Bridging the digital skills divide weeknote 07/07/20

30 second read

  • Our suite of how-to videos continues to grow, in direct proportion to our inability to listen back to our own voiceovers without cringing. 
  • We’ve made some adjustments to cater for ESOL residents, including how to translate a webpage into Latin. OK, not just Latin. 
  • We’re devising a digital confidence index to measure how savvy people are online. No, we don’t really get Houseparty either.
  • We welcome Lynn to help us out with the Digital buddies strand, and aim to make progress before School’s Out for Summer. 

3 minute read

Our digital skills strand is gaining momentum with a big push on both content and publicity. We’ve created a new ‘Getting online’ section on the website menu that pulls together three related pages. First is our Digital skills page for residents wanting to improve their online confidence; then the Creating a digital presence page that’s for organisations beefing up their e-marketing (part of the Find support services project); and finally Free internet and computer access to see where you can book a computer for free. The latter is less relevant with Council buildings still in lockdown but the principle remains!

It would also be great to get wi-fi hotspots on this as we know data costs (perceived or otherwise) are a concern for some.

Talk talk

As more and more learn about this project, Council staff and external organisations regularly get in touch to learn about what we’re up to, or to offer advice. Writing weeknotes is a departure for some areas of the Council but we’re certainly reaping the benefits of transparency if we’re getting the project on people’s radar.

We’re now designing bespoke marketing messages for our target audiences: that’s residents via the Hackney website homepage, Hackney CVS’ Lunch Clubs and Immediate Theatre’s new radio show; community navigators (e.g. social prescribers) via their newsletter and team meeting; and patients through the CCG & GP Confederation. We’re not going to stop there.

Parlez parlez

We had some great feedback on the Digital skills page from an English as a Second Language (ESOL) perspective. We know this is an issue for some in the borough, no less because we had reps from Hackney’s Chinese and Turkish communities at our workshop a couple of weeks ago. As a result, we’ve revisited some of our videos, delivering the voiceover more slowly and modifying the scripts into plainer English. These edits will reach beyond an ESOL audience.

We also:

  • Added a Get started video that includes how to pause and replay
  • Recorded a new video on how to translate a website 
  • Continue to include transcripts that can be used in conjunction with the visuals

We’ve already made lots of new friends on this project, including Newham New Deal Partnership. We’re pleased to include a link to their digital helpline on our Digital skills page too.

Marks out of 10

Winston strayed into our orbit this week via our shared work on Find support services. He’ll be coordinating user research on the effectiveness of our Digital skills content with older residents. As part of this, he’s also coming up with a digital skills index so we can gauge individuals’ improvement over time.

GDS developed a similar scale a while ago but it’s overcomplicated and needs updating. There seems to be an aversion to the use of brand names in Government that we need to get over. Nobody says ‘I’ll group chat you’; they say ‘I’ll WhatsApp you’. We have to speak plain English if we are to be understood. Instagram, Facebook, TikTok. Mailchimp. Houseparty. Spotify. LinkedIn. Slack. There, we said it. And not a four letter word among them. 

Winston, the gravitational pull is too strong. You’ll never leave us now!

On your marks

We also welcome Lynn to this project via the Redeployment scheme. Of all schemes, this is a favourite. She’d normally be on the final straight of the [sadly cancelled] London Youth Games as a member of the Sports Development team. However, its loss is our gain. Lynn’s going to be helping us out on the digital buddies strand, which will see Y11 students paired with older residents to help them get online. With her schools contacts, Lynn is straight off the blocks in helping us to secure a secondary school to pilot with. Next step is to start discussing how (and how quickly) we can get this off the ground before the bell rings.

That’s us for now. Remember to check out previous weeknotes and, with any luck, the email address we’ve just requested will be working by the time of writing so you can drop us a note to

Adios, amigos.

Bridging the digital skills divide weeknote 23/06/20

This week’s note comes from team member Meg Dibb-Fuller.

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) snapshot

  • 11 voluntary and community sector organisations joined our workshop last week (facilitated in partnership with Connect Hackney)
  • Actionable outcomes from the workshop has added two new pilots being explored (see Digital buddy programme and Digital helpline below) – making it three in total under this strand
  • The Digital skills webpage now holds even more ‘how-to’ content than it did last week

3 min read

Feedback and conversations with our partners remains our number one priority to understanding how we scale or pivot this digital skills strand.

Our key highlight over the past week… 11 voluntary and community sector organisations joined our workshop last week (facilitated in partnership with Connect Hackney). They shared how they’ve attempted to bridge the digital divide already (in particular in response to COVID-19).

What did we learn?

Digital skills are needed at all levels: at the basic level, to help people connect and benefit from Internet services and applications; at the intermediate level, to help students and job seekers get the necessary skills required by the digital economy.

How can we use these learnings to actually do something about it?

Access to the Internet (connectivity and devices) remains a key barrier. Hypothetically, if we gave everyone in need devices for free (we won’t), with unlimited data (we also won’t), will they actually use it for what we want them to? We don’t think so. Not from our learnings so far. Which is why we also need to provide accessible, free digital skills training in varying formats.

How are we doing this?

  1. The Digital skills webpage (pilot numero uno) now houses helpful how-to videos for residents (including: search the Internet, create an email account, download an app, do an online food shop) and signposting to other helpful resources.

We’re hoping to test this out with a small group of older residents (thank you Lucy M, Richard S and Eeva H) to see if they are a) useful, b) understandable and c) scalable.

Feedback captured from the Hotjar survey on the page itself as well as through our connections with local organisations will feed into future editions of the how-to content and help us understand what other content/ support is needed. We’re in the process of talking to mutual aid groups, VCSOs and others across the Borough to help create the material.

The page doesn’t sit in isolation. It is linked via other Coronavirus pages on the Hackney website and we’re looking at creating a ‘Getting online’ subsection on the site that will pull together related, existing content in one place (e.g. the digital presence guide created as part of the Find support service project for organisations to expand or improve their online presence). We’re also being promoted on the Intranet and staff headlines to maximise awareness to staff, and their friends and family. We’ll be tapping into system partner organisations (hello, NHS and HCVS) comms teams to help promote it in coming weeks.

  1. Digital buddy programmes (pilot numero dos) have been set up by workshop attendees, Citizens Online and the Salford Foundation, connecting those that aren’t digitally literate with volunteers (school kids to adults) who want to help.

We are getting guidance from Annie Gammon as to how we could explore this option with secondary school kids locally.

  1. Digital helpline (pilot numero tres) feedback from the workshop was that some people need that 1:1 peer support to get started. I mean, learning something new is pretty overwhelming!

We acknowledge this has the potential to be extremely admin heavy, but how can we make this part of the Digital skills user journey?

We’ve started working out the logistics of a helpline to support those that have tried to use the online guides, and this work continues. This is potentially with infrastructure provided by LBH and staffed by volunteers from outside LBH or redeployed staff. It’s not the sort of thing you can set up overnight but we’re working on it.

What next?

While we’ve got the Digital skills page off the ground, the other strands we’re exploring will need wider buy-in before we dive in. We’ll be presenting these in proposal format for review by the team overseeing the Digital Divide programme.

And finally… don’t be a stranger!

Feedback/ suggestions/ comments welcome, please do get in touch!

Read our previous weeknotes on the HackIT blog.

Bridging the digital skills divide weeknote 15/06/20

Doesn’t time fly when you’re reading weeknotes? Yep, here’s another one. 

30s read

  • New Digital skills page to expand and bridge the divide
  • People tell us they want Zoom lessons
  • Learning from others: what’s worth reusing, borrowing or buying

3min read

This week, we’ve added a Digital skills page to the Hackney website where we will house helpful how-to content for residents. We’ve learned from our research that shopping and emailing are key skills people need if they are to function effectively online. So we’ve been busy creating a couple of videos for residents around how to do an online Iceland shop and how to create a Gmail account. Hopefully they will be fit for public consumption tomorrow. 

Resident feedback is key to understanding how we scale or pivot this first digital skills pilot. We’ll be finding out what a small subset (about 10 people) of our target audience thinks of this content. This is vital as it’s actually incredibly difficult to forget what you know. And, even if you can, your phone won’t. It automatically loads passwords from face ID, it opens emails in the app because it knows the app’s already installed, it pre-populates all personal details on a form. To start back from scratch again really takes some doing. 

Pointing in the right direction

The new page includes signposts to other resources, which will grow as we go. At first glance, there are a lot of organisations providing digital guidance on the Web. However, a hard stare reveals some cracks. Some of the information isn’t detailed enough and assumes more prior knowledge on behalf of the user than we’ve come to know can be expected. Media content uses screenshots or videos of sites that have since been updated and, if the resident doesn’t recognise what they see, this will lead to confusion. And, many of the user journeys have been recreated on a desktop when the reality is, if you’d forked out for a laptop, you’d presumably know how to use it. We’ve generated new content, which takes everything back to basics and is created on devices people have. 

There’s a Hotjar survey on the page that asks users what they would like to learn. We’ve phrased this as both brand names and tasks because, in the same way ‘Google’ has replaced ‘search’ so ‘Zoom’ has come to replace ‘have an online meeting’. Whatever way people think, we’ve got the question covered. And, true to form, our first response to the survey is ‘I want to learn Zoom’. 

The good, the bad and the utterly brilliant

We’re speaking to a few local organisations this week about their experiences in attempting to bridge the digital divide. What worked / what didn’t / what they’d do differently; plus some blue sky thinking to come up with novel ideas. Thanks to Onye at Connect Hackney for helping us out with organising this. Our trusted friend IdeaFlip will be managing the feedback.

A cold call to the Salford Foundation is also paying dividends. They’ve launched a digital buddies scheme and we’re getting a date in the diary to talk through how they pulled it off. One thing that’s really shone through during this unusual time is just how helpful and open many people in the public sector are. They’re willing to share their successes and their failures so others can learn from their mistakes. 

As soon as we have some initial, helpful learnings from all of the work above, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

Finding support services weeknote 11/06/20

This week’s note comes from team member Meg Dibb-Fuller.

Wow… it’s been a busy week for us so I’m going to keep this weeknote short and snappy to cram it all in.

Here’s a 30 sec snippet of what I’ll cover…

  • Funding has been released from the IT Enabler Board which will enable us to set up a sustainable product
  • We went out to tender, have shortlisted 8 digital suppliers and aim to select the lucky one soon
  • We’re building VCSO engagement from the ground up – using Twitter and testing different models to encourage organisations to keep their info up to date
  • We have tried many different methods of communicating the map and felt it was time to bring it all together into a ‘strategy’. You can view our draft (!)
  • And a 3 min longer reader (if you’re a kenny keeno and like detail)

All systems go

We have funding! Delighted to have received £100k from the IT Enabler Board to fund further developments of the product and enable us to set up a sustainable product. This will include a database, API and a website (that will be C&H Integrated Care System branded – we are receiving guidance on this from the C&H Comms and Engagement Enabler Group leads).

We’re popular! 43 IT suppliers bid for the work on Digital Marketplace. We’ve whittled them down to 8 and will be inviting them to submit proposals. As soon as we have a supplier on board, we can begin to take those steps to achieving our long-term vision.

Building engagement from the ground up

Twitter! Some of you may have seen/ noticed a new Twitter Account following you @FSSMapHackney (without sounding too needy, please like/ follow/ retweet ALL of our stuff!).

This is a pilot for us to see if we can build an online community on Twitter with voluntary and community organisations (VCSOs). We hope it will a) encourage those who don’t use Twitter to use it and see its benefits and b) maintain relationships and build trust in a quick, real-time way. We’re testing out different content but primarily using it to share success stories – how VCSOs have gone digital in response to COVID-19 – and ask questions about their experience with the map so far (hello, quick and instant user research).

Example tweet #1: you can click on the link to like and retweet 😉 – thanks Jake and HCVS!

Example tweet #2: 50+ digital told us ‘Hackney’s grassroot organisations are really interesting, I’d love to hear stories about what they’ve been doing digitally’

VCSOs need to own their data on the map – how do we get them to do this? Our user research guru, Winston, is doing an awesome job of testing different communication channels to identify what our sustainable model could look like – we’re starting with: calls, emails and Twitter. Here are the scores on the doors:

Calls: 72% response in 24 hours (FYI c. 1 in 5 VCSOs explicitly said they have received new enquiries from people that have been signposted from the map)
Emails: 40% response in 24 hours
Twitter: that’s next week’s job!
Our recommendation? TBD as we learn more. Watch this space.

Word of mouth is the best form of marketing

Raising awareness of the map with our target audience is key. Staying true to our values of test, gather feedback, accept changes, learn and adapt, we’d tried many different methods of communicating the map and felt it was time to bring it all together into a ‘strategy’.

You can view the draft Marketing and Communications strategy here.

We’ve prioritised two key areas to work on first:

1. how can we make best use of Twitter (as above)?
2. how can we better align with the NHS/ Public Health campaign calendars? We want to share stories of the great work happening in the VCS and think this could be a great starting point. For example, this week we highlighted help for carers as it’s #carersweek

In other news

Our project team mailbox ( has now been changed to be which means if you have any feedback or suggestions on the project, use the new email address and we’ll be sure to discuss it as a team and get back to you. It redirects in case the old one is floating about.

We welcome feedback – so don’t hold back!

Until next time – stay safe and well.

Signposting to chat and check-in (and wider) pilot findings 10/06/20

This pilot ran for around three weeks in May and we’re now ready to share the results. Its initial scope was to explore how we could effectively connect those ringing the Covid-19 helpline with ‘chat and check-in’ (befriending) services in the borough, utilising organisations offering those services on Find support services. This rested on training customer service agents in empathy and questioning techniques so they could really try and understand the caller’s emotional as well as practical needs.

It quickly became apparent that this style of engagement encourages residents to disclose some very difficult situations. And, by limiting our offer to chat and check-in, we would not be able to address their deeper concerns. So we expanded the pilot to make sure agents had knowledge of the wider support available and could direct residents to services – both internal and external to Hackney Council – that could help.

You can read the full findings of the pilot here, headlines are:

  • Community navigators, voluntary organisations and different departments across the Council work well together
  • Helpline agents derive enormous satisfaction from being able to connect with residents at a deeper level and with greater empathy
  • Residents only want to seek other support once they know the main issue they are ringing about is being addressed
  • External organisations helping residents need a little more information about the residents than agents currently provide
  • This different way of working needs an active and continued effort to embed it into business as usual; and training should be rolled out more gradually than we had time for!
  • Gov.Notify texts would be a big help instead of reading out phone numbers and urls

There are a few ways this pilot could contribute to a discussion around the direction of customer services, which are mentioned in greater detail in the findings. In brief, the pilot suggests we could:

  • Expand signposting to more categories (Find support services covers 12 including chat and check-in)
  • Expand signposting and training to other telephone lines and agents in the contact centre
  • Expand the depth of training for agents further

We’ll give the last word to the agents; who truly embraced this new approach and rose to the challenge at incredibly short notice:

“A disabled tenant rang the Covid helpline to say thank you for the food parcel. [I] advised about different organisations that we are working with to help residents. They thought the map was a very good idea and asked for a link to be emailed over.” 

SC, Helpline agent

“It’s been a game-changer for me to being more helpful…It’s given me permission to be, ummm, a more empathic person, to take more pride in the job that I am doing, to see people a bit more, you know, as a person not just box them off and put them into categories.”