The successes & challenges of running a Digital Champion programme

There are always obstacles that are met along the way to creating a successful, versatile and sustainable programme. At Age UK, we have pulled together some of the successes and challenges encountered when running a Digital Champion (DC) programme with older people.

Success 1: Reaching those most in need

Through One Digital, we want to identify and reach those most at risk of digital exclusion. Digital Heat Maps support us in identifying specific areas where people are most at risk of digital exclusion and therefore where the programme should be targeted. Due to the addition of DCs in programme areas, we have increased capacity and have been able to expand the reach of digital support that we provide, in order to reach these high risk areas and engage with those who are most in need.

Success 2: Social opportunities

Our DC programme has been a brilliant means of social interaction for older people. Edna, (97 years old, Blackburn) who has a disabled sister living in Cornwall who she can no longer visit, is learning how to use WhatsApp and FaceTime, along with other communication platforms in order to keep in touch with her sister. In addition, we have seen that older people love to attend digital group sessions. Our partners ensure that they have a ‘meet and greet’ volunteer to get older people chatting and make them feel comfortable. As a result, not only are they benefitting from getting online, but it is becoming an important social event in their calendar.

Success 3: New local community networks

Age UK have been popping up in brand new spaces! Through One Digital, local Age UK’s are linking up with organisations that they would not have otherwise, putting Age UK in new spaces. For example, Age UK Blackburn partook in the Festival of Making 2018, supporting older people to search on Pinterest for ideas on how to creatively update charity shop purchases.

But it would not be called a success, if successes are not met with challenges.

Challenge 1: Differing skill levels, interests and devices

This means that 1:1 support is often the most suited type of engagement as opposed to group sessions, making session’s resource heavy, both in terms of people and time. However, the One Digital DC model supports 1:1 engagement, and through DC’s we are able to provide older people the essential support that they need in order to combat digital exclusion.

Challenge 2: Management of Digital Champions

Our partners are working with a high number of DCs, from a number of different organisations. The DC model differs from Age UK’s existing volunteer engagement model, and therefore requires a change in mind set and processes. The Digital Champion Network (DCN) has proven to be a very useful resource hub. The tools and materials can be accessed by all DCs remotely, whether through the DCN app or web browser, allowing them to keep up to date with current trainings.

Overall, there are many more successes than challenges when running a DC programme with older people. Not only does this model allow us to combat digital exclusion amongst older people in a new digital era, but it allows us to help tackle social exclusion too. Our digital sessions always have a nice buzz in the atmosphere as older people come together to learn new skills and share their learning with others.

Nazahah Jannah

One Digital Programme Support Officer