An event in Camden last week showed what volunteers from the local community, and a locally-based company, can do together to address digital inclusion and isolation.
The local volunteers have made Belsize library a community hub, following cuts in staffing. The eight company volunteers were from Dentsu Aegis Network, a global digital agency. The event was a Technology and Afternoon Tea Party. I was there at the invitation of former librarian Myra Newman to do some interviews.
It all went extremely well, and rather than write a report myself I invited Myra and Julian Tooke, from Dentsu Aegis, to offer their perspectives to complement the interviews.
Myra provided me with a headline, and wrote:
"From older people reading the newspapers and looking for human interaction to mothers with young children who feel isolated, Belsize residents benefit from the facilities at Belsize Community Library.
"With books for loan, author talks, activities for children and intergenerational events, the Library run by The Winch is now a thriving hub for the whole community.
"Local residents interested in confronting digital exclusion came to the recent Technology and Afternoon Tea Party for over 60s held at Belsize Community Library in partnership with Dentsu Aegis Network."
"Away from their office desks for the day, the digitally skilful and friendly team of Dentsu volunteers kindly gave 1:1 hands-on help to over 60s with getting to grips with gadgets.
"With a backdrop of a friendly face in a local space also computer help books on the shelves, what better place to get to grips with Skype, Facebook , Instagram, apps, photo albums etc. than in the local community library.
"By popular demand, it is hoped to repeat getting to grips with gadgets sessions by bringing Camden businesses to the residents of Belsize.
"The Friends of Belsize Library were delighted to work with Dentsu Aegis Network and Belsize Library management without whom the event would not have been possible."
Here's my interview with Julian:
And Julian wrote:
"As a company which embraces the digital economy, Dentsu Aegis Network feels passionately that everyone should benefit from it and be a part of it. Exclusion from the digital world means that individuals are excluded from a platform for socialising, being part of democratic debates, bargain hunting and accessing an infinite amount of knowledge.
"When Belsize Library approached us about setting up a ‘Tea and Tech’ day, to train older people in how to use technology, we were delighted. As the key hub for the whole community in Belsize, the library was the perfect venue for the training. As a Camden employer, it gave us a chance to put something back into our community and the whole Dentsu Aegis Network team found the day really fulfilling."
Local residents Lynda Stuart and Eleanor Burke talked to me about what they had learned - not least from each other.
Kenteas Brine was having a great time with Emma Chandler, from Dentsu Aegis, exploring what's possible with phone apps and Twitter - and Emma explained how the company planned their contribution.
All went well except that my microphone mis-performed - which led to rather poor audio. That also meant that the YouTube auto-captioning was inadequate. Fortunately I discovered that Rev will caption videos for $1 a minute, with turnaround in a few hours.
So I learned something after the event - as well as the potential of community-business volunteering for digital inclusion.
Here's some of the feedback from the event
“Thank you very much. Now I can keep photos from e-mail to album”
"Many, many thanks for this workshop. Really helpful for dinosaurs like us – help on security, bus apps, updates, etc. Jim and I enjoyed ourselves very much and learnt a lot”
“Fabulous so useful – lovely helpful Dentsu Aegis team – hope they could come again – regularly – helps with intergenerational interaction for all of diverse backgrounds, age, mutual interest sharing of commitments”
“Thank you so much for your community involvement. The main thing this day has helped me with is confidence in knowing I can use my i-phone and i-pad and that younger people have similar difficulties, ie. it takes time and patience and perseverance. The atomosphere was relaxed and all the Dentsu volunteers extremely helpful and patient. It was also fantastic to be in a local community library as people can access this easily. Lovely lunch also”
“This has been a very useful exercise, and I have benefitted from the advice and direction I have received in the use of i-phone, internet, whatsapp, music and more. Maybe it should be repeated because I am sure there are many people out there who can benefit as I did. I would like to thank you very much indeed”
“Few things I learned today, one of them was how important before buying a computer, ask about the RAM memory & between 8-10 GB is great”
“Thanks so much for putting this on. Robin has helped me a lot with various things to do with the mobile phone and really glad I came. Please put me on the mailing list”
“This is the kind of session/support I’ve been looking for a long time.
I was able to state my requirements/questions and Dentsu volunteers listened patiently and sorted out my problems like how to deal with apps. Investigate why my mobile is so slow. Lovely supportive people - please come again”
Update: Myra reminds me I shouldn't forget the pioneering work of Sharon Tynan, of Age UK London, developing the techy tea and lunch movement with London firms. Here's one I attended in 2015 with a City law firm. Nor should I forget a previous event Myra helped organise in 2014 in Primrose Hill entitled Tea, Toast and T’Internet. I hope there will be many more.