We live in an increasingly tech-driven world with digital mediums having made their way to the centre stage impacting our daily lives. Digital technology presents huge opportunities, however its success cannot be achieved without connection with people.

At Airdrie Citizens Advice Bureau we undertook to support our communities develop digital skills, applying these in everyday situations and ensuring communities are not paying the price of remaining offline. We welcomed the opportunity for grant funding awarded by Digital Participation Charter Fund to allow us to make this initiative a reality through our ‘Beyond the Screen’ project.

Beyond the Screen aims to support our communities build their digital skills and confidence to enjoy all the benefits the world-wide-web has to offer. We equally strive to ensure we maximise our staff and volunteers skills and apply digital efficiencies and innovation in developing our services.

We have had a great start supporting communities increased awareness of building digital skills in dealing with everyday issues from opening email accounts to increasing confidence to use emails, uploading attachments, completing online application forms, updating and uploading CVs, budgeting, understanding online security to exploring online support groups to name but a few of the issues we have assisted with.

The needs of our communities have been at the forefront and a flexible and adaptable approach has been critical to encourage long term application of digital skills gained. Baseline surveys allowed us to capture initial digital skills and interests of further developments communities wished to gain in building their digital skills. Over the next few months we will be carrying out follow up surveys to assess continued progress and application of digital skills

Working in partnership is and remains an essential component in ensuring our assistance is widely known and reaching those who most need our support. We are very grateful for the warm reception awarded by Airdrie Library resulting in fortnightly outreach surgeries in our local library and publicity through Culture NL Libraries. Through outreach sessions we have been able to increase awareness of support available and also identify other associated issues ensuring communities are able to access timely advice and or self-help preventing matters escalating.

We have also raised awareness of support available to communities so they are prepared for the online application process with Universal Credit fully rolled out in North Lanarkshire from April 2018.

Initial feedback from communities has been positive with our small Digital Team feeling hugely satisfied as they witness the increased confidence and awareness of individuals benefiting from online resources from engagement in online social groups to applying for jobs, securely opening accounts to accessing online services reducing waiting times, saving money and introducing efficiencies through online appointment booking systems and use of email in communication with services.

Delivering ‘Beyond the Screen’ has also encouraged discussions amongst the team and increasing knowledge and skills of various Apps and sharing our digital experiences.

There are limited resources available for the third sector to develop digital innovations in service delivery. We are grateful for the support the Digital Charter Fund has created allowing us the time and space to approach our joint digital journey with our communities with creativity and curiosity. We look forward to taking on board suggestions and findings from feedback surveys to implement continued digital developments for our communities and our organisation.