Lorna Parks shares some reflections on her first few months as a digital inclusion volunteer with GM Savers through our Lottery-funded Go Digital! project

Just before Christmas I started working as a digital inclusion volunteer. With absolutely no experience of supporting people with technology, and by no means a tech expert myself I had no idea how this was going to go – but I was excited to get stuck into a new project.

Unfortunately, due to the latest lockdown, I found myself taking on the challenge of teaching digital skills digitally! Equipped with new tablets and laptops, community members have been getting stuck into our sessions over video calls with me. For a couple of hours every week I have been acting as a tour guide for programmes like Microsoft Word, Google Drive and Dropbox, showing off features and troubleshooting problems. This has involved having a little bit of patience with the technology, but most importantly having a laugh at the same time.

I have been working with members of the Miles Platting Savers group and have been fascinated to learn about the action they take to support their community. There is a real sense of community spirit, and a determination to learn digital skills and adapt to this increasingly virtual way of working. These digital skills sessions will enable the group to continue their work throughout whatever circumstances this year brings.

What have I enjoyed the most?

I have loved developing people’s skills, and enabling women community leaders to have the confidence to use laptops and tablets for both work and everyday things. I feel really proud of the progress the women I am working with are making, and happy to hear about them showing off their new skills to family members and other community savers members. One highlight has been one of my partners excitement on learning that she could type up new recipes on her laptop, and then look at them on the tablet when in the kitchen. The best way to get to grips with new technologies is getting stuck in, so being able to build up excitement around different ways to use it felt like a positive step forward.

What have I found the most challenging?

I felt challenged when the plan changed from meeting up in the community delivering sessions with social-distancing, to delivering them online. However, we have all risen to the challenge, and no zoom meetings have involved kicking people out, or any unkind standing orders (if you’ve missed it in the news, check out the recent Handforth Parish Council meeting!).

What would I say to others who might be thinking about doing this kind of work?

I would simply say – do it! As well as supporting others I have learnt a lot myself, and learnt loads about the work of different savings clubs across Greater Manchester. I have even done my first ever blog post!

Take away thoughts…

Digital inclusion could never be more important than it is now. I have learnt that offering support to someone struggling with aspects of their digital life can be a simple task with a big impact. Everyone is unique and has different digital needs – working at building skills together can increase confidence and knowledge for everyone involved!