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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

Digital Participation Charter Development Fund: Support is still a priority

With a new year comes new opportunities and challenges. For me, that’s supporting our new Digital Participation Charter Development Fund. We’ll be providing support to funded organisations who are either new to providing digital inclusion support or trying something new in this space as we move to hybrid service delivery. Over the next six months we’re providing these organisations opportunities to learn new skills, consider how to plan, manage, and evaluate their project to the fullest and hear from some of those leading in the digital participation sector. It’s a fantastic opportunity to imagine what the sector might look like going forward and hugely exciting!

Our first session in January was an opportunity for organisations to hear from each other; tell their stories, share their challenges, and take opportunities to ask each other for help.

What themes are we seeing from the first session?

It was clear from our discussions that organisations were eager to move towards face-to-face delivery, seeing a return to workshops, classes and working one to one with individuals. What’s great to see is that all our projects are looking at hyper local, community-based approaches to tackling digital inequality. The return to physical spaces is also key to this and we’re seeing digital hubs becoming part of the conversation again!

Several of the projects are keen to deliver in a physical space where people can come in, get access to a device, and get some support, whether that be a digital hub, community space or library. It has been interesting to see the change in device needs, it’s no longer about big bulky desktops and desks, but more informal café style spaces with more flexible devices; chromebook/tablets etc.

The pandemic has shown the importance of digital devices in keeping individuals connected and enhancing organisations’ ability to support a wider audience; our new cohort has organisations working in sports, schools, radio stations, and food pantries and community spaces. They also represent a diverse range of communities including LGBT+ young people, women who’ve experienced exploitation and human trafficking, BAME communities and those experiencing food poverty. Building trust was also a key theme; our cohort recognised that people were embracing digital for different reasons.

The people the projects are engaging with come from a range of backgrounds with different requirements for what they need from digital. Many have concerns and our cohort want to take time to build relationships with end learners and use digital as a holistic tool tailored to individual needs.

What do we think are the challenges?

Lots of organisations are facing the unknown because of the uncertainty that comes with project planning during a pandemic; will there be further restrictions? Or another lockdown? Will timescales for face-to-face learning stay the same. For a good number of our organisations, this was their first Digital Participation project post-pandemic, and they were worried about getting the approach right.

· We spoke at length about taking our time and keeping people safe. How do we bring people back into community settings and face to face learning in a way that people are comfortable and confident with?

· We spoke about resourcing Digital Champions, their training and support requirements, recognising their work and maintaining their wellbeing. This mirrors a great number of the discussions our teams have had about the changing role of Digital Champions and how their wellbeing is being prioritised in a challenging service delivery landscape.

· Some organisations are totally new to this work and wanted to learn from the sector. Luckily, there are LOADS of examples of great work in digital inclusion we can signpost them to. They’re also able to support each other outwith the sessions and access that wealth of collective experience.

What is clear from this cohort is that digital inclusion support is still a priority for a wide range of organisations. This group has members from a broad spectrum of interests, supporting a diverse range of people. Although their learners may be from different backgrounds, many of their challenges remain the same.

We look forward to exploring these challenges in more detail in future sessions and hopefully, together, we may even be able to come up with a solution or two.

Watch this space!

Last modified on 16 February 2022
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