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Getting a Digital Champion programme going from a standing still position can seem daunting at first but with a few ideas and a bit of perseverance, it can quickly deliver the digital skills support your customers or service users need.

Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) started their Digital Champion initiative in October last year, as part of their commitment to help their 7,500 residents with using services online. In the Merton and Sutton area alone, 19,000 adults are estimated are to be latent or non-internet users, equivalent to around 1 in 25 in adults (1). They joined our Digital Champions Network to support their programme.

In just a few short months, a team of SHP staff and resident Digital Champions have been recruited and trained and are now holding regular Tech and Tea sessions across the borough. They’re also actively supporting the housing provider’s tablet loan scheme, where learners receive help from a Digital Champion to use their pre-loaded device.

With Business Transformation Manager, Demi Hastain, at the helm, here’s how they got their Digital Champion ball rolling:

  1. Enlist Digital Champions from the obvious places

For SHP, this meant recruiting two staff members as Digital Champions whose roles were intrinsically linked to community and resident support. One had a health and wellbeing focus and one worked in community development. Both were funded for providing Champion support for two hours a week. Having Champions in different roles also meant they would reach new people.

  1. Find out what residents need help with

Early on, SHP held a resident coffee morning to understand what digital skills support their residents actually needed so they could build a plan. Through this they discovered that residents often owned devices but didn’t know how to do the basics. Residents also wanted to learn more about social media and video calling. There was also a high percentage of residents needing advice on what device suited their needs before they purchased one.

  1. Put a logo on it

Sutton Housing Partnership's Digital Champion posterHaving a logo for your Digital Champion programme makes it stand out and presents it as a proper initiative that Champions and learners can feel part of. SHP’s TechBot is now being used in all of their communications, from leaflets to pull up event banners. And their web page too.

  1. Promote, promote, promote

It’s so important to spread the word and there are more ways than you think. SHP have been telling people about their Digital Champion support via posters, leaflets in food boxes, articles in their residents’ magazine and presence at local NHS booster clinics, to name but a few.

  1. Link up with community groups

Local community groups are a valuable place to reach the people you want to help. SHP have teamed up with one of their residents’ associations who have created a Facebook group. The Champions are offering their help to residents with using Facebook to boost participation and this is leading to similar conversations with other groups about their online residents’ pages.

  1. Utilise your staff

Frontline and customer service staff are perfectly placed to highlight the Digital Champion support to people who need help with accessing online services. At SHP, all frontline staff have an online referral form and an incentivised target of referring five people each to the digital inclusion team.

  1. Move around

One of the advantages of Digital Champion support is that it is mobile and you can go to where the learners are. With this in mind, SHP’s Tech and Tea drop-in sessions are held in different venues around the borough, attracting new residents every time.

  1. Don’t stop moving

Once you’ve got the wheel turning on your Digital Champion programme, keeping it spinning is so important and many ideas and opportunities will naturally appear. At SHP, they have just been approached by a local school and are now looking at how their Champions can help families with digital skills.  They’re also planning regular social media posts using technology tips from our Digital Unite website as a way of promoting their digital skills support.

And the one golden thing Demi has learnt over the past few months?

“Make your events as welcoming and relaxed as possible. You will be surprised how much courage it takes for a resident, who isn’t digitally confident, to come along to admit they need support. We always start with a friendly introduction (including biscuits!) to get our residents feeling comfortable. Some of our residents now come along just for a chat and catch up with new friends!”

Sutton Housing Partnership is a member of our Digital Champions Network. To find out more about our award-winning training and support for Digital Champions, get in touch with us today.


[1] ONS Internet Users 2020

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