In July 2019, Peebles CANwas excited to receive Digital Participation Charter Fund support to improve the digital skills of our garden volunteers.

This was a fantastic project and, fortunately for our community, it began before lockdown giving people the vital skills they needed to stay connected online.

Peebles CAN has experienced years of success from promoting “skill sharing” activities, resulting in a wide range of fun, interesting and informative topics being covered. One of our regular surveys of our community showed a strong desire to improve digital skills.Digital Discovery Learning supported local people to hold Digital Skill Shares, where people shared their knowledge to help upskill others. Sessions were held on various subjects including camera phone photography, social media, and cyber security. Feedback surveys reported that people learned transferable skills, felt connected to the community, and gained self-confidence.

Charter Fund support also enabled the project to deliver 24 tutor-led Digital Workshops. These workshops were split into four blocks of six sessions, targeting local people looking to develop their digital skills. Aside from the upskilling activity, one of the major success of the project was the intergenerational learning between high school pupils and people living with dementia.

The pupils were familiar with using tablets, whereas the older participants were not. This created a fantastic opportunity for pupils to become teachers themselves – a valuable opportunity to gain confidence and take on a new role. Very quickly, an engaging rapport was developed. The conversations which arose naturally between young and old were fascinating. Speaking and asking questions about life history engaged a capacity for the older clients to remember, without causing upset. When a client became unsure about where he used to live, Google maps street view was used and created a delightful response when familiar buildings were brought up on the screen.

Another success was engaging volunteers of the community garden to set up a gardening WhatsApp group. Many were hesitant to begin using a new app. However, with the help of informal workshops they were able to see the benefits, and attitudes were changed. This had a particularly important effect when lockdown began. Volunteers who previously were not connected online were able to stay in touch, and even coordinate gardening activities. This would not have been possible without the digital learning, and has proved a great and long-lasting resource for our community garden.

Our project coincided with the outbreak of the pandemic, and overnight community organisations found themselves facing challenges on connecting with people. Clearly, we could not all come together and run workshops as sociable group, however we adjusted and our digital workshops became 1-2-1 telephone tutorials. This was a lifeline of support to many. These calls were hugely valuable as a way to reach older people who required upskilling to use their devices and stay in touch online with family. The impact of this project to improve online communication had a tangible effect on our community to mitigate isolation and loneliness.

We would like to thank SCVO for supporting our community through the Digital Participation Charter Fund. The award came at a crucial point for upskilling local people, and the confidence gained using digital technology has had an incredible impact on keeping people connected and protecting mental health in the long term.

Digital skills have never been more important. The Peebles CAN team continue to develop their digital knowledge, most recently undertaking social media and videos training. The learning experienced during our Digital Discovery Learning project has gone a huge way to supporting people during difficult times, and the skills gained will help people for many years to come.

Find out more about the Digital Participation funding opportunities we have open right now.