Digital Champions Consortium supported by @BigLotteryFund promises wider collaboration on digital inclusion
The announcement this week of a £2 million investment by Big Lottery Fund to create hundreds of digital champions is an achievement for the organisations involved, and for BIG staff. It's been a long road, as Programme Director Emma Weston confirms below.
I believe the formation of the consortium to deliver the programme could be as significant as the training and support it offers … if promises of continuing collaboration are fullfilled. Here's the story, with some additions teased out by sharing a draft of this post.
The aim is to help more than 9,500 people develop basic digital skills by recruiting more than 1,400 digital champions within disability, youth and support organisations who will engage with people who are not online and provide them with personal long-term support.
The idea of digital champions has been around for some time, but I particularly remember Emma Weston, chief executive of Digital Unite, producing a lengthy document for the Age Action Alliance Digital Inclusion Group back in 2012 that pulled everything together and provided a development plan.
Digital Unite went on to create a Digital Champions Network, with a core group of housing associations among its 20 members. DU will now lead the One Digital Consortium of Age UK, Citizens Online and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, with Emma as Programme Director. DU's partners Affinity Sutton and Abilitynet are also involved. The DU blog says:
One Digital will also facilitate extensive partnership collaboration on all aspects of digital inclusion so that significant learnings can be shared and best practice models can be delivered for the benefit of all Digital Champions and end-learners.
> All of the programme’s Digital Champions will be trained and supported via Digital Unite’s existing Digital Champions Network (http://www.digitalchampionsnetwork.com/) which is currently used by over 900 Digital Champions across the UK. The Digital Champions will have access to the Network’s existing assets and new learning content will also be specifically developed for each Partner organisation that all members of the One Digital programme can utilise.
> The platform will also use its established metrics and develop new ones to measure each partner’s specific outcomes and data aspirations, and those of One Digital as a whole, reflecting the impact and benefits for both Digital Champions and learners.
The latest £2 million investment follows an award to Tinder Foundation of £329,958 to support three groups – homeless people, families in poverty and people with mental health problems, and £5.8 million to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to engage with a million people and raise their awareness of the range of equipment and programmes that can help to make technology accessible to people with sight or hearing loss.
The digital inclusion and ageing fields are inevitably pretty competitive, and organisations are frequently pitching against each other. I'm sure there must have been a lot of time and effort involved in bringing everyone together to create the consortium, and get behind the vision.
The press release and blog posts have all been rather formal, but I hope we'll now hear more from champions and learners about their experiences. That's what will really convince people of the value of the online world, and support from champions. BIG have made a start on their blog, with the story of digital champions Brian and Linda Dove in Burgess Hill. Brian says:
One lady aged 92 had taken on a voluntary project to print some greeting cards. This involved printing hundreds of identical copies and she achieved this by pressing the print button hundreds of times not realising you could change the print quantity setting.
> On a regular basis we help people understand how to use all aspects of the internet including shopping online, sending emails, taking and attaching photos, setting up contact lists, Skype/FaceTime, iPlayer and general computer tasks.
> We have found that those who are not computer literate tend to take advice from others who are not always knowledgeable. Often a grandparent will seek help from a grandchild, which is fine, but every so often the grandchild will not explain clearly what they have done. This especially applies to their passwords and accounts. We had one gentleman in his mid-seventies who was advised by a friend to restore his computer factory settings but had not done a backup so lost everything.