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Digital Participation During Covid-19: The Govan Approach

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If you’re interested in #Reboot and the amazing playbook, that’s the question I’d like you to think about. We know that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought access to devices, connectivity and digital inequality to the foreground. I have seen families trying to help children with homework on an old phone, people standing outside community spaces trying to access Wi-Fi in heavy rain and older people isolated from their regular support. We’ve all heard stories!

So surely providing devices to them is enough?

 

Well, it isn’t.

It’s one of the things we’ve learnt from our years of supporting people to get online. We’ve needed robust support in place for individuals to build upon their digital skills. This support framework must be provided by people they trust and have built relationships with.

If you’re part of a large organisation, consider how your staff could support people to build their confidence with their device once they’ve received it. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has a fantastic program for building capacity in staff and volunteers to be Digital Champions, which is, I would argue, essential. 

We also need to look further than just ourselves and our own organisation and ask ourselves important questions when deploying devices into a Community. Are we best placed to offer support? Are we able to reach those most in need or is there someone better? The third sector has been leading on this support for years; colleges, libraries, community groups have so much to offer in this context. So get out there! Meet up with other community organisations, groups, your local schools, whoever is working hard to get people online in your area and see how you can work together! 

My biggest fear in this period of investment in Digital Participation is that we flood communities with devices and they sit in a cupboard somewhere gathering dust. Our community centres are often full of equipment bought from a specific fund and now lie unused. A resource lost. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen!

So how can we stop this investment in Digital Participation from disappearing or sitting unused in a storage cupboard? That’s the question we’ve asked ourselves in Govan. Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic has seen 300+ devices with connectivity brought into our local community and deployed to some amazing third sector and community based partners.

It’s also important to note the devices were not deployed on a temporary basis. We arranged for them to be  kept so our partners can operate lending libraries, develop new online services or give them to individuals who they have been struggling to reach throughout lockdown. 

It’s not a massive number of devices by any means but rather than looking at getting more and more devices into our area, we want to make use of what we’ve got and ensure it remains sustainable. 

 

We want to move out of fire fighting to something meaningful and empowering for our community.

To this end we have started to bring people together at every level of our Digital Revolution. Working with the amazing Mhor Collective, we are looking to develop in two different areas. Firstly, we’re going to be delivering a series of DigiMeets, offering a regular meetup space to share and develop learning around digital champion work in the local area.

DigiMeets will also be the forum to think collectively and strategically about a local digital inclusion plan. There are so many incredible local partners doing great stuff that we hope to pull it all together and identify and fill any gaps. This will provide the opportunity for hyperlocal solutions to try and resolve community identified issues. 

Secondly, we have a Digital Learning coordinator who will provide remote support for individuals who have received a device through the Govan Lending Library, signposting and coaching them to local community learning opportunities; remote learning classes through colleges and the open university, face to face classes in their local libraries, places they can access free Wi-Fi and more!

We want to create a digital legacy with partners who are well equipped, confident and able to meet the needs in Govan. We hope that this is the next step.

 

It’s not perfect, but it’s a start!

Well, if you are flicking through your Playbook, courtesy of Reboot and the Nominet platform, then I implore you to think of devices as an important part of the puzzle but not the entire picture. Our approach in Govan is one of many amazing programmes across the UK supporting people to get digital during one of the hardest periods in recent memory. 

Key questions to consider are

  • Think about how your community group, organisation or school could work with others to support people to build their digital skills?
  •  Do you know who else is working in your area doing this work? How can they help and how can you in turn help them? 
  • Think about how you can share volunteers, resources and learning opportunities so that everyone getting a device has access to the same opportunities no matter where they get their devices!

And most importantly, what do you and your community need to make this sustainable? 

 

Be a distribution point for devices but also be an advocate for all things digital inclusion!

And good luck on your #Reboot journey.

 

Rory Brown is a Community Learning and Development (CLD) professional with 10 years of experience in youth work and adult education. He’s been working with Govan Housing Association for the past 3 years on their Digital Inclusion Programme. This programme has  the operation of both a Tenant and Community Digital Lending Library, a Digital Hub operating a full time digital learning programme in Govan, pop up workshops, fun days and much more. 

During the Covid-19 lockdown, Govan H.A have been leading on reducing barriers to those most digitally excluded, distributing devices and data to individuals in need, supporting amazing third sector organisations to operate their own digital lending libraries and bringing community based learning opportunities to learners who are isolated through Covid-19 restrictions. 

Rory has been involved in piloting the Connecting Scotland programme through Scottish Government,  the development of a Digital Participation Management Qualification through Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation and recently worked with Third Sector Labs to develop the #Reboot by Nominet platform.

You can find more of his work here…

Govan Housing Association: adapting our digital inclusion work during lockdown

What can digital inclusion look like in a small housing association?

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By Rory Brown

Rory Brown is a Community Learning and Development (CLD) professional with 10 years of experience in youth work and adult education. He’s been working with Govan Housing Association for the past 3 years on their Digital Inclusion Programme.

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