Staff from Supporting Communities travelled to London on 15 June to attend the Digital Leaders Annual Conference and the Awards Dinner celebrating digital pioneers from across the UK’s public, private and non-profit sectors.
We were thrilled that our Bridging the Digital Divide project was nominated for a Cross-Sector Collaboration award (we came in second!) and pleased to have the opportunity to meet with others from around the UK who are “blazing a trail in the digital space.”
Our project developed a new model of engagement designed to encourage social housing tenants' use of digital technology and the Internet. By demonstrating the benefits of going online, simplifying the process, and engaging directly over a period of months, we removed some of the toughest barriers to access.
This intensive intervention proved effective in helping our pilot groups of older people reap the benefits of digital inclusion. In addition to gaining skills and confidence, the groups formed new friendships and support systems amongst their neighbours. Learning about the internet and the way people communicate and transact online makes participants feel more included and up to date with the way the world works today and optimistic about learning more.
Colm McDaid commented, "Supporting Communities was delighted to have been shortlisted for these National Digital Leaders Awards and to have come runners-up in our category is a great achievement for everyone involved in the Bridging the Digital Divide Project".
He continued, "I would particularly like to thank Mark Bennett from the Digital Transformation Team (Dept. of Finance) for funding the project, Clanmil Housing Association as the hosts of the pilot, Breezie for use of their software, our own Healy King who helped to drive the initiative forward, and especially the residents of Gloonan House and Mullan Mews who made the project such a wonderful success."
A highlight of the trip (in addition to the delicious awards dinner) was meeting one of our partners in person. The Founder and CEO of Breezie, Jeh Kazimi, was very familiar with our work and greeted us warmly.
“I didn’t realise I was so famous from the Breezie video we made about the project. I even got a hug from Jeh!” said Healy King, project manager of the pilot. “I’m looking forward to working with Breezie again on a new venture in partnership with the Housing Executive starting soon.”
This project, along with much of Supporting Communities inter-agency and community building work, has once again demonstrated the benefits of effective partnerships. By joining the strengths of the public, private, and third sector organisations working together towards a common goal, we have made a positive impact on people’s lives. We will be applying the lessons learned from this pilot project to build on future digital inclusion work.