Celebrating digital champions: Understanding the approach of five London Digital Inclusion Hubs

Digital champions come from all walks of life. From those who have grown up with the online world to people who have experienced the power of digital later in their lives.

With the acceleration of AI, we’re entering a new digital age. Yet, there are 8.5million people who lack basic digital skills (Lloyds Banking Group, 2023). In partnership with Good Things Foundation (Good Things), we’re making sure no-one is left behind. Good Things’  National Digital Inclusion Network is made up of almost 5,000 organisations from across the UK that help their local communities to access devices, data and digital skills support. 

Across two days, Good Things’ Community Engagement Manager, Louise, and Volunteer Manager, Hilary, visited five London Digital Inclusion Hubs within the Network to learn more about their digital champion volunteers.

Who could volunteer as a digital champion?

The first hub Louise visited was Age UK Westminster, a charity that supports those aged 50+. The volunteering team is made up of a range of people, from organisation and corporate volunteers to students from the local sixth form. 

On the same day, Louise also went to South-London based Clear Community Web, another organisation that supports people to develop their digital skills, awareness and confidence. 

Some volunteers are learners that move on to support others during workshops and drop-ins, while others, who lead or support drop-ins, have a range of skills from computing to experience with the council and their services. 

Volunteering can often be a pathway into employment, learning or training and the hub sees volunteers as “on a journey”. While at Skills Enterprise in Manor Park, Newham, Hilary met four staff members who had previously visited for support, then became volunteers and are now members of staff.

The following day, Hilary visited the Idea Store on Crisp Street, which is part of Tower Hamlets Council Library Services. Here, there are different pools of volunteers. This ensures sessions, like those at the library, always get covered.

How people are supported within Digital Inclusion Hubs

People can be supported to become digitally included in a variety of ways, from formal courses to one-off sessions.

At Age UK Westminster, residents experiencing digital exclusion can attend group sessions called iTea parties, receive support one-to-one or visit a drop-in session. 

Digital drop-in sessions are also held within libraries by the Idea Store. Courses are also available for those who want to take their first steps and beyond!

Group sessions like those at Skills Enterprise are also ways for individuals to gain confidence with digital and access devices and data. Digital champion volunteers first visit, support and shadow a session to get an understanding of how a session works. 

A more formal approach can be asking people to book an appointment with a digital champion, like at the Barking Learning Centre in the borough of Barking and Dagenham. Here, some volunteers lead IT courses while others provide ad hoc support, such as accessing council services, to people who come into one of the community hubs. When Louise went to the centre on the second day of the visit to the capital, she heard people requesting support with food bank applications and council tax reduction. 

Ways to find volunteers 

Word of mouth and partnership networks, through supporting or running other projects and services at other venues, are ways to attract volunteers. At Skills Enterprise, one of the volunteers brought an elderly neighbour into a session and stayed to help. 

Corporate organisations can also give back to their community as part of their social responsibility and find an organisation to volunteer with through platforms such as Neighbourly.

Speaking about the visit, Louise said: “Volunteers at Digital Inclusion Hubs are providing essential frontline support for people who often need urgent support in times of crisis. The amazingly dedicated volunteers I met had time to give one-to-one support, and give people the respect and patience they needed to complete tricky applications, and signpost to other support if needed.”

If you’re a community organisation or charity based in London, join the National Digital Inclusion Network to get access to data, devices and the resources you need to digitally upskill the people you support.

By working together, we can fix the digital divide – for good.

This blog has been written by Sophie Charlton, Communications Officer at Good Things Foundation.

Get Online London

Sophie Charlton
25 June 2024 ·
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