Why you should become a Digital Champion
Our Volunteers Manager, Hilary Nugent, blogs about the value of Digital Champions and why technical knowledge may not be the most important skill that they need.
A couple of weeks ago I finally got the chance to visit TapintoIT, a Community Partner in Edinburgh that I was on my way to visit in March 2020 when Covid-19 restrictions came into force.
It was March 2020, and I was on my way to meet TapintoIT, one of our community partners based in Edinburgh. Suddenly it was announced that Covid-19 restrictions were in place, and my visit was cancelled. A couple of weeks ago, I finally got my chance to visit. It was worth the wait.
I spent the morning at a sheltered housing scheme in the city, seeing first-hand how their Digital Champion volunteers were helping residents get online and improve their digital skills. I had a wonderful morning chatting with residents and volunteers (and of course getting to drink lots of tea!). It was a warm and friendly place with lots of activity, laughter and enthusiasm for digital skills.
Sitting around a table and chatting to the volunteers, I was struck by how much they enjoyed what they did and what a rewarding sense of purpose they gained from it. They came from a variety of ages and backgrounds, including a 16 year old who started volunteering at 11, a retired teacher and the manager of a computer repair business. Their reasons for volunteering were varied:
“Everyone has a backstory and I like hearing them.”
“I needed something to do when I retired and this keeps me busy and out of trouble.”
“I just wish someone had helped my mum like this.”
“I came along because I thought I needed help with digital skills but ended up staying to volunteer.”
Although they all had very different life experiences and technical skill levels, they agreed that even though technical skills and knowledge are useful, what makes a good Digital Champion is the ability to listen, understand and be patient. As one volunteer put it to me: “you don’t need to be a technical expert, you just have to be happy to google it!”
That was the key message I took away from the wonderful morning; there’s a digital support volunteer within so many of us. Being willing to listen to people and hear their stories is one of the most valuable tools you need when helping someone use the internet to get more out of the digital world.
A big thank you to Mike from TapintoIT, Sheona, Samuel, and all the other volunteers at Gillespie Court for their time. You can hear more from Sheona and Samuel about being a Digital Champion here.
If you are interested in helping someone to get online either as an individual or at one of our Online Centres, you can find out more here.
Hilary supports our community partners with all things volunteering. This includes working with our funding partners to ensure that employee volunteering adds real value to the work of organisations providing digital skills in local communities, by building and developing the sustainability and skills of those organisations themselves. She also develops training materials and resources for our community partners to use.