Next month is Digitober across Greater Manchester, a month-long focus on digital, which includes the Get Online Week campaign to help people improve their digital skills. In this blog, Clara Jones, Head of Digital Inclusion at Starting Point Community Learning Partnership, talks about the Digital Champions that are vital to Stockport’s DigiKnow community support.

Sometimes we all need some help with tech, but what do you do if you don’t have tech-savvy friends or family? Starting Point supports a network of DigiKnow Digital Champions who can help answer questions when people get stuck. We also run group sessions where learners benefit from the ready-made support of others doing the same thing. 

Our Starting Point sessions take place in cafes or community centres where you can get a brew as well as work out why your laptop is running slow. The informal and friendly atmosphere is an integral part of the experience. We think that it’s more difficult to be intimidated by an online form when you have a Digital Champion (and a biscuit) by your side. 

Who are Digital Champions?

Anyone who has used the internet! Suppose you’ve thought about volunteering in Stockport. Can we interest you in becoming a Digital Champion, able to help people to get essential skills and make a real difference to people’s lives? You’ll be part of a network with quarterly socials and a weekly newsletter. 

You don’t have to be a tech genius. Your everyday skills, from using your smartphone, answering emails, or using a computer at work, are all you need. Starting Point will provide full training for Digital Champions before you start volunteering. 

Being friendly and approachable is the most important skill. Scott, who runs digital skills sessions at Starting Point, will tell you: “People come to our sessions to be social as well as to learn computer skills”.  

You can volunteer for as little as one hour per week and choose whether you volunteer at one of our classes or for another organisation, help with a drop-in, or set up your own session. It’s what you make of it. Being a Digital Champion means helping people, so it is very rewarding. You can read what some of our Digital Champions say about the work in this article.

If you run a community group or club, could Digital Champion training be useful for you? 

Perhaps you are part of a group where others could do with some digital support? Could you show your knitting group how to download patterns? Could your pub quiz have an interactive game round? Or can your music group use YouTube to advertise your gigs?

You don’t have to be planning a weekly digital skills session to do the Digital Champion training. But knowing how to help people in small ways do things online can be a way to ease them into the world of digital – avoiding any scary ‘tech genius’ ideas. You can meet people ‘where they are’ and gradually build their digital confidence, helping them to enjoy the wider benefits of being digitally included.

Cost of living

The cost of living is on everyone’s minds, and there is no doubt that being online saves you money. If you volunteer as a DigiKnow Digital Champion, you can help others to do an online benefit check, compare prices and save money, log in to an online energy account and check their bills or fill in an online form to apply for support. Without a doubt, you will be doing something useful.  

Get Online Week – 17-23 October

This year’s Get Online Week theme is #Tryonething. So, if you feel confident(ish) online, why not learn how to help people in your community feel more digitally included?

You can sign up to free Digital Champions training with no obligation to volunteer. Chat with me at Starting Point to find out more about Digital Champion volunteering or ‘Digital Champions’ for your community group or club. If your organisation would like to go further and run digital skills sessions with Digital Champions, I’d be happy to arrange a visit to a Starting Point session, so you can see how we run ours. Call 0161 494 9947 or email me: Clara@startpoint.org.uk.

Be curious, and please get in touch!  

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