Great community based learning – visiting Clarion Futures
The Community of Practice visit to the Clarion Futures community training centre based in Bow, London was a great opportunity to learn more about the work of the digital team at Clarion in general as well as to see directly how the project works with local learners.
The Centre has great facilities – a fully equipped IT suite – as well as dedicated staff and volunteers who provide regular, structured digital learning sessions. The Centre also provides a base for the Love London Working training and employment programme who can refer people for digital skills support. Clarion have evidenced through internal research that 24% of their residents are not currently online. They are working with One Digital funding to provide an increased programme to help residents get online and improve their digital skills.
The digital approach of the Centre was for learning to take place at a pace and at an appropriate level to suit each individual. Clarion have a number of professional and volunteer Digital Champions and mentors who work alongside trainers from a number of digital skills training providers such as We are Digital.
The Clarion One Digital project will train and support Champions and Digital Mentors through an induction into the work of Clarion Futures as well as through materials offered by Digital Unite's Digital Champions Network, which provides a great range of resources as well as systems to accurately record activity undertaken with learners.
What interested me most about the Centre was the commitment to ensuring that it reflected and provided resources to meet the needs of the local community. Having Digital Champions with a range of languages was seen as vital to being able to provide a more accessible programme of Basic Digital Skills training. The question of how best to link and grow both digital and language skills is one which is being discussed at many projects across the UK. It is particularly important in the context of online benefit applications (such as for Universal Credit).
One of the key hooks at Clarion for encouraging people to get online is access to work and the financial benefits of being online. Fear of online banking and lack of confidence were significant barriers for people coming in to use the Centre.
The project is also effective in developing the skills and abilities of some learners to enable them to become digital champions and trainers themselves. This means the digital support provided is delivered in a way which is sympathetic and understanding of local issues and concerns.
 Clarion Housing Group formed in 2016, following the merger between two of the country’s largest housing associations, Affinity Sutton and Circle Housing Group and has over 125,000 homes. Clarion Futures was established within the Group as a charitable foundation to provide support, skills and opportunities to more than 360,000 social housing residents across the UK. https://www.clarionhg.com/