Connecting with purpose

06 Mar 2018

This guest blog post from Noel Murphy at Joining Communities, shows how the Three Reconnected project is making a difference to people in his community.

As a social enterprise and an Online Centre, our primary aim at Joining Communities is to support people in our local community.

The Reconnected programme, run by Three with a group of community partners including Good Things Foundation, has allowed us to increase this support by making it easier for people to connect to the outside world. The programme aims to help people that don't currently have access to a smartphone - giving them a refurbished phone with a SIM card, three free months of network access including 3000 minutes, 3000 texts and 12GB data per month.

In our work with people who are unemployed, being able to provide internet connection has given them new opportunities to be able to search and apply for work. It means they're able to send and receive emails regarding work opportunities, and employers are able to make direct contact. Clients can now participate in phone interviews - in fact, 5 of our phone recipients have gained employment since obtaining their phones.

At Joining Communities we often deal with clients who are struggling with wider life issues, including debt, housing problems and medical difficulties. Having a phone has also helped them begin to deal with some of these issues by allowing them to make necessary phone calls to support organisations. Clients can now phone, text or email us to discuss issues and get support as well as meeting face to face.

Having this phone in their hand means that clients no longer have to go to a library or a centre like ours in order to gain internet access. However we still encourage people to come into our centre for ongoing support, such as the program we've developed for people to learn how to get the best from their phones. We provide a drop in service once a week for people to pose questions about how to use different features on their phones, covering aspects like wi-fi connection, using the internet, downloading useful applications, accessing the cloud, social media and using media amongst others.

A secondary effect of our drop in sessions is the positive interaction between clients as they teach each other new skills whilst using their new phones. This has helped break down social isolation in some cases. Many people who come through our doors live alone and have been disconnected from others - their new phones mean they are now able to keep in touch with family and friends. The sessions allow them to socially interact with people and make new friendships.

Some other benefits of getting a smartphone:

  • Clients can plan journeys to job interviews using navigation applications.
  • They can search for and buy goods online.
  • Using videos, their phones can be used as a teaching aid to learn new skills.
  • The world of catch-up tv has become accessible.
  • The greatest change in modern day life is now reachable in the form of social media where connections are made and information shared instantly.

Giving smartphones to our clients has a massive impact on their everyday lives by supporting communication on many levels and platforms, enabling them to gain employment and develop new digital skills. The Reconnected scheme has made a real difference by allowing them to access the digital world which may have been closed to them in the past.

Find out more about the Reconnected programme here.