The Growth Company is proud to have helped over 1,500 Greater Manchester residents become more digitally confident and engaged as part of our Digital 1000 strategy to upskill 1000 Greater Manchester residents.

The successful initiative, which launched in July 2018 reached its initial target of helping 1000 GM residents in the first 12 months.

How we did it

We knew that to deliver on our digital inclusion ambition we would require new approaches to engage and motivate people in the communities in which we already worked.

We started by rolling out new digital inclusion tools to support those most in need, but an important part of the process has been in testing and learning how we can fully embed digital inclusion activity into our delivery models to make sure it is effective in supporting digital inclusion right across the city-region over the long-term.

It was key for us to engage people right at the beginning of the programme, so we introduced new and innovative ways of embedding digital needs into our assessments for cross-group services. As part of this initial assessment process, advisers would ask specific questions around digital knowledge and competence. If it was identified that an individual would benefit from a digital skills boost to help them with their employability, confidence or entrepreneurial vision, they were signposted to several different learning platforms.

We also trained from within, developing the digital skills of our staff so they could pass on their knowledge to their clients. This included increasing the number of ‘Digital Champions’ we have within the Group, who are trained to encourage digital literacy among staff and Greater Manchester residents.

As well as this, we worked with existing infrastructure and local strategies, supporting the great work which was already happening across the city-region. For example, in Salford, we engaged with people who were accessing ‘early help’ – a large proportion of whom had debt and financial problems, and didn’t have the skills to seek help online. As a result, we made part of our offer about accessing digital skills that would enable them to do tasks to help their financial situation, such as online banking or finding cheaper deals on their utility bills.

What’s been the impact

We’ve helped over 1,500 of the hardest-to-reach residents, building their confidence in completing a wide range of digital tasks both at home and in the workplace.

We have already made some significant progress – such as introducing tablets to record Information, Advice and Guidance sessions and actions plans, moving to a paperless system and making staff more aware of websites that offer online courses.

We have been able to offer people appointments via Skype, and used webinars to provide support. Our IT suites are also available to customers who don’t have a computer or digital access at home.

We are now well on the way to achieving a further 1,000 engagements in year two with 430 residents already supported to date.

What next?

The ambition to engage and motivate excluded residents to increase their digital confidence and skills, as well as embedding an inclusive growth approach to all of our work, will remain.

We’re also looking at different ways of engaging customers (including mentoring programmes), relaunching the initiative internally to assess where else we can embed the approach across the Group, and looking into potential funding to help people access digital devices.

I am incredibly proud of everything that the programme has achieved so far, and I am confident that we can build on our success in 2020.