Industry voice: With councils experiencing unprecedented budget cuts since 2010 and ever-widening funding gaps, the drive for channel shift has never been more critical. Increasingly more will need to be done with less.
When it costs just 9p to transact with a customer online compared with £8.21 for a face to face contact, focusing on digital first is where the greatest savings can be made.
Whatever your approach to digital transformation you need your community to have the digital skills to embrace it.
Yet when an estimated 11 million people across the UK don’t have all of the skills to use those new and improved websites or resident portals, how do you actually bring your residents with you into this digital era? Digital skills are not a thing you can learn once, like riding a bike; most people need ongoing support in order to feel confident, be updated and get useful reminders.
Unlocking the people power
Ultimately it is people who make technology work for other people, especially for those lacking in confidence. When there is an existing relationship between an intermediary such as a staff member or community volunteer and someone with low or no digital skills and confidence, there is an opportunity to add support into it.
As such embedding a digital champion support model is now a proven way of successfully improving digital participation. It’s a fact that learners need and want personal and long term digital skills support. A Digital Champion provides that.
The key though is how to stimulate, empower and nurture staff and volunteers as Digital Champions? How do you convert their people power into increased digital confidence for others and for your organisation?
Cascading and celebrating digital skills support
Our Digital Champions Network is successfully helping to turn staff and volunteers into effective Digital Champions across the UK. We’ve poured our 22 years’ experience into our Digital Champions Network, a unique online solution that has successfully supported hundreds of organisations with cascading digital skills support.
Our accredited training and support also embraces digital credentialing, a new way of evidencing and celebrating learning. Amongst the thousands of Digital Champions in our Network we know that evidence of professional development is a key motivator. These staff members and volunteers are proud of what they have learnt and are learning and they want to share their achievements in their organisations.
Our 19 Digital Champion courses deliver certain skills and aptitudes and we evidence that in the way the Champions learn and in how they prove they have assimilated knowledge and skill. We then give them a badge when they satisfy us that they can do this. Without a doubt, when skills and achievement are acknowledged, people and organisations flourish.
How councils can release their human capital…
“Our Digital Champions are an invaluable resource for the local community and are helping our residents to lead a better quality of life through the benefits of digital. In turn this engagement will help the whole borough to fulfil its digital ambitions.”
Christopher Hutson, project manager for Waltham Forest Digital Champions Network
In urban areas
The London Borough of Waltham Forest joined our network as part of their Assisted Digital Strategy. The strategy aims to see 95% of Waltham Forest residents online and taking daily advantage of the benefits that digital technology offers.
In the past 18 months they have created a community of around 70 Digital Champions, both staff and resident volunteers, who are helping to embed a programme of digital skills support across the borough. These trained and supported Champions are working with residents via free drop in sessions in libraries, community centres and doctors’ surgeries.
In rural regions
The Nottinghamshire Digital Champions Network was launched as part of the county council’s Better Broadband for Nottinghamshire Programme.
Around one in seven local residents have never used the internet and many more don’t have basic online skills. As the council was working to transform fibre broadband availability across the county they recognised the importance of ensuring their residents could make the most of a faster internet connection.
Over 90 Champions were engaged from local communities who went on to help learners across the county in one to one and group support. One volunteer, Hugh, helped residents at a local retirement village and described why he become a Digital Champion: “When I retired I was keen to find a volunteer role where I could use my knowledge and experience to give something back to my local community. Joining the Nottinghamshire Digital Champions Network was the perfect way to this; it means I can share my passion for the internet to help others and I also get to learn new things myself.”
A transformational and sustainable change
Whilst digital technology doesn’t offer a universal cure for the funding challenges faced by local government they do provide part of the answer. But online services need to work for everyone and those with low levels of digital literacy or limited internet access continue to remain at the periphery. Unlocking human capital and the potential amongst your staff and local communities can help to bring about a transformational and sustainable change to the way people are supported to get better digital skills.
To find out more about our Digital Champions Network and Lottery funded opportunities for council membership visit us at www.digitalunite.com
 SOCITM 2016
 Lloyds Consumer Digital Index 2018