The #NotWithoutMe Accelerator is an innovative development programme which provides organisations the time, resources and support from peers and experts to develop their approaches to delivering digital inclusion projects with ‘vulnerable’ young people. During the six-month process the six successful organisations will be supported to develop, critique, challenge and refine their project ideas with the input of valued sector experts. Throughout the programme each organisation will provide their own reflection and insight into the process and deep-dive into key themes that arise.
In our first #NotWithoutMe Accelerator blog, Rebecca White from Your Own Place, reflects on the launch of the programme and first workshop – ‘Defining Digital Skills’.
Getting to know each other
The first day of our digital skills #NotWithoutMe Accelerator was, well, accelerating. There are six organisations involved in all (two from Norfolk!). We are all working with young people, from refugees, to gypsy and traveller projects and the library service too. Having been chosen to be a part of the programme we were whisked up to Manchester by the Carnegie UK Trust to start our journey of learning, peer support and idea-pitching. By the end of the year we will have a fully formed idea to improve digital skills/access for young people and will pitch for £40k.
For Carnegie this is a departure in how they work. And for me, a particularly welcome one. I vowed (a vow I quickly broke) not to apply for lots of short-term funding. Whilst cash is always welcome, I increasingly value learning, skills development and the support required to keep Your Own Place relevant, innovative and unique. With this in mind, the six ‘acceleratees’ will come together six times between now and Christmas in each other’s locations and get expert insights as well as peer support to develop our idea.
We kicked off with a ‘welcome dinner with a purpose’ and got to know more about each other, the programme and the legacy of Andrew Carnegie himself. They feel like big shoes to fill as a man responsible for extraordinary vision and social impact. It felt like a successful way of coming together not just to celebrate, but share the incredible passion and empathy in the room for working with young people. Even the group size was just right, enabling everyone to have a voice and contribute.
What are digital literacies?
We spent the following day in Manchester hosted by Reason Digital, a social enterprise specialising in digital projects that do social good, moving between post-it notes, the roof terrace and beanbags! Guided by the expert Dr Doug Belshaw, we explored what digital literacy really means for the young people we work with and how to create a framework against which to develop our idea and measure its success. Not an easy ask for anyone, particularly when the perception is that all young people are digitally literate. Of course, the whole programme is about dispelling the myth that young people are ‘digital natives’ when we know from research, including work by the Carnegie UK Trust, that young people are often digitally excluded and disadvantaged by their digital skills and access.
What we learned
So, whilst this day in Manchester was very much the end of the beginning, it crystallised one aspect of our ‘Big Idea’. That we’re not going to create anything new. There will be no new app, website or game. We want to keep pace with the digital revolution and what it means for the young people we work with. This means strategically integrating digital skills into all aspects of our delivery. We’ll be seeking ways of road-testing and cataloguing the tools that young people want to use, are safe to use and support them in moving to independence. Young people will tell other young people what works best for shopping around for their utilities or which app is great for budgeting. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, rather find ways of making it work for everyone.
Our next workshop in August will focus on Measurement and Evaluation. To keep up to date with the developments of the #NotWithoutMe Accelerator follow #NotWithoutMe on Twitter and you can also access our Padlet to see any resources recommended through the programme.