Tim McSweeney is a Digital Champion for housing provider, Affinity Sutton. In his day job at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Tim was involved in helping to develop the Government Digital Inclusion Strategy, which is all about getting more people online to help improve their lives. As a result of this work, Tim was keen to get involved with supporting people to get online and learn digital skills in his local community. 

Tim said: “I have quite an extensive IT background and just wanted to use that experience to help people to get online. I became aware of Digital Unite’s Digital Champions Network and the team there matched me with one of the Network’s members, Affinity Sutton, who provided volunteer Digital Champion opportunities in my area.

“My Department encourages employees to get involved in volunteering opportunities that can help benefit local communities, so every fortnight I spend two hours helping out with the computer workshop at the Mottingham Community Learning Shop. It’s a drop-in clinic and the people who come in have a wide range of digital skills and knowledge. What I find is most people have some basic understanding of computers and the internet but want help to develop these skills further. For example, one lady wanted to know how she could find out about relevant jobs in the local area. I helped her to register on a job-match website and get email alerts of any new work opportunities – this is something which seems fairly straightforward but can be daunting.

“As part of my volunteer role at Mottingham I also get involved in national campaigns like ‘Adult Learners Week’ and ‘Get Online Week’. In one of these sessions I helped a group of eight learners and we explored how getting online could help them to improve their employment and life opportunities. One lady wanted to ‘get her puppy trained but not pay a lot of money to do so’ and she was amazed when we found a list of all of the local dog training classes on Google. Another chap was interested in UFOs and we had a great laugh reading about UFO sightings in Mottingham (there was even a video on YouTube)! All of the learners were amazed and inspired by the opportunities provided by acquiring some basic digital skills like using email and being to use Google to search for helpful information.

“The courses and reference material I’ve been using on the Digital Champions Network are superb. They help you with structuring lessons and getting people engaged. It is really reassuring for volunteers like me to know the help and support is there and you’re not just getting chucked in at the deep end.

“Being a Digital Champion has been incredibly rewarding and worthwhile and I would really recommend it as a great volunteering opportunity. It’s not a specialised role and as long as you’re familiar with using the internet and doing tasks like sending emails then you can help others. As a Digital Champion the feedback you get from those you are helping is always positive and appreciative and what could be better than that!”

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