Creative and remote working during Covid-19

Sarah Brown, Bourne Digital Project Manager at Ansbury Guidance, tells us how being supported by Power Up has impacted the charity - and how it has coped over the last few months.

Ansbury Guidance is a Dorset based charity commissioned by Dorset Council to deliver careers and employability information and advice to a variety of people in the area. It was inspired to apply for Power Up funding after a raft of learners and partners reported that low digital skills were a major obstacle to securing jobs and progressing into employment.

Sarah Brown, Bourne Digital Project Manager at Ansbury Guidance, tells us how being supported by Power Up has impacted the charity – and how it has coped over the last few months.

We developed a programme called Bourne Digital in early March as part of our Power Up partnership. It gives Bournemouth based partner organisations the opportunity to match people with low digital skills to quality one-to-one mentoring support. People are always at the heart of what we do and we believe the close relationship between learner and mentor can be hugely transformative.

The last three months have been challenging for everyone involved in the Bourne Digital project. Within just a few weeks of our first mentor on the Bourne Digital project starting their role, the country went into lockdown. Many of our referral pathways had to close and mentors had to be furloughed. The uncertainty this created was massive, and exacerbated the anxiety of many of our learners.

We had to be creative and find out ways to work remotely and keep the project alive whilst keeping the end goal the same and being as effective as possible for our learners. Having the financial backing and structure in place that Power Up provides has been invaluable. We know we’re not on our own. Despite the challenges, we have continued to engage mentors remotely who have delivered wellbeing and jobs resources to keep clients engaged and supported. You’re dealing with people from all walks of life, and so the ability of our mentors to tailor their approach has been key – understanding their needs and circumstances.

We’ve continued to support clients from partner organisations including Bournemouth Churches Housing Association, Wise Ability, National Careers Service and Skills & Learning Adult Community Education with a range of digital support needs – that could be anything from opening and sending an email to accessing wellbeing resources.

It’s not just our learners who have benefited from this human touch. Bourne Digital has benefited from the support of Power Up Grant Manager, Sue Hennessey, who has provided reassurance and support unwaveringly over the last 3 months. Knowing that we have this personal contact and can speak to Sue when we need guidance has really meant the world to us at this difficult time. The structure of Power Up has created layers of support and backing for everyone involved, as well as a bigger mission as part of a whole.

We’re so proud of how everyone at the charity has responded to the difficult circumstances, and are grateful to Power Up for its support. Our project has still been successful in its reach and impact despite the challenges it has faced over the last few months. We wouldn’t have been able to deliver this kind of project without the support and backing of Power Up.

We are currently focusing on changing our approach to move away from ad-hoc support to a structured 12-week online Digital Confidence programme. This will contain a financial loan for a device and mobile data. We’re aiming to run the first programme at the beginning of August. We look forward to tackling any obstacles that may lie ahead in partnership with Power Up.