The Digital Brighton & Hove project (DBH) provides innovative solutions and services for digitally excluded people across the city. Through cross-sector partnership work, they’re building a network of trained Digital Champions in local communities to support service users, staff and volunteers with their digital transformation journeys. Phase 2 of the DBH project (which ended in May 2019) was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund (through the One Digital programme) and Brighton & Hove City Council.

As part of the activity carried out during Phase 2, DBH worked with a number of organisations or projects to increase digital skills and confidence of both staff and service users. One of these was the YMCA Brighton EVOLVE project which has been running for a year and is based in William Collier House in Brighton.

YMCA Evolve is based on the belief that everyone has the ability to change their circumstances and achieve their aspirations. The project offers a floating support coaching service for adults receiving housing related support, and who are ready to take the next step towards education, volunteering, and vocational training or employment aspirations.

YMCA Evolve contacted the DBH team and asked them to help their frontline staff and volunteers with their digital outreach, so that more service users could see online activity and be encouraged to use YMCA Evolve’s services. DBH was also tasked with helping the service users gain digital skills and confidence to enable them to share their own stories digitally and celebrate their journeys by posting them on social media.

One of the service users sits at a table to use a tablet
One of the service users sits at a table to use a tablet

After some consultation and an initial Essential Digital Skills survey, DBH started to run Share Your Story digital sessions where service users and staff could record activities, collect stories and share them through digital communication tools using a tablet or smartphone. Having seen how creative the other activities taking place in YMCA Evolve, it made sense to try to integrate a creative element in the learning. This would hopefully provide an initial hook for both staff and learners.

Initially DBH ran an introductory session which included showcasing various online social media platforms and how to use them to create effective posts that would be engaging with the online audience. This was done in a light-touch way, having fun with media like GIFs, short videos and Boomerang.

The following weeks Josie Jeffery, the DBH Community Digital Champion, visited the centre and introduced an android tablet and a film making app (Filmora), as well as suggesting to create a Whatsapp group for sharing videos and photos to be used in the making of a promotional film.

A Google account was also set up in order to have shared access cloud storage for footage and completed films. A number of focus group sessions took place with the aim of developing a promotional film to showcase YMCA Evolve in a more detailed story, in time for the one year anniversary showcase.

During the third session, one attendee began filming and interviewing staff and service users, and thus the group’s first film was made.

A tour around the EVOLVE centre

This filled everyone with enthusiasm and confidence to create more films and the group started working on a second film that showcased the musical aspect of YMCA EVOLVE where Josie and staff used a smartphone and tablet to record footage of a music workshop and a smartphone to record separate audio. Josie and the service users used FilmoraGo to edit the footage on their tablet and add special effects such as slow motion and fast forward, titles and themes.

Three YMCA Evolve attendees are filmed playing music together
Three YMCA Evolve attendees are filmed playing music together

“These fun and informal digital sessions have really help
our service users engage with digital skills in a fun and engaging way. There are certainly many areas where we can
expand our digital knowledge and I got really interested in the digital
champion aspect.”

Fabienne Belgardt, YMCA Evolve Work and Learning Coach

It’s the start of what we hope will be a long and fruitful digital journey for both staff and service users, appreciating the benefits that simple free apps can have on a day-to-day activity and being able to share the value of these activities with other people through digital means.

“We are really enjoying what Digital Brighton & Hove has been doing. For me, your involvement has really prompted me to try and get to grips with using digital better; I now feel really confident to admin the Facebook page and am using it actively and in ways I wasn’t before!”

Georgia Leigh, Service Manager for Work &
Learning

More about Digital Brighton & Hove

As of May 2019 the project has recruited 436 Digital Champions; delivered 6,944 digital skills support sessions; supported at least 4,503 individuals; engaged with 241 organisations. Read our final impact report here.

For more information about the Digital Brighton & Hove, or if you are interested in becoming a Digital Champion, please contact us at digitalbh@citizensonline.org.uk.