Digital Together – Community Digital Hubs
Funded by: ()
Duration: April 2023 – March 2025
Location: Cornwall
Project partners: , University of Plymouth, , , ,
University of Plymouth Staff: Professor Katharine Willis
Digital Together will work closely with community hubs to embed digital skills and access to support the collective aims of improving health and wellbeing – understanding that digital can be a significant tool in supporting wellbeing and reducing delivery costs for health and social care.
The partners of , , University of Plymouth, , and are working on the Digital Together project, funded through the fund between 2023 and 2025.
Digital Neighbourhoods

Overview

Digital Together aligns closely with the Community and Place objectives the Shared Prosperity Fund:
  • Strengthening our social fabric and fostering a sense of local pride and belonging, through investment in activities that enhance physical, cultural and social ties and amenities, such as community infrastructure and local green space, and community led-projects
  • Building resilient, safe and healthy neighbourhoods, through investment in quality places that people want to live, work, play and learn in, through targeted improvement to the built environment and innovative approaches to crime prevention.
Digital Together is a community asset-based approach to tackling digital exclusion that goes beyond providing access to skills training. We want to support communities to embed digital as a tool to achieving their collective aims towards building sustainable communities. Building social and digital capital that increases wellbeing and a sense of belonging by co-designing how local digital infrastructure works for them. We will work with individuals, groups and communities to improve skills, access to technology and information, advice and guidance to improve capacity to engage in digital services, civil society, health, education, training and employment opportunities.
Embedded in our planned activities is co-designing projects with communities. We will hold community engagement events and co-design events that are focused on increasing the capacity of places to leverage the opportunities of digital to improve the social fabric of place. Event will be planned with environmental sustainability in mind.
We will do this by increasing the skills and knowledge of individuals and community assets/groups and also improving the digital infrastructure of a place. Improving digital and social capital will support leaders in communities to meet the community's identified needs and increase aspiration and connection.

Our Aims

  • Set up 10 hubs in village halls and community centres through a co-design approach. We will equip the hubs with a digital library toolkit of technology including computers, 3D printers and VR devices that can be used by the community to empower them to develop their own projects and skillsets.
  • We will create and run a digital hub roadshow for the community to come together to discuss what they want from the hubs and what local place-based challenges they want to address (e.g., sustainability, health).
  • Support 25 micro entrepreneurial projects to get started and demonstrate what creative digital inclusion can be locally as a way to communicate ‘through doing’.
  • Work with community hubs, building the capacity of VCSE staff to leverage the power of digital by look at the feasibility of using a range of digital technologies to monitor vulnerable residents and increase wellbeing
The Greenhouse
The Greenhouse – a community Digital Hub

Outcomes and Impact

  • To leverage the ability of community hubs to further support their communities and improve prevention level interventions
  • To support rural communities to design their own digital solutions to their local challenges
  • Community facilities and community groups have increased digital capacity with improved civic participation
  • Increased access to digital devices and improved connectivity
  • Digital Skills ecosystem with digital champions and micro entrepreneurs (skills and employability)
  • Strengthening social fabric (Pride in Place )

Underpinning Research- Place Based Digital Inclusion

The research is underpinned by a series of projects that look at place based digital inclusion. The research identified that digital inclusion in rural contexts were highly dependent on ‘place’, and require a ‘place’ (such as a community centre, library or village hall), a set of people to create social networks, and access to equipment and connectivity.
The was a key output of the project and was developed as best practice for digital inclusion in rural villages.

Digital neighbourhoods

The four-year EU funded Digital Neighbourhoods (Local Inclusion in Networked Communities) Research Project (2013-2017) partnered with Superfast Cornwall,. In collaboration with Cornwall Rural Community Charity (CRCC) and Cornwall Council, the research evidenced how access to high-speed broadband affects rural places and piloted an approach aimed at overcoming digital divides.
The project was featured as best practice by the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) in two policy briefs as part of The EU Smart Villages programme. This identified and highlighted that that Cornwall has excellent potential to be a leader in rural digitisation.

The Greenhouse – a community Digital Hub

The Greenhouse, which acts as a creative technology hub for local organisations and residents, provides technological and digital support through a neighbourhood-based drop in centre. The project is a partnership with Nudge Community Builders and is based in the Plot, a community space in Stonehouse, the Greenhouse is a place where people can experience and play with technology in a way that supports them to learn how it could benefit them.
This includes students working in the community, running workshops, events and one-to-one support for local people and aims to encourage local and sustainable thinking, providing a stimulus for local entrepreneurship.

Key publications:

Willis, KS, (2017)
Willis, KS, (2019)

Our partners

Funded by