Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives
Our objective is to tackle digital inequalities (this is tightly bound up in social exclusion and inequalities) as a whole borough and not just as a council. So we have formed an alliance with partners (businesses, charities and organisations) that share these values and aims. In March 2018 Stockport Council established a Digital Inclusion Alliance to help digitally excluded residents to gain digital skills and confidence. We are an alliance of partners from all sectors who bring different expertise and resources to help shape, support and promote the ‘DigiKnow’ movement in Stockport. Our aim is to give people the digital skills, confidence and access they need to use the internet in ways that help them to achieve positive outcomes for work, health and life.
Trusted faces in local places
The people most likely to be digitally excluded are typically those less likely to engage with adult learning due to specific barriers such as financial difficulties, health and disability issues, language barriers or social isolation. The DigiKnow approach is to deliver digital skills support through established and trusted community groups and organisations who already provide social support. This way there is more chance of helping these hard to reach groups. Community groups offering digital skills support can be found on the Stockport Local online directory or call the DigiKnow Helpline 07537 127095. Building a network of community based support centres is the key goal of this movement.
We want to recruit as many community groups as possible including:
– Social/interest groups – could you build digital support into your regular activities?
– Groups set up to offer aid or help to people in crisis – could you build digital skills support into your regular mission and reduce repeat visits?
– Groups who have been set up to provide digital skills support, however informal
Our aim was to establish this network and help them to support over 6,000 individuals in 2 years. Together we actually managed to support over 8,000 people from April 2018 to March 2020. Then in March everything changed and our libraries were forced to close meaning access to devices and wifi became a bigger issue than before just at a time when people needed digital access to shield effectively – ie: purchase food online or complete school work etc. This just strengthen our resolve to do more.
What are the key achievements?
Since April 2020 DigiKnow has:
– Retrained our digital champions so they can provide support remotely rather than in the usual face to face sessions
– Opened up a phone line so that access/contact can be maintained and people can request help
– Provided digital skills support to the VCSE to enable them to use digital methods to keep in contact with their client base
– Started a Digital Lending Library – so far over 120 devices have been loaned out to people to help them look for work, complete school work, stay on top of their finances and benefits and contact services
– Worked with partners to distribute over a thousand devices and data – working with Age UK’s Connect 2020 project, with DevicesDotNow, Good Things Foundation’s Supporting Families, DfE’s laptops to schools
– We’ve donated tablets to every care home and supported residence in Stockport and offered skills support in using it
– Joined Hubbub in their Community Calling scheme to get recycled smart phones to those fleeing domestic abuse or persecution
– And we’re exploring a device recycling scheme for the borough to help maintain damaged devices returned to the library and to provide low cost devices to people on benefits
Here is a video featuring 91 year old Mable in Stockport telling us about the impact on her life having a tablet has made. This shows how good collaboration really works – it was a mutual aid volunteer who discovered Florence in need of food and company. She told us and immediately one of our alliance partners linked in with the DevicesDotNow scheme to get her a tablet with data and we trained up the volunteer to provide support in how it is used.
What are the key learning points?
Tip 1 – Work in partnership – there are many businesses, charities and organisations who wish to make a difference here and who would benefit from people having connectivity and good digital skills. Try to add digital into everyone’s mission as an integral part of what they offer rather than creating something separate from what they already do. Addressing digital inequalities is a bold ambition so no one organisation can not do this alone.
Tip 2 – This is a marathon not a sprint. Don’t see this as a project with an end date but instead as something that needs to be a sustainable part of your inclusion strategy. So much funding is limited to 6 months or 1 year. The key is to try to find out what this can seed fund to get something off the ground but always with an eye on how it can viably continue.
Throughout all of this we have been sharing our experiences and our learning by blogging. See here for “Digiknow”