After last week’s Digital Inclusion Network meeting, Digital Brighton & Hove Project Manager David Scurr reflects on some of the impact of the network.
After 2 years of busy local partnership work to tackle digital exclusion in the city, the current phase of the Digital Brighton & Hove project is reaching its conclusion.
What initially started as a request in 2015 from Brighton & Hove City Council for some research and evaluation into digital exclusion, has since evolved into a dynamic cross-sector network of organisations creating real local social impact.
On 10th April our wrap-up network meeting brought together 42 participants from 32 organisations from all sectors. It was an apt reminder that complex social challenges need collaboration, and with it joined up thinking and action.
Impact: in numbers
Every project needs numbers (lots of them)!
Ahead of the meeting, we produced an interim report which presents the key project highlights in numbers… and we challenged our meeting attendees to a digital quiz to unpick some of these!
As of March 2019, the partnership has:
- Recruited 410 Digital Champions
- Delivered 5,200+ individual skills support sessions
- Supported a minimum of 3,400 learners
- Developed a partner network of 218+ organisations and 1,000+ people engaged in digital inclusion
- Created a bespoke signposting website
Impact through collaboration
Behind those numbers are real stories of staff and volunteers working hard to support service users, client groups and local communities, to ensure that digital transformation doesn’t exclude anyone.
We’ve often tried to switch the conversation from having digital inclusion as an often-forgotten bolt-on activity, to being part of service re–design. Our wrap-up meeting was all about partners sharing their own experience of this approach, exploring how they’ve helped to support people to get online, and learning from each other as we review the project’s impact with an eye to the future.
We heard from council service managers, from frontline staff and from volunteers who have all been actively involved in this service re-design, which the project has supported in a range of ways. For example:
- Libraries services have trained up their Library Officers and volunteers as Digital Champions, and it shows; with Jubilee Library being the venue providing the highest level of digital support across the city (with another five libraries in the top 20!). Libraries are also in the process of expanding their successful Library Connect Service into homes, which will provide 1–1 in-home digital support for those who can’t make it into libraries. This will also help promote their free online library services, including Borrow Box and Press Reader.
- The Revenues and Benefits services have been through a phase of digitisation of their customer service offer over the past 16 months, introducing a ‘self-help’ service three days a week in their Customer Service Centre. Digital Brighton & Hove has been supporting their officers through Digital Champion training, offering resources to further signposting and providing some assisted digital support in the customer service centre.
- After 2 years working with Seniors Housing schemes, running over 500 digital gadget drop-ins and helping over 300 residents including Sylvie, Bob and Giorgio, Seniors Housing will be funding and installing wi-fi connections in their communal spaces. This will enable residents to access the internet on a daily basis, and give keen learners an opportunity to get more frequent support, breaking down one of the barriers to gaining more skills and confidence.
Across the third sector, we also heard from service managers, volunteer coordinators and service users from a number of organisations who had engaged with the project in a range of ways, including:
- YMCA Evolve, who support adults in supported accommodation, explained how the creative digital sessions run by Digital Brighton & Hove had given some of their service users more confidence through light-touch learning and fun activities.
- The Brighton Unemployed Families Centre Project praised the Digital Champions Network, an e-learning hub for Digital Champions, used by their volunteers, of a number of which had got into paid work as a result of the accredited courses and Mozilla badge certification gained through online digital training. They are also now working in partnership with Hyde Housing and Digital Brighton & Hove to deliver ‘Tech & Tea’ sessions (pdf) throughout the year.
- The Bevy, a community pub in Moulsecoomb, recently revamped their wi-fi network to start running some digital drop-ins (png) and turn the venue into a new digital hub for the local area with support from Digital Brighton & Hove.
We also heard other examples of how the project is helping local social sector organisations make digital work for them, and the need to find new ways to improve digital skills and confidence of staff. You can read more about that here.
Next steps: evaluation and funding
We’re now finalising our evaluation and monitoring report and are keen to hear from the organisations that have worked with us in any way over the past 2 years. With this in mind, we invite those organisations to complete this survey — it takes about 20 minutes to complete and respondents get the chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher!
We were also pleased to announce some success in securing some funding towards the future of the project. We will carry on exploring different sources of funding over the next few weeks to ensure we are in a position to build on the good work of the past 2 years. Watch this space…