Over the last couple of months we have been really pleased to be part of a number of small and focused events at which organisations, from various sectors, come together to talk about improving digital participation; for their own organisation, for their service users, for their staff.
The huge appetite for sitting at a table and sharing experiences, challenges and opportunities, never ceases to amaze us. The ‘why’ of better digital participation is never in question but it seems there are still so many unanswered questions about the how; how do we bring our communities online?, how do we embed good digital skills in our organisation?; if Digital Champions are a key solution where do we begin on delivering such an initiative?
Being able to share with others in similar positions, and with similar questions and conundrums, seems to be, in itself, a crucial part of the journey towards meaningful change in service and digital transformation.
The other week was an excellent case in point. We invited a number of organisations to join us at Somerset House at our first Mince Pie of the Year event. 14 people took part, a mix of housing providers, councils, trade unions and charities, who were exploring being part of One Digital through our Digital Champions Network. We were also pleased to welcome a magazine editor who is keen to reach out and engage their varied readership.
Each had identified improving digital skills support as a priority and each were at various stages of delivery but to some degree needed validation of the path they were on.
Despite, or because of, the group’s diversity the conversation was lively. Most interestingly the three hot topics were achieving internal support from senior management, being limited by financial resources to fund a digital skills programme and a lack of devices themselves.
Lack of internal support is something we hear about repeatedly, though curiously, it could be said that if you can achieve senior buy in, the other two challenges of resources and devices could be more easily tackled.
It is still staggering that realising senior management support is an issue when the cold hard facts speak for themselves, but what we do also know is:
- That leadership and influencing are not restricted to standard organisational hierarchy when it comes to the digital agenda. Digital is a medium that can be applied to and exploited by a range of people and situations. Digital changemakers can be found at all levels
- That those in senior positions may be grabbling with their own digital skills and confidence. A recent survey amongst staff Digital Champions in our own Network found 1 in 5 were helping senior management with digital skills.
- That having the tools to deliver support and evidence impact, both inside and outside of the organisation, can be hugely persuasive. That is why our Network, as a multi-levelled learning solution for both Digital Champions and project managers, has become an effective enabler for a wide variety of organisations
There is certainly no silver bullet for achieving great digital participation and effective service transformation but exploring and sharing the journey with others on the same path is a great place to start. As one participant told us, ‘hearing about the challenges facing other organisations has helped me reframe some of our ideas’.
It was clear the group were keen to meet again – ‘it’s going to be so helpful having a wider network to bounce ideas around with as we progress’ – and we’re very much looking forward to picking up the discussion in a few months’ time. It just might be Easter eggs next time…
One Digital is a UK wide partnership which promotes the use of Digital Champions to support people to learn digital skills. For organisations interested in setting up their own digital inclusion project we have developed a free Toolkit, containing a range of useful information and resources.