When Hyndburn learning rep Louise Evans was asked how many learners she wanted to engage through the branch’s Digital Inclusion project last year, she replied between 50 and 75.
Within just a few months, the project had engaged more than 100 – and the numbers have not stopped rising since.
The Digital Inclusion project, which was launched last October with the help of UNISON’s Inclusive Learning Fund and financial backing from branch funds, is helping local authority staff and members of the community alike unlock the secrets of online life.
With the support of Zak Hussain and Karen Gregory (two of the branch’s 31 digital champions), Louise has been taking latptops and mobile wi-fi into local community centres, running drop-in sessions to help people develop their internet skills.
“We have been running sessions in community centres, and we have started running workshops on particular issues such as social media and healthy living,” Louise explains.
“Next we are planning to take the project into allotments, where we can sit on a bench with the laptops and our mobile wi-fi and help people research their plants on a nice day, if we’re lucky!”
Securing the support of local councillors helped the project hit the ground running last year, Louise says.
“We had a lot of buy-in from local councillors from an early stage which helped get the project off the ground,” she says. So much so that, when the branch organised a ‘pie and PC’ evening at Hyndburn Homes, two supportive councillors and the Mayor of Blackburn all attended.
The project is also helping to strengthen the branch, with the ULR team set to grow to a five-strong unit with the imminent addition of digital champions Karen and Zak.
The branch has successfully run UNISON’s free one-day workshops on dementia awareness, facing change and developing skills for dozens of members in the first part of this year.
The series kicked off with nine people attending the dementia awareness workshop, run by The Open University in February, where they were able to learn more about the condition and take part in activities that brought home how difficult dementia is to live with.
“The feedback was absolutely fantastic and a couple of people who attended now want to become dementia champions, so we are looking to that,” says Louise.