Digitally Active: Results blog
‘Learn to blog, vlog, podcast and develop your digital skills while building confidence to enable people to thrive in life and securing work,’ was on the bill of our first Digitally Active project.
Digitally Active is an emerging CIC which aims to support aspiring digital entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who identify as neurodivergent.
We ran 10 workshops which included goal-setting, creating positive habits, confidence-building, story-telling, public speaking, interviewing, basic blogging and vlogging techniques, building a personal brand, content creation and accessibility
Most participants were drawn to the five-week course with the prospect of learning to blog, vlog and build their social media skills as the main attraction. One participant who had stumbled on the course arrived in tears due to feeling shut out of the workplace due to her lack of digital skills.
Dan who does have prior digital skills said he still enjoyed “learning stuff.”
Most participants, including Dan, during the process cited that the confidence building and communication practice in the morning was essential however, even before switching on any digital technology.
Cora said after her second workshop: “It was good and interesting and good high energy in the morning then good to chill in afternoon.”
We focused on communication and confidence skills such as public speaking, practicing sharing their story verbally and more movement in the morning as well as sharing and getting to know one another better.
Variety was key for participants with a “nice mix” of workshops.
Although we found participants preferred a structured day and routine around a diverse array of workshops. Participants all wanted a quiet lunch break and in future we will give longer for this so there is room to socialise for people.
As we had to take the pace slower than expected we could have done with less content or longer days but we wanted to give people a taste of a range of things to see what worked.
Steven said on his final session: “I felt so accepted. It’s been so touching. I feel so empowered as if I could take on the world.”
His carer added: “I’ve never been anywhere and in a working environment where there’s dogs and kids. It’s brilliant and I feel so welcome.”
Several participants shared that this felt like a safe space to belong and that a huge part of the group was the importance of sharing experiences.
Vlogging and interviewing one another acted as a good vehicle for us to really hear one another’s stories.
With Cora sharing how she felt when people finished her sentences when she couldn’t get her words out.
“I might talk fast and then struggle, I just need more time to get my words out but people (in wider society) cut in and finish my sentences.
Julie shared that people do this to her son Dan too which isn’t helpful.
Debbie also said that this knocks her confidence too because people say she is boring, talks too much and has an annoying voice.
Sharing these experiences meant we were able to give each other kind words to replace the negative ones people still had in their minds.
We also worked on sharing positive feedback and accepting compliments.
What helped with everyone being treated as equals was facilitators and participants all being on the same level sharing personal experiences.
Most facilitators also had lived experience of being neurodivergent or caring for someone who is.
Rachel who led a workshop and attended one is neurodivergent and has two autistic sons said she “had a few lightbulb moments.”
The camaraderie of the group was key to building one another’s confidence with some touchingly funny moments as depending on our condition our sense of time and routine was totally different as well as some people’s need to speak out and others need for quiet time. Respect was paramount and in future we build on our group agreement as we were lucky that everyone is this group was so supportive and understanding of one another.
As our inclusion and diversity trainer explained that in wider society there is often an empathy gap between neurotypical and neurodiverse people. So co-production is important and shared insights from people.
“People who are neurodivergent may become hyper focused and obsessive on things so we are looking for ways to harness that in a positive way.”
We realised that while participants need ongoing confidence and skills training that also more education for employers and businesses is needed to support them to better recruit and maintain a diverse workforce.
But in the meantime, many participants were wanting to experiment with writing blogs for our community sites and to co-create a Facebook group to share our work and experiences.
Cora said: “I want to write blogs regularly and hopefully set up my own now too.”
Everyone liked the idea of sharing skills too and having a regular in person meet-up and digital skills session as well as to keep in touch online via a facebook group. People wanted to contribute regularly to a blog.
We definitely found that the project was building momentum as we went along and we have compiled a huge database of content.
We moved from the ArtHouse into The Ridings to reduce cost and to have a consistent base as well as easier access to refreshment facilities.
We will deliver outreach projects initially for people to get to know us then use our base where possible at The Ridings Shopping Centre.
We aim to deliver regular workshops as people liked the routine and the ability to drop in. We will run a range of workshops with one theme per workshop.
We also hope to train a range of digital skills trainers as part of our group so that with our support they can help people who feel shut out totally with digital technology.
Apple also has a range of accessibility tools for free.