences of those who are often forgotten and hard to reach.

Isabel has expertise in managing multi-stakeholders campaigns and programmes across the private and public sectors, focusing on social change, inequality and youth violence. In 2013 Isabel managed and coordinated The Oii My Size Campaign, which was awarded the Nominet Award for ‘Making the Internet a Safer Place.’ The Oii My Size campaign is an educational, youth-led website about the consequences and legalities of sexting. Isabel worked with The Pixel Parlour to support the campaigners to harness the power of technology to create social change, and empower young people with knowledge about the sharing of sexual images and information about a relatively new social issue. In 2013, in line with the change in the law to include 16 and 17 year old in the Domestic Abuse Victim definition, Isabel worked with Peabody Domestic Abuse lead and the Oii My Size group again to create a young person-specific webpage ‘What Is Normal?’ on the website, to allow young people to access reliable information online about Relationships and Domestic Abuse.

How did you feel when it was announced that you’d won a TechWomen100 award?

I was delighted and quite surprised to have been announced in the TechWomen100 award, to be honest. It was a huge accolade and a real sign of encouragement that I might not have had a conventional path into it, but that I do in fact work in Tech. The TechWomen100 Awards evening was one of the most amazing evenings, especially considering the next few months have been followed by the lockdown.

Please tell us what has happened in your career since winning the TechWomen100 award?

At the start of the lockdown in March 2020, along with Alex Baker who I support at Battersea Power Station with the Education Programme across Wandsworth (usually for one day a week pre-lockdown), we set up Power To Connect and I became a Director of the initiative, which has now been developed into a Community Interest Company. This was a direct response to the COVID19 Pandemic, where local schools shared with us that they were previously unaware of how many of their pupils and families were without laptops, tablets and wifi at home. This was a huge barrier for families and schools trying to engage in homeschooling across the lockdown.

In partnership, Wandsworth Council and Battersea Power Station launched the Power to Connect initiative. With a two-pronged approach, the project tackles digital poverty through data vouchers and laptops. The first was for Battersea Power Station Foundation to make a donation of £10,000 towards £10 data top-up vouchers for families on Pay As You Go systems on their mobile phones. The donation was made to the Council’s school meal voucher app as we identified most of the families struggling with access to data were also recipients of free school meals.

The second approach has been the campaign to encourage donations of old, working laptops/tablets. Launched in April 2020, Power to Connect has collected over 300 devices from local members of the community, refurbished them as Google Chromebooks and donated them to 36 local schools, guided by the Council’s Free School Meals Deprivation Data. Schools identify who the vulnerable families are who would benefit most from a laptop, and provide the devices for the families to keep, to support homeschooling.

Local volunteers were recruited via Social Media and through local community partners. Volunteers have been sought to provide IT specialism in repurposing the donated computers at the ROSE Community Club in Nine Elms, cleaning and checking devices; delivery/collection of the devices from the donors from across London, and delivering updated devices to schools and community groups.

  • 332 Devices donated to Power To Connect in total
  • 100 Donated by Corporate Partners
  • 80 Donated by Local Councils
  • 300 Updated Chromebook Devices delivered to Schools and Community Organisations since April 2020 in Wandsworth
  • 259 Laptops / 41 Tablets  / 2 iMAC Desktops / 8 iPhones all donated locally
  • 185 Devices Delivered to 36 schools
  • 48 Volunteers Signed Up as IT, Logistics and Transport Volunteers
  • 4 community organisations in Wandsworth benefitted – FAST London, Carney’s Community, Katherine Low Settlement and Waste Not Want Not (food poverty programme). Devices that are unable to be updated have been recycled locally

My role has been to oversee the setup and delivery of Power To Connect, coordinating all donations, volunteers and distribution of the Chromebook laptops. The TechWomen100 Award absolutely gave me the confidence to put myself forward as one of the founders and directors of Power To Connect. Access to laptops and data for families has been a passion of mine since working at #techmums; Power To Connect has allowed me to hopefully make a lasting impact on local families during the pandemic.

I have also helped to move Battersea Power Station Community Choir onto Zoom, helping over 70 choir members with rehearsing online and using Zoom for the first time, hosting virtual training sessions, as well as coordinating a top-secret project, where the choir remotely recorded a song with Sting, who lives at the Power Station. The choir meeting Sting and the song can be found here: /

At the end of February 2020, I was invited to speak at the University of Leeds, where I studied to talk about the TechWomen100 Award and being self-employed in the creative industries.

What advice would you give to someone else going through the award’s process?

My advice would be to put yourself forward, this process has taught me how the outdated and fixed ideas people have in their minds about what the Tech Sector and who works in it, needs to be challenged to make it more accessible for a diverse range of people.

Since the start of my career developing apps, websites and online campaigns with young people, I did not identify as working in Tech, even though Digital Innovation was a core part of all of my work.

I’d met some amazing mentors through the TechWomen100 process and I feel as if this is just the beginning for a really exciting part of my career, so I am very grateful to WeAreTheCity for the opportunity.

What tips would you give to our other members to enhance their careers?

I think opportunities often evolve, they don’t arrive at your door fully formed. Events, courses, coffees, small pieces of work, or even an email, can lead to new opportunities, so where you can, put yourself out there. A lot of people like to talk a lot, but I prefer to get on and do things, making things happen quickly and responding to need. I’ve found being open-minded, reliable and working hard usually leads to new opportunities.