The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme, which launched last year, has a bi-monthly newsletter for members, which you can subscribe to here. In each edition of the newsletter, we’ll be showcasing great community assets within the Edgbaston constituency.
For the February issue, Community Connector Deb Ufton spoke to DigiKick, a Community Interest Company that helps people to get online and to feel more comfortable using technology.
Focus on Assets: DigiKick
By Deb Ufton
The Covid-19 Pandemic has seen us all having to social distance, isolate, shield and work from home. It’s seen us having to move support to telephone calls and online groups and adapt to new ways of living. It has increased the need to access online resources and it has highlighted the digital literacy gaps in communities.
For one local asset, 2020 was definitely a year of learning and adapting. DigiKick has seen so many more communities and groups of people that need this support – more than they previously would have thought: older people, school children, jobseekers, migrants and carers to name but a few – some of whom were alone because they didn’t know how to access the internet or didn’t have the device or internet connection needed.
Who exactly are DigiKick and where did it all start?
I caught up with one half of the dynamic duo to find out how they came to be and what they’re doing in the community.
One’s a local girl from Quinton, with a passion for community and young people; the other is an energetic lad from Somerset with a passion for bringing people together. Together, they are the founders of DigiKick.
Sair Reading and Chris Laband met nine years ago and spent a few years as work colleagues. A few years later they had a random coffee catch-up to put the world to rights; both were frustrated at what was happening in their local areas and looking for a greater sense of purpose in their work lives.
They put their heads together to see if there was something they could do to help change that and within four hours they had started a Community Interest Company. Although at the time, they had no idea what it was going to do, or what they were doing; they believed they could bring something positive and exciting to the table. Since 2017, DigiKick have been delivering fun, friendly internet access projects helping people become more confident and safe online and learn internet skills they can use every day.
Sair said, “It wasn’t planned how it worked out. Our original ideas were aimed at younger people, but the more time went on we saw there was an issue affecting people of every age. It was loneliness. In 2018, loneliness was more dangerous than obesity, and we could only see the problem getting worse. So many people and so many communities were disconnected and alone, but didn’t need to be.
“Chris and I are ‘Inbetweeners’; we know what it is like to grow up playing in parks and fields with friends, but we also grew up alongside technology and the internet. We felt connected in that way and confident we could access the things we needed to. There is a benefit to using the internet and if we could help people feel confident online, fewer people would feel lonely. We needed to find out what people wanted, so we set up a table in Costa Coffee in Longbridge and invited people to come and talk to us – and our very first customers were 77 and 82. We started from there and never looked back! It’s been an adventure, and hopefully it’s just the beginning.”
In February, they started running two projects in the Edgbaston constituency: Tea and T’Internet in Bartley Green and Tea and T’Internet in Quinton.
Natalie and I (the ENNS Community Connectors) have both popped online to join sessions. I went to the Quinton session, where I found hosts Lewis and Emily (pictured) to be welcoming and friendly from the start. They’d previously had a few one-to-one sessions with each of the participants, to make sure they had the skills and confidence to get online and this was the first ‘group’ gathering.
The theme of the session was “Scams”, and the team took us through the key points on how to recognise and avoid scam websites and emails and keep ourselves safe online – which we can all agree is a very useful skill to learn, especially with the increase of online scams during Covid 19. The session ended with a game of hangman, digital themed, and I left the group confident that anyone that joins in with a DigiKick group can feel comfortable meeting other people from their own community; learn new, practical, internet skills, and feel confident they’re in control. (Thanks for inviting me to the group, guys!)
It’s not just the participants that get something out of the sessions either:Lewis, one of DigiKick’s Digital Engagement Officers, said he loves watching the sessions develop and that the group gives him a place to have fun whilst they all learn.
Sair had this to say: “Chris and I are #tooproud of the participants and the teams in the Bartley Green and Quinton Tea and T’Internet Projects. The Team: Lewis, Effy, Emily and Yorda, feed back with stories and ideas for the next sessions. We have some fabulous characters in the projects; who keep the team busy with questions, jokes and new things to learn each week. The individuals are leaving the sessions feeling confident, connected and happier. It would be fair to say we are overjoyed with the feedback.”
When asked if they had any advice for other assets in the community, Sair said, “We have had a brilliant time pulling together with some other organisations. Referring people to other projects is one of the best things we get to do! Hosting other organisations in our sessions and sharing what else is available has been helpful to the assets and to the participants. NNS have been a joy to work with! They are able to connect to their community in a way that DigiKick can’t. As experts of their community NNS have connected us with links to other organisations and to participants, which has only made the projects better. We look forward to our continued work together, to create new projects that support more people.”
We at Edgbaston NNS are looking forward to future projects with DigiKick too. Through our micro grant scheme, we have already funded three assets to attend a small DigiKick focus group which helped them to develop and update their website and social media presence. We are also looking to fund workshops for up to twelve people in “How to use/ better use spreadsheets”, “marketing your group” and “how to use zoom as a host”. If you are interested in joining a focus group or workshop, please contact your ENNS Community Connectors: me (Deb) at email@example.com, or Natalie, at firstname.lastname@example.org.