How being brave uncovered the hidden value of our work – a digital inclusion case study

Written by Catherine Makin on 07 May, 20
Public service innovation Responsible innovation

Back in 2019 the City Innovation Team established a small internal pilot project to develop and test online guidance around digital skills and inclusion. Working alongside Bristol City Council’s Learning and Development Team, the pilot sought to develop materials to upskill the council’s Neighbourhoods and Communities Team to use social media to communicate with and support the communities they work with. This would, in turn, support the Neighbourhoods and Communities Team to share learning and knowledge with communities across Bristol, for residents to gain skills and confidence in using social media and digital tools for social action and community organising.

The City Innovation Team acted as a convener between the Learning and Development Team and Neighbourhoods and Communities Team to facilitate a programme of learning, as well as offering strategic oversight and bringing in external input from Lloyd’s Bank Academy.

Not everything has gone smoothly. We’ve encountered issues from challenging IT permissions to get hold of devices, then getting permissions to access apps on those devices, through to cancelling training sessions due to climate protests, and finally, COVID-19.

In light of the numerous challenges the pilot had encountered in its short life, I was struggling to see the value of the City Innovation Team’s involvement in the pilot and the role we had taken. I decided to take a risk – to be brave, and ask for honest feedback.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that despite all the challenges, we had delivered a beneficial pilot, with positive outcomes. Feedback from colleagues has shown that within this small pilot project, the City Innovation Team has added value in the following ways:

  • Connected two internal teams within Bristol City Council who had not previously worked together, and were unaware of each other’s work and the potential to collaborate. This has made both teams aware of new and previously hidden opportunities, including learning and development opportunities and resources, both internally and externally. This has led to additional opportunities and collaborations with colleagues.
  • Increased colleagues’ internal networks within/across Bristol City Council. Being better networked internally has better enabled the Learning and Development Team to deliver in their role to support learning across the organisation. It has also bolstered their role in creating and delivering resources beyond mandatory training.
  • Connected internal teams within Bristol City Council into the overarching strategic view and strategic thinking around digital inclusion, digital skills, and digital learning. This has enabled the Learning and Development Team to better support BCC staff with digital skills training.

Seeking feedback when the value of our work felt unclear has given me two important reminders: firstly, to be brave and to ask the questions that need asking, even when it feels hard and uncomfortable, and secondly, to value and remain confident of the invisible and often unspoken skills we hold as a team. The challenge now is for us, as a team, to find a way to capture and articulate this value in a meaningful and measurable way.

Our Neighbourhooods and Communities colleagues are currently supporting Community Groups and residents across Bristol as we all navigate the COVID-19 crisis. When the time is right, our next step with this pilot project is to capture learning and discuss expansion of this pilot, either with the Neighbourhoods and Communities Team or with other internal teams. We hope that some of the resources and training sessions developed and trialed with the Neighbourhoods and Communities Team will be made available across Bristol City Council. This will further support the council’s internal Digital Transformation programme and the establishment of a network of supporters of digital skills.

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