At Starting Point we have worked in informal, community-based adult education for nearly 10 years, specialising in digital inclusion. We offer 14 sessions a week across Stockport, aimed at helping people get online short-term and stay online long-term. Starting Point Community Learning Partnership is a not-for-profit training organisation which means we reinvest 100% of our profit into supporting communities throughout Stockport. We place the communities we are working in at the centre of any work we do. This allows us to reinvest profits in the right places tackling issues identified by those living and working in the community itself.
Due to our history and experience in working with communities, we were asked to become part of DigiKnow as the Community Ambassador. Hopefully you know what DigiKnow is, but for those that don’t, DigiKnow is a 2-year programme aimed at helping residents of Stockport gain basic digital skills to enable them to do more in an increasingly digital world.
DigiKnow is an alliance between Stockport Council, the Good Things Foundation, Stockport Homes, the Prevention Alliance and Starting Point Community Learning Partnership. DigiKnow is aimed at helping community groups and organisations to develop the digital skills and confidence of residents in their communities.
In Stockport, as across the whole of the UK, 1 in 5 adults do not have the basic digital skills required to be online. With more public services moving online as well as employment opportunities, ordering prescriptions, staying in touch with friends and family and much more, DigiKnow is a real positive for Stockport.
Being Community Ambassador means that we’re responsible for working alongside community groups and organisations to sign them up to become part of the DigiKnow movement, support them to apply for funding to set themselves up as a provider of digital support and offer them training on how best to meet the needs of their community.
We started by offering monthly training sessions to those wanting to offer support in their community. These training sessions form a 6-session training plan that works alongside the Government’s Essential Digital Skills framework and the Learn My Way website. As well as offering a look at barriers to engagement, we take a look at learning styles, communication skills and various support routes for people who attend digital skills sessions. We also look at what it means to be a Digital Champion and how DigiKnow helps tackle loneliness and isolation as well as digital exclusion.
Nearly half way through the first year of our DigiKnow programme, we are in a fantastic position for communities wanting to gain digital skills in the borough.
As Community Ambassador, we’ve been able to get over 30 community groups and organisations to sign up to become part of the movement and we don’t intend to stop recruiting anytime soon. We’ve signed up libraries, charities, men’s sheds groups, church-based community groups and volunteer health champions from a local GP’s amongst others. This meant us going out to communities and meeting those passionate about making a positive change in their community.
Creating a movement
We are really keen to ensure that the communities are at the heart of the support being offered. We know there are hundreds of community groups wanting to make positive change, but we wanted to have real conversations with people. We didn’t want to be seen as parachuting in from Woodley, telling community groups in Reddish what they need or driving down to Edgeley and explaining to them what digital skills they should learn. We want a 2-way dialogue with people who know what it is like to live, work and be online in that community to help shape what the movement offers. The DigiKnow movement can only move if we all move together towards one goal – helping people in Stockport gain basic digital skills.
Part of this has been to work with fantastic Digital Champions. They volunteer and give their time up to help community groups and DigiKnow make a difference. Councillor Angie Clark volunteers at two of our sessions and here is what she said about DigiKnow and helping support people in her community:
I’ve been a volunteer for around four years so can say with certainty that the DigiKnow sessions are an excellent way for anyone to learn how to use their digital devices securely and with confidence. The sessions are friendly and informative, an easy and stress-free way to get more out of the online world. I can’t imagine life without volunteering. It’s been great for my social life as I’ve met loads and loads of great people and I’ve learned so much! (What would my life be like without bustimes.org??) There are so many ways and places to volunteer there is bound to be something to appeal to everyone so get stuck in. All you need to give is a little time. What you get in return is priceless – literally!
How can you get involved?
If you would like to volunteer as an individual to help people in your community to get online, sign up for our ‘DigiKnow Digital Champion Weekly Update’ to receive details of upcoming volunteer training sessions and hints and tips on helping people to develop digital skills.
If you are a community group or organisation who provides digital skills support, or who would like to start doing so and who would like to join the DigiKnow community network visit our DigiKnow Centres webpage or get in touch on 0161 494 9947.
We are also building strategic partnerships with organisations such as colleges and Job Centre Plus who can advocate the importance of digital skills and spread the word about the network of community partners oﬀering support to residents. If your organisation can raise awareness of basic digital skills or provide resources or volunteers, get in touch with Good Things Foundation.
Ryan McMurdo is the Training Officer at Starting Point Community Learning Partnership.