A champion approach to digital inclusion
One Digital was a UK-wide digital inclusion programme developed by a collaborative partnership between Age UK, Citizens Online, Clarion Futures (part of Clarion Housing Group), Digital Unite and Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).
The programme ran from 2015-2020 and was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund to deliver digital skills training, through Digital Champions and share learning and best practice. Digital Champions are trusted people (staff and volunteers) who receive training to pass on digital skills in an informal, but safe and effective way.
A network of Digital Champions provided personalised and ongoing support to help people in their communities learn new digital skills and benefit from being online. The programme engaged with over 3,900 organisations, recruited over 4,700 Digital Champions and supported over 61,000 people to learn new digital skills.
Key highlights from five years of the One Digital programme:
The Digital Champion model was the centrepiece of One Digital and this approach proved to be a clear success.
The model naturally led to personalised support being offered which was beneficial for both the Digital Champions and learners. This adaptable approach to digital inclusion, through understanding the motivations of the Digital Champion and learner, was crucial for a successful outcome.
By its very nature, the model is inclusive and can have a wide reach within communities as Digital Champions are welcomed from all walks of life with different areas of expertise. The model also supports sustainability as Digital Champions remain within their communities and use the skills they have learnt to promote digital inclusion, whether this be informally with their family and neighbours or through a more formal set up.
Having the opportunity to work alongside other organisations, discuss learning and share best practice in relation to Digital Champions and Digital Inclusion more broadly was one of the great benefits of this programme. Below we have noted the key learning points from the programme and, where possible, have included links to evidence from our independent evaluation reports. Click on each button to find out more about the key things we learnt in each area.
- Informal and flexible interventions work best
(i.e. not restricted to a particular structure or topic)
- Find the “hook” to engage learners
(e.g. a topic/ hobby, or solving an issue in their life)
- Learners value localism
(i.e. local training and support and local Digital Champions)
- It is vital to identify the motivations of Digital Champions
(i.e. to keep them engaged with the project)
- Quality of Digital Champions is more important than quantity
(especially with volunteer Digital Champions)
- Digital Champions respond well to incentives, rewards and learning opportunities
- Digital Champions need to recognise that they won’t have all the answers and should ensure learners realise that this is the case
- Tailored and standardised training for Digital Champions is beneficial
- Buy-in to having Digital Champions needs to be at a senior level and across the whole organisation
- Part of buy-in is understanding the investment needed to maximise the return
(i.e. Staff must understand the approach and how investing resource in the model could benefit their organisation. This is particularly important for organisations that are already working at full capacity, which is not uncommon in the third sector).
- Following a structure when setting up Digital Champion projects is very valuable
- Flexibility is key – the adaptability of the Digital Champion model is a strength
- Flexibility has a cost – recruitment, training and turnover of Digital Champions and project staff
- It is important to invest time to understand each Digital Champion as an individual asset.
e.g. A key retention technique was to take the time to establish a clear understanding of each Digital Champion’s motivation, availability, preferred workload, and teaching environment as well as their digital strengths and weaknesses
- Don’t reinvent the wheel
i.e. make the most of resources and knowledge already available
- Tell other organisations and people (particularly Digital Champions) about what you’re doing and what you’re learning
- If developing more formal partnership working, identify the joint objectives for all organisations involved at the outset of the work
- A space and time to share and learn from each other is very much valued
- Flexible delivery limited the ability of the partners to share very specific learning across the programme
- Don’t make governance and reporting too onerous/ rigid
- Partnership costs! Governance, reporting and the above cost of flexibility
- There is a cost to participate in a partnership or collaboration – at partner level – in sharing knowledge and time and expertise
- Funding for output/ outcomes can be an effective recruitment model
- Sustainability is compromised by funding ending
- Implementing the Digital Champion model demands continuous organisational resource beyond the initial project setup. Even models focused on volunteer Digital Champions require time and money, due to cost of volunteer management
Having a forum to discuss learning and share best practice in relation to Digital Inclusion is something the One Digital partners would like to see continue in the future. There is huge value in having this opportunity to discuss relevant issues, share successes and problem solve together. In the absence of any specific resourcing for this, an informal “Digital Skills Working Group” meets as and when possible to discuss Digital Inclusion. If your organisation would like to join this Group please email Alison Ingram.
The One Digital Knowledge Hub is a treasure trove of information
and resources to help you set up a digital inclusion project
using Digital Champions.