Digital AGE wins funding to help make The Big Society a reality in Hertfordshire
Digital AGE has secured funding from the Skills Funding Agency as part of the new Adult and Community Learning Fund, topromote democratic action and social cohesion. Underpinned by service learning, it aims to confront issues surrounding the digital divide encountered by the over 65’s. It harnesses and builds capacity within a volunteering cohort to meet these aims. . By uniting two disparate populations within a local community, it allows a pathway for the fulfilment of civic responsibilities for two normally disconnected generations and promotes independent living in later life.
The Adult and Community Learning Fund, from the Skills Funding Agency and managed by NIACE, will contribute to the Government’s aspirations for Informal Adult and Community Learning. The Fund will help build the Big Society through learning to support independence, personal development, mental/physical health and well-being, digital inclusion, democratic engagement, social cohesion and stronger families and communities.
The overall aim of the project is to encourage and promote social inclusion and democratic practice by training and developing volunteers, which will connect intergenerational groups of learners. We will provide the ethos, platform and support for this civic engagement. We believe such an approach can be effective in confronting the issues that digital exclusion poses, can connect disparate groups within a locality, and can benefit by both nurturing the civic-minded citizens of tomorrow, whilst promoting independent living for the elderly.
The ethos behind this project is to employ the most technologically savvy generation to enlighten, educate and empower these diffident elders. By initially highlighting the advantages of being online, through one-to-one mentoring sessions, it is hoped that the opportunities available will provide sufficient motivation to engage the target group. Naturally, such advantages will depend on what is important to each individual, but will encompass greater consumer choice and financial savings, gateways to health and well-being information, expanding opportunities to communicate, assisting independent living and continuing life-long education. To address issues surrounding the digital divide, a service-learning model will be implemented via a series of workshops to cultivate volunteers’ academic and social skill sets. They will then be able to directly apply these skills to the project, their course of study and to civic engagements.
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The project promotes social inclusion and democratic practice. It takes an unique approach to fulfil this this challenge by applying critical thinking strategies and skills developed as a co-production between the volunteers and beneficiaries. Employing a service learning model allows practitioners to conduct action research in order to inform best practice which can be shared stakeholders and the wider community.
Geoff Russell, Chief Executive of the Skills Funding Agency, said:
“Each project that has secured funding from the Adult and Community Learning Fund will make a tremendous difference to the lives of individuals and to the communities they are part of. Skills and lifelong learning should be at the heart of every community and the Government is committed to making that happen with its vision for the Big Society.”
Carol Taylor, Deputy Chief Executive of NIACE, added,
“NIACE is proud to have the role of supporting Skills Funding Agency in managing the Adult and Community Learning Fund. The response to this bid has been staggering - we received over 2400 bids. Deciding which of the projects should receive funding has been incredibly tough, however this means that the very best projects will be starting work soon and transforming the lives of local people and local communities.”
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