Delivering a rural project: what we learned from our work with the Prince’s Countryside Fund

10 Jan 2018

Rich, Tanya and Paul from our Prince's Countryside Fund funded hubs hold a plaque received from the Fund

Tanya, Paul and Rich, our three Prince's Countryside Fund Digital Hub managers

by Rich Avison, Lincs Training

After taking part in a very successful year one of Good Things Foundation’s Prince’s Countryside Fund funded rural project and having been honoured to meet HRH Prince Charles at The Royal Norfolk Show, me and the rest of the team at Lincs Training were delighted to be offered funding to continue delivering this project for a second year. As we got started, our conversation with the Prince and his knowledge of our rural area in Lincolnshire was still ringing in our ears and we knew it was important to get our delivery off to a flying start.

We knew this second year was going to be different with individuals and younger people being identified for support, as opposed to just businesses in year one.

We started by planning how we thought the project would span out and noted potential businesses and people who had approached us in the past. We soon realised that in order to develop and grow our support for another year, we would be rewriting our thought processes, incorporating the issues that rural areas encounter.

Tackling the problems head on

One big issue we encountered was broadband. We were aware of Lincolnshire’s broadband issues already, as we work within these restrictions day in and day out, but some new areas we visited to help individuals proved to be more challenging as broadband speeds were virtually non-existent.

Running a business under these circumstances was proving to be very difficult for one client who contacted us.

We helped this client with a range of tasks including setting up invoicing systems. That was the easy part. But the availability of decent broadband was really hindering them as a business. So we started putting together a plan with them to see if broadband speeds were better at specific times.

We did speed tests and even taught the business owner to test for themselves. We reported to the provider how poor the service was and now they are carrying out ongoing work to try and improve the service for that area.

Unfortunately, due to the connection, our client still isn’t able to get the high speeds they would like, but we have managed to increase what they have and have given focus to their area, and, as a small fix, we did discover that there is more speed available early morning. That’s the right time to send any invoices, emails, etc. We also encourage a read receipt which has helped the client keep track of when emails are received.

New skills - not just for learners

Working with younger people was something we hadn’t done as much and we were delighted when our local school asked if we could help with their Duke of Edinburgh work.

This was a great opportunity, not only for us to teach digital skills to younger people, but for us to develop our teaching skills. We first had to spend time attending courses and understanding the Duke of Edinburgh rules and regulations. From this, we started volunteering more at the local school and realised that some students needed assistance in certain areas.

We offered help and resources, working with the young people on the production of maps and online mapping of routes for their bronze award. We supported them with research and the production of their presentation, which was the final part of their bronze award. The group wanted a slideshow with commentary, explaining to their audience what they were watching. Another group decided on an online presentation with facts, maps and pictures from their two-day challenge.

Different types of learners; same skills

Now it’s coming to a close, this year’s project has shown how different each audience is. Working with community groups and local businesses have shown us that problems, like broadband availability, are not easily solved and that no one fix works for all.

We have to look at each person, business and organisation individually and work with them to solve issues. Only then, can we move forward and continue our journey to make rural Britain fully digitally included.