Aaron Slater joins us from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Service to discuss digital inclusion in Scotland’s social housing sector.
Guest writer Aaron Slater joins us from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Service for a discussion of digital inclusion in Scotland’s social housing sector.
“We don’t build houses, we build communities.”
That’s what one of our Digital Motivators said to me at a meet-up this week. What’s a Digital Motivator? Good question!
Earlier this year we started a new project working with the social housing sector in Scotland. This project felt like a great recipe for increasing digital inclusion for a number of reasons:
When we started this project, we engaged with housing providers across Scotland, some of which we had already collaborated with, to start building a network. We ended up with 29 providers, from Orkney to the Scottish Borders, eager to get their digital inclusion work underway. Since June 2019 we’ve delivered almost 30 surgeries and trained over 260 Digital Champions (DCs) in the social housing sector in Scotland. We’ve learned a great deal from being in the training room with frontline housing staff.
Based on our experience of delivering DC training and running our Senior Leaders Programme we know that a key element in a successful digital project is the culture of that organisation. Enter the Digital Motivator (DM). The DM is someone who has an excellent grasp on what their customers need help with whilst being able to lead, influence, shape and flex within their organisation to help make digital inclusion part of that support offer. These individuals do exactly what they say on the tin – motivate. We affectionately refer to them as ‘keen beans’.
So how do you prepare a DM for the task ahead? We took them to Digital Bootcamp, of course! This residential boot camp was a key part of the design of the project – keeping them away from the distractions of their daily work to focus on developing an action plan and building links with others from similar roles.
Back in their day jobs DMs are responsible for recruiting their DCs. At SCVO we’ve always promoted an embedded model for DCs - ‘digital’ is another tool that can be used to help achieve a positive outcome. Embedded DCs can maximise their impact as they already have established relationships with these tenants, and there’s an element of trust inherent in their interactions.
Once our DMs recruited staff to become DCs we arranged to deliver a DC Surgery – a half-day training session to explore the role and qualities of a DC. DCs aren’t digital gurus, they don’t need to be, but they do need to be good with people. Our surgeries really focus on unpicking fears around digital, the positive impacts of digital inclusion, promoting Essential Digital Skills and where to access resources to develop digital skills. We don’t deliver digital skills; we nurture the meta-skills that a DC needs. Being a DC is about upskilling, it’s not ‘another job’ for staff to do.
A few sessions into this project we changed the running order of our surgeries. We brought forward a session on fears and prejudices to give learners the opportunity to lay out everything that bothers them about digital.
Some of the fears that we’ve encountered have included:
So great are the fears of some people when it comes to the digital world it can be difficult to discuss the positive impacts with raising a legitimate corresponding fear. It’s an important session for many reasons. Staff need to be aware of how their own fears and prejudices impact on their ability to get their tenants online. Those that don’t have so many fears need to be aware that others do, and this will apply to many of their tenants. It’s also important to challenge fears through some myth-busting or promoting basic online security and how to control your privacy settings, understanding the things that you do have control over in the digital world. Creating the culture that supports digital means we must listen to these fears so that they don’t become barriers.
You can keep up to date with our progress by following @digiscot