Hounslow Gets Digital by James Carroll

Last month I had my first experience of Hounslow Gets Digital, having started working for LBH the week after the first event in March.  Even though I have been involved in the planning and organising of the event (and therefore very biased!) I can honestly say that the event was a great success! We brought together a coalition of partners from the charity, corporate and council worlds, with the joint aim of supporting residents on their journey in the digital world.

Many who attended received 1 on 1 tech support by one of the Digital Champions, local volunteers who play a primary role in upskilling Hounslow’s residents through our weekly Digital Drop-in’s.

To date the Champions have provided foundational tailored digital skills training to over 240 residents.

In recent weeks the number of Champions has grown to 19. More Champions means more digital support for residents, and we are in the process of increasing the number of Digital Drop-in’s across the borough from 6 to 9 by this September.

Residents also came to the event to collect their own laptop from our charity partner Our Barn. By providing laptops to eligible residents who cannot afford one, we are able to ensure that digital learning can continue at home. One resident told me the day was “Fantastic!” as they picked up their own laptop.

It was also really powerful to see residents talking to the Digital Champions about their volunteer role. One local resident discovered the event whilst he was visiting Hounslow House to use the first-floor library. After speaking to one of our Digital Champions on site, he signed up and has since attended our new and improved training course and is now volunteering in Digital Drop-ins in Hounslow House and Feltham.

I caught up with this resident after his first day of volunteering and he told me how happy he was to have “found this wonderful opportunity through Hounslow Gets Digital, a platform that connects individuals with meaningful projects and initiatives in the digital realm. Their commitment to making a positive impact on people’s lives resonated with me, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”

Our Digital Champions are provided with a wraparound support package that includes employability support from our Work Hounslow Team. Another of our Champions, Rhys, who is in his final year of school has recently landed an apprenticeship offer with a tech firm.

Rhys claimed that “This all thanks to the great opportunity of being a Digital Champion which came at the perfect time.”​

To enhance the second edition of Hounslow Gets Digital, we invited Emma from ThreeDiscovery to deliver two group workshops: Staying Safe Online and Digital Photography. Emma taught residents about tips and tricks on how to keep your devices safe and how to take and edit the best pictures using their smartphones.

I have had the pleasure of working with Emma and the Discovery team in my previous role and have seen how transformative their sessions have been for people. Over the coming months my team will be working with partners such as ThreeDiscovery to create a timetable of group digital skill sessions for residents. These sessions aim to offer training in several key digital areas and provide a pathway of encouragement to the longer structured digital courses delivered by Adult Education.  

It was also really inspiring to see the entire Digital Adoption and Inclusion Team at the event providing advice and guidance on areas such as social broadband tariffs, online safety, and health apps. Since the Digital Commitment was created, the team have been working hard both behind the scenes to set up programmes and on the front line to help deliver them.

I believe it is crucial that we are out there with the residents and teams that support them. Having this interaction enables us to better understand the needs of residents as well as develop professional relations with them. We are developing a community of learners who are seeking to improve their lives. Once you develop the community, then you can teach the skills.

We will be running these Hounslow Gets Digital events every quarter with the next one planned for coincide with The Good Things Foundation Get Online Week running from 16 to 22 October. As we grow our offer, we will continue to utilise Hounslow Gets Digital as a springboard to drive up digital inclusion in the borough.

“I would like to thank all those who took part in the event!”

Hounslow Gets Digital would like to thank all those who took part in the event. Delivery partners include: ThreeDiscovery, Our Barn, Seniors Trust, Community Solutions, Digital Champions and the Digital Adoption and Inclusion Team.