Creating a Digital Champions network
Digital Champions help to reach digitally excluded people in their communities by:
- advocating the benefits of digital
- signposting people to free resources
- supporting people to access training
A network of trained Digital Champions who engage directly with your audience is an excellent way to support a digital inclusion initiative, and help to build capacity for sustainable digital inclusion.
What is a Digital Champion?
In the 100% Digital Leeds model, a Digital Champion is someone who:
- promotes the use of digital technology
- has positive conversations around the use of digital
- helps people to improve their confidence
They don’t need to be experts in digital technology, or have high level technical skills. Though a level of understanding helps, even unskilled users can be Digital Champions with a good level of confidence. It’s not about being a computer expert, it’s about being supportive, encouraging and patient.
Training Digital Champions is not about improving their digital skills, but rather:
- introducing ways to have positive conversations about digital, focusing on encouraging a positive attitude rather than teaching Champions to become proficient with technology
- helping organisations to address barriers related to confidence and motivation for their users
- focusing on solving problems together – Digital Champions don’t need to have all the answers as a positive approach to searching for solutions alongside users is much more important
Who can be trained?
Anyone who engages others about the use of digital can be a Digital Champion.
Staff and volunteers who work directly with users make excellent Digital Champions. They can also be other group members or service users if they are enthusiastic and willing to have conversations about the benefits of being online.
In fact, hearing from peers who are willing to talk about their positive experiences can be a strong motivator to try it out.
There are many topics which can be covered. These are some examples from the 100% Digital Leeds Digital Champions training.
What is a Digital Champion?
- focus on having positive conversations, and promoting confidence and independence
Why we need Digital Champions
- an introduction to the idea of digital exclusion, and how it can affect people
- why digital inclusion is important, and the positive effect it can have on quality of life
- this can include local or national figures relating to levels of digital exclusion
How to be a Digital Champion
- what makes a good Digital Champion? Qualities such as enthusiasm, patience, awareness of online services, and good listening skills are all beneficial
- it’s not all about technical skill, but having at least basic digital skills and awareness is helpful
- unlearning jargon relating to technology, and recognising that what may seem obvious may not be to someone without experience or digital skills
- how to raise awareness, and inspire people to make the most of the digital world
Overcoming barriers to digital inclusion
- an introduction to the barriers to digital inclusion
- signposting to training and support, covering links to local support available and online resources
- using people’s interests as a hook to promote engagement with digital
- common reasons people give for not engaging with digital, and how to help them overcome these
- user profiles and case studies
- useful tools and places to signpost, tailored to the specific audience
- awareness of in-built accessibly setting of devices, for example zoom, sticky keys, high contrast mode
- tools or peripherals which may help to improve accessibility e.g. styluses, screen readers, ergonomic devices
- signposting to online resources such as AbilityNet
- advice about how to keep your users safe online. This can be a major factor in improving people’s confidence when using the internet
Tailoring training to your audience
Digital Champions training is most effective when tailored to the audience it is being delivered to. While much of the advice is universal, including content that will help Champions to engage with their specific target audience needs can increase the relevance and effectiveness of the training.
Things to think about include:
- what are the challenges of the staff and volunteers you’re delivering the training to and the people who they’re supporting?
- which digital skills would help make the most difference in their lives?
- what is the demographic of the customers where they work?
- what else is going on in the organisation that you could link the training into?
- are there specific barriers you need to think about? For example non-English speakers and people with learning disabilities
- how can we ensure that digital champion training is a valuable experience for them? This can include signposting to relevant resources or tools, introducing specific apps, or discussion on how to overcome issues that may arise.
- an introduction to the NHS website, other health resources, specific apps (MyCOPD) for Digital Health Champions
- an ‘Age Friendly’ app list for anyone who works with older people
- discussion of accessibly options available and how to enable them
- online translation tools for people without strong English language skills
Keeping in touch
A network of Digital Champions can be an excellent resource. Maintaining good communication and building links between organisations with similar audiences and needs can help you to build a self-sustaining digital inclusion initiative.
For 100% Digital Leeds, training Digital Champions is the start of a conversation rather than a one-off session. The core of our offer is building a relationship with the staff or volunteers and the wider organisation. As we explore the barriers to digital inclusion together we often discover other ways that 100% Digital Leeds can help the organisation to overcome those barriers and strengthen their digital inclusion offer.