Age UK - Blackburn with Darwen
Age UK Blackburn with Darwen have been involved with the One Digital project since August 2017. This case study presents the top 3 tips learnt when recruiting Digital Champions and how to keep them engaged.
1.) Consider everyone!
When delivering a session, speaking with a local service or organisation, always think about Digital Champion recruitment. Whenever speaking to organisations, community groups and older people’s forums, there is always someone they have in mind – the ‘techy person’. However, it is crucial to think outside the box. Successful recruitment does not just come within the organisations that you are already working with. Age UK Blackburn with Darwen have engaged with local youth clubs and schools to develop a skills sharing element to One Digital – young people are recruited as Digital Champions and are linked to 50+ year old mentors. The younger people teach them digital skills and the older people teach them life skills, and in some cases a particular craft, in return.
2.) Communicate the benefits of being a Digital Champion
Being a Digital Champion appeals to different people at different stages in their life, whether they are 23 or 83. A young person is usually seeking various ways to add skills to their CV or Linked in, and so having accredited courses on the Digital Champion Network helps to gain their interest. Some older people, in Sheltered accommodation schemes for example, are interested in the credibility of being a Digital Champion, the status that it brings, and being part of something much bigger and outside of their current experience. Older Digital Champions are attracted to the recognition of learning new skills, at their own pace, and it can often become a new hobby for them as it is a good way for them to get involved with the community and meet new people.
3.) Maintain relationships
A final top tip would be to note that it is impossible to engage with a person once and then assume that they will sign up on the Digital Champion Network and become a Digital Champion. For someone to become and commit to being a Digital Champion, maintaining a 1:1 relationship as well as follow up support is crucial, even if it is to just remind them about something. Be mindful that it can be easy to go on the network, but if people aren’t sure they can easily give up if reassurance isn’t at hand.
Citizens Online - Brighton and Hove
Peter Greenfield has been volunteering on the Digital Brighton & Hove project since October 2016 on an ad hoc basis. With over 40 years’ experience working in IT in technical and management roles, Peter was keen to start doing some volunteering as he reached retirement. As a Volunteer Digital Champion, he assists older people using smartphones and tablets, while also providing
occasional help with Windows or Apple Laptops or PCs.
He currently visits senior housing schemes approximately once a week to run ‘Digital Gadget Dropins’. During these drop-ins, residents can bring their own device and ask for help using them. From initial set up to support accessing the internet and downloading applications, Peter gets asked a whole range of questions on a range of different devices.
Communication rather than IT knowledge is key
Peter has found that since starting to volunteer as a Digital Champion, one of the main skills he has learnt is how to best communicate with older people. As Peter explains:
"I have found that since volunteering as a digital champion,
communicating with elderly people is a new skill I have started to learn. I
believe this is just as important if not more so than assisting with the
technology. Often someone has a device and no one has taken the time
to explain to them in simple terms how to access a browser or what the
internet can be used for - e.g. borrowing e-books from the library,
communicating to friends and family via Skype etc."
Challenges for older people - online security
One of the main issues that Peter has encountered while volunteering as digital champion is underlining the importance on online safety.
“The question I am asked the most is ‘I have forgotten my user ID and/or password’ - what do
I do now? Resolving this issue can take a while. Forgotten passwords procedures usually
send a link to an email. And when the elderly person can’t remember their email and/or
email password this can be challenging.”
While there are software solutions that can be used to help people remember their passwords, Peter has noticed that many older people have more trust in a pen and paper which can prove challenging when mislaid!
Learning from professional Digital Champions... and online!
Peter’s main training has come from shadowing one of Citizens Online’s Professional Digital
Champions, Glenn Lloyd, which has helped Peter become more confident in his own role as Digital
“I have watched how Glenn interacts with the elderly people and helps them with their
devices. This hands on approach with a professional Digital Champion has proven to be a
very effective training method.”
Peter also finds a lot of support online working through the courses on the Digital Champions Network website. He has found some of the courses like ‘Engaging with older people’ useful when it comes to learning how to best communicate with elderly people, some of which have difficulty recalling information. As well as the Digital Champions Network website, Peter also turns to Google and YouTube for technical help and further problem-solving.
“When I have been asked a question I can’t answer, I have, so far, always been able to find
an answer online somewhere."
Join Peter and become a volunteer Digital Champion
Peter is enjoying his role as a volunteer and is looking forward to running some more digital gadget drop-ins in senior housing schemes across the city. We are very grateful for Peter’s time and help and we think that volunteer digital champions are an important part of any digital inclusion project. If you are interested in becoming a Volunteer Digital Champion like Peter, please contact the Digital Brighton & Hove team at email@example.com.
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