£5,000 prize for Doncaster-based social enterprise at Digital Leaders 100 Awards.
A Doncaster-based social enterprise that offers free digital training in the local community has won the Craig Macdonald Memorial Prize at the Digital Leaders 100 Awards.
Run solely by volunteers, Knowledge Pool was founded by Yetunde Elebuibon in 2019 after she began to receive multiple requests from people in her local community asking her how to perform various digital-based tasks on their computer or phone.
“Lots of my fellow community members would tell me they were struggling with the internet, having difficultly filling in online forms or sending an email,” explains Yetunde.
“What seem like basic things to many of us are completely alien to others, so I decided to set up an informal, hour-long ‘class’ after church on a Sunday to try and help. I thought I’d be teaching people how to use Microsoft Office 365, but I quickly realised we would have to start right at the very beginning.
“Several people didn’t know how to turn on a computer and those that did were unfamiliar with the keyboard functions. Some didn’t have an email account and others needed to fill in online forms but didn’t know where to start. There were lots of common digital issues, so I began to address them one by one and watched the students progress each week.
“What’s more, those who attended began to support each other out of the class environment too. They became friends and that was important when the pandemic hit – the added social benefits of what we’d been doing were suddenly very apparent.”
Continues Yetunde: “Those initial classes learning with friends with a cup of tea were so popular; I needed to streamline what I was doing. I created a WhatsApp group so we could all chat and support each other and I also began working with likeminded local organisations, such as Changing Lives, to deliver classes. We created a Knowledge Pool guidebook which addresses the most commonly asked questions and organised classes on specific topics such as how to use a tablet and how to share photos.
“It was in a photo sharing class that the effect of what we were doing really hit me. A lady called Sheila, who’d lost her husband the previous year, took part in the class. She wanted to upload photos of her husband to her phone but didn’t know how. After I showed her and she had a photo as her screensaver, she said to me: “Yetunde, I can now take him wherever I go”. That was such an emotional moment and made all the hard work worthwhile.”
The Digital Leaders 100 Awards judges were impressed by how rooted Knowledge Pool is in its local community and the range of people it's managing to support, with very little funding. They commented: “There is a charismatic digital leader full of passion at its heart, giving up their spare time to help people get online, supporting the small army of volunteers who do the same and persuading funders to support their valuable work.
“In a short space of time, this project has established a strong network of public, private and third sector organisations - bringing them together to address the digital inequalities in the local community. Whether it's asylum seekers needing to access essential online services, lone parents struggling to home school, or older people desperate to connect with family, this project is finding a way to bring offline and online support together to make an impact.”
Comments Rob Wilmot, tech investor and member of the Digital Leaders board: “Craig Macdonald was a technology professional dedicated to public service who passed away suddenly in early 2020. In honour of Craig’s memory, I partnered with Digital Leaders to award a prize of £5000 for the best grassroots organisation working in their local community to help close the digital divide.
“Knowledge Pool epitomise the kind of work this prize seeks to recognise and reward. The speed with this project got off the ground, coupled with the reach and impact of the work, make them very worthy winners of the inaugural Craig MacDonald Memorial Prize. They have huge ambitions and, since I’m based in Doncaster, I look forward to directly supporting Yetunde and the team to achieve them.
Concludes Yetunde: “When we set off to London for the awards event, we had no idea that we’d end up winning. There are thousands of Sheilas out there and this prize money, and encouragement from Rob, will enable us to help them by replicating our work all over the country and realise our dream of equipping everyone with the digital skills they need.”
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