Take Charge is officially one year old. The project hasn’t quite had the first year we expected: a global pandemic definitely counts as teething troubles/gripe/sleepless nights and various other metaphorical ills. We want to reflect and look at a few highs and lows of Year 1.
Most of us have experienced the joys of learning Zoom, Teams and similar this year. After the initial frustrations, a real upside was finding that we were reaching participants we had never engaged with before. Some found an advantage because they were in control of what they could access and did not have to worry about travelling any distance; others discovered that, given the opportunity, they were able to develop IT skills. Many are now able to attend online sessions without staff support, a huge boost for their wellbeing.
Our only in person activity of the project
This is commemorated in our header. We had a sunny day to visit the Senedd in Cardiff Barry to mark International Women’s Day 2020 and learn more about the importance of equality in our lives. We even got to meet Lady Rhondda! (albeit in Lego form)
Mind the gap
The move to IT has excluded some people that the project supports. This is not because there is no device available to them, because Innovate has been able to provide laptops to those who have asked for them. The IT poverty gap has appeared in two key areas: those who can use IT but have no internet access at home (no smartphone and libraries are closed); or (mainly) lack of support to learn how to use it. Ironically this gap been a problem for more able individuals who live independently with minimal support. In these situations our regular welfare telephone calls and mailed paper-based activities have proved vital to keep peoples’ spirits up.
An interesting outcome of the move to online activities is that several participants with social anxieties (who would usually avoid group gatherings) have found that groups online are fine. One participant has even moved on to a volunteering role with responsibilities for co-hosting online activities.
The coming year
There is a lot of work to do in the coming weeks around resuming in person activities. We will continue delivering online activities as well, and it will be fascinating to see what develops. How will individual’s newly acquired IT skills take participants into exploring more novel opportunities? What new activities can we develop which build on the learning of the last year?