DAIN Project (Digital Activist Inclusion Network) achievements and particularly the achievements of Digital Activists (DAs; project volunteers) were celebrated in style on 17th March at the ICCA in Nottingham as the first phase of ESF funding for the DAIN project is coming to an end after a successful three year programme. The day ended with presentation of four Digital Activist Awards which were presented to four of the many DAs who have gone ‘above and beyond’ in their volunteering activities.
The action research project recruited and trained 100 volunteers, named ‘Digital Activists’, to engage members of their local community in use of technology, in order to develop, test and deliver approaches challenge the digital divide.
A key aim was to develop the skills of unemployed volunteers in order to improve employability prospects. True to its aims, the project saw many Digital Activists progress into further learning, voluntary and paid work, and many stayed in touch via events and by offering support and advice to new Digital Activists.
Digital Activist Day had a packed agenda with input from Mike Attwell WEA Regional Director for the East and West Midlands and Pearl Ryall National WEA Membership and Volunteer Development manager, both of whom located the work of DAIN in the long history of volunteering and digital inclusion work within the WEA. Both Pearl and Mike thanked Digital Activists and the project for their contribution to development of community volunteering and digital inclusion work within the WEA and for moving the issue on significantly within the WEA.
Alastair Clark, Programme Director at NIACE, outlined the transnational work which took place throughout DAIN and commented on how this had enriched the project. Alastair reminded delegates that the transnational work had been of benefit to everyone involved and was well thought of by transnational partners in Estonia, Germany and Belgium.
Andria Birch, Project Manager, thanked everyone involved and both looked back at where the project started 3 years ago, and forward to a hope that many DAs will continue to be involved in Digital Inclusion work and with the WEA in order to drive this forward.
Andria commented ‘We have some fantastically enthusiastic and skilled volunteers on board who are determined to make a difference in their local community. This model has enabled volunteers to find the individual hook that is relevant to the interests of each community member they engaged and explore how technology could be of use to them.’ Volunteers have many stories to tell that describe the impact of learning about technology on people’s everyday lives, work prospects, ability to keep in touch with others and keep up to date. For many, their encounter with a DA has been the start of something good!
Andria confirmed that findings and learning from the project will be shared with colleagues and partners over the next two months in a series of events and workshops around the region. She concluded that the WEA will continue to seek additional funding to support and develop the work of the DAIN project and will embed this learning in future engagement work and project development.
The morning presentations were rounded off with inspiring words from Anne Wallace, Chief Executive of Startpoint coffee shop in Stockport. Anne is an example of what can be achieved with drive and determination in local communities to challenge digital exclusion whilst also building a renewed sense of community spirit. Many DAs commented that they had gone away feeling enthused to keep up their good work and continue to make a difference in their local communities.
Last but not least, Mary Moss, High Peak Digital Activist Coordinator, led the room in a fun but useful ‘hot air’ exercise to help delegates to focus on their next steps and the key ingredients needed to achieve their aims.
The day ended with presentation of Digital Activist Awards to four outstanding DAs who had gone above and beyond the call of duty in their volunteering.
Janet Jones, Steve Stocks, Brian Shelmerdine and Shaista Ahmed who, alongside many other DAs, were praised for their deep commitment to their local community and the aims of the project.
Digital Activist Awards were presented to these four outstanding contributors to the project . The day ended with a resounding toast to the project’s achievements, and most especially to all the DAs for their impressive commitment and sustained support for helping others to benefit from technology.