31st August 2017

People Know How

Re:Connect – developing people’s social connections and digital skills

Glenn Liddall, Head & Founder of People Know How talks about their project using digital technology to combat loneliness & isolation

We believe that “People Know How” to identify their needs and the solutions that will help them fulfil their potential and solve social issues. Often, people don’t realise that they “know how” and that’s where we come in – unlocking ideas for a better future, today. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, we are incredibly international, receiving volunteers and interns from all

around the world; whilst in the same breath we engage with local people, and local issues.

 We are setting up sustainable digital drop-in sessions across Edinburgh, in communities and at services used by people at risk of or experiencing isolation and loneliness.

The sessions enable people to make more and better use of the internet, with a focus on how the internet can be used to facilitate social connections and how learning and sharing digital skills can reduce isolation and the effects of isolation.    

The drop-ins are aimed at people at risk of, or experiencing, isolation and/or loneliness. People who are known to be at greatest risk include older people, particularly those aged over 80, people with disabilities, carers, people who are homeless, people with mental health conditions, low-skilled workers, people in recovery from substance misuse and people experiencing life transitions, especially around loss of health, work or loved-ones. We are selecting suitable locations with these factors/ groups in mind.  

These digital drop-ins are being co-designed in each new location by a trained People Know How volunteer team working with local volunteers and staff of partner organisations. After the drop-ins are established in any location, their continuation will be ensured through training for partner organisations’ staff and ongoing support to local volunteers.

The drop-ins are being established at homeless services, recovery services, older people’s services, foodbanks, community centres… the list goes on.

We recruit a diverse group of volunteers including people who have prior or current experience of digital exclusion and isolation and/or loneliness. Volunteers are inducted, trained, supported & supervised. We aim for continuity so that volunteers become known and trusted.

The approach we have developed is informal and based on primarily building positive relationships with people in group-settings. Volunteers and participants might talk one-to-one or in small groups.

We know that the internet can help people keep in touch, learn new things, save money, find out what’s going on, find work and stay healthy; but we find most of all that if we can identify something that really interests people personally or something they were looking for help with then the conversation starts to flow. Our volunteers have become very adept at having these conversations that lead to engaging people meaningfully.

Support is responsive to individual’s needs, strengths and aspirations but includes the following elements over time:

•        exploring the potential of the internet

•        identifying a “spark of interest” that might encourage getting online or developing new digital skills

•        exploring further potential of the internet/ computers/digital devices, in particular how the internet can be used to further support their and others’ social connectedness

•        developing a plan for continuing to use the internet, frequently, including sharing knowledge of how to overcome barriers such as access to devices and wifi connection

•        encouraging peer-to-peer support and helping people to transition from receiving support to helping other people

 People who participate can:

–        learn new skills, leading to increased confidence

–        have better access to and are better able to navigate online information, supporting their resilience

– reduce their risk of isolation and loneliness through increasing their confidence and developing new interests

– increase their social-connectedness through participating in groups that they would otherwise be unlikely to attend

– increase their skills to connect-online

We are a signatory of the SCVO-Digital-Participation-Charter and as such are committed to fulfilling the 5-key-pledges.

 To find out more about Re:Connect, click here.