Forming useful dialogues
This post outlines the 2019 September to December series of Techy times – more of the same, but definitely different and lessons have definitely been learned.
These sessions followed and affirmed the idea of support, uncovering goals and facilitating confidence in participants; the helping hands, eyes and ears of volunteers have really given the sessions a boost with levels of ‘social and sociability’ hastened.
More volunteers, more problems?
Not about having problems with the volunteers, but the ratio of participants to helpers. Sessions began in September, we had the pleasure of receiving a small gang of volunteers from Nike 02- this started out somewhat awkwardly as the gang of 5 added to our cohort of seemingly dedicated volunteers who wished to join in again – maybe to hear YT’s northern tones and laugh at role playing moments? Techy time attendance had started reasonably and plateaued at six attendees on average, thus leaving people with not much to do, making me most uncomfortable. This situation worked itself out as the ‘Nike gang’ shrunk to three regular buddies, and then the numbers of participants went up!
At the beginning of sessions, the ‘Inspect your gadget’ (one to one surgeries, IYG ) and upcoming talks are pitched while participants are fresh and intent. Deborah was pivotal in these situations, also having a chance to talk to the group about other social options without feeling there was an obligation to turn up.
On the other side of the coin, people missing the surgeries was something we had to deal with; taking phone numbers as part of the booking process to remind people that we are waiting to help them, but numbers of people also cancelled and called MH in advance, which was always appreciated. Community based services are busy in so many ways, because the people that turned up to help can be given information and guidance sessions too.
Spending times with volunteers
The gaps in time for working with IYG volunteers was useful, one regular – Jon, was willing to build the Mycenae Reach Out Website and chat about layout, copy writing, also how document structures work, and especially with HTML. Jon as an unassuming yet talented character took on the lessons with good grace; being a webmaster is not a straightforward job.
Having a space for guest talks
Deborah and YT have been incredibly lucky to have some interesting and ‘useful to know’ people come and deliver some great talks for Wednesday Techy Times, really adding value:
- Alexa Kerr-Dineen – Care City
Based in Barking, and working alongside the NHS and local authority Care City are currently undertaking work to enable digital support both formal and informal carers in London. Their focus is the understanding that carers often do not get the support and accurate information that they need and deserve. Care City have co-created with local district nurses iCare, an educational tool with 2-3 minute videos, audio clips and info sheets, designed to educate carers about pressure ulcers.
- Claire Bishop – Leonard Cheshire
Accessibility for devices and to talk about their programme. Their Digital Inclusion programmes can support you to access the digital world, providing training and support together with the latest in accessible tech.
- Barclays (ICE number on screen, Scam talk)
We had our first guest speaker from Barclays taking my place in a session, and in an inspiring fashion, inserting participants’ ICE number on to the home / lock screen of their phone. She later returned with a colleague to host a 4 hour talk for anyone interested in learning about scams online and in general. It could be just a phone call.
Meeting and greeting – people were interested!
Besides the new influx of interested parties to the Techy times and the continuity of one to one sessions, there was interest from other organisations in SE London with digital inclusion agendas:
- We (Deborah F and YT ) met up with Vince Lydon from Community Connections to find out more about their inclusion network in Lewisham https://lewishamconnections.org/
- We also met Thomas Crook, corporate development officer from the Royal Borough of Greenwich who manages the council’s work on digital inclusion in the Borough. As part of its social mobility agenda, RBG is looking to develop a model that includes ‘Community Digital Champions’ to assist residents in their communities with getting online. A key element to the work RBG are trying to do is to establish relationships with organisations running digital inclusion projects, in an attempt to comprehend the nature of digital exclusion in the borough, trying to match the provision of suitable services to the actual needs of residents. YT is well aware of RBG’s previous efforts, being a UK Online centre coordinator across the borough for nearly seven years – it is interesting to note what progress has been made and what legacies there are if any.
Out and About
Deborah and YT went walkabout to find other venues and opportunities as part of our marketing and outreach:
- Greenwich Carers Centre hosted six Techy Time outreach sessions at the Stables to provide carers with extra digital support.
- Volunteer Centre Greenwich had a bus for volunteers week in October, opening their offer of a wide range of volunteering opportunities to Greenwich locals across the borough; we caught up with them in Eltham and joined in to highlight the digital inclusion offer at Mycenae house. VCG have also rewarded our committed volunteer Jon with a well deserved award for his volunteer work at Mycenae House.
“What We’ve learned”
As the sessions came to an end for the season, it was useful to try and capture people’s understanding and potential level of confidence with the learning that had been going on over the last few months. Every week, the last activity was an online feedback form to capture discreetly any compliments, comments and complaints (Paul’s 3 C’s of having a dialogue with a service). All the feedback was very positive, especially for the great level of volunteering. With this great yet overly positive dialogue, trying to find out what point people were at on their ‘digital journey’ is difficult. YT repeated an activity, this time asking for one thing that people have learned from the sessions (also a finishing activity at the last series of TT sessions) placing sticky notes on the board, this time with a legend to indicate one useful piece of knowledge gained – doubly useful for garnering commentary from volunteers too: