Over on the digitalmentor blog Dave Briggs breaks the news that the contract for the Government’s £900,000 Digital Mentor programme has gone to the Media Trust.
I’m personally disappointed it didn’t go to the Voicebox consortium who – as I wrote here – went to great efforts to run an open process to involve as many people as possible with expertise in the field in developing their bid … but then I don’t know what the Media Trust proposed.
The Trust has a great track record of working with mainstream media to bring professional expertise to nonprofits, and last year had an Improving Reach programme “to provide free communications support for small volunteer organisations working with Black and Minority Ethnic, Migrant and or Refugee, Isolated Rural and Faith groups”.
They have an “Engaging Hard-to-Reach Communities” conference next week, with a panel chaired by Esther Rantzen CBE.
From discussions during the bidding process, I would expect one of the big concerns among groups already delivering support and mentoring is that their expertise in working in local communities is recognised and used. That’s not just a “give us the job” reaction – it’s a reflection of the fact that the digital and media part of the mentoring is not necessarily the most important. It’s about what’s likely to work in the poorer communities targeted by the programme, understanding and working with people’s needs, developing their confidence … and only then looking to tools and techniques.
The invitation to bid, from the Department for Communities and Local Government, said:
Through increasing skills in using websites, podcasts, digital photography, online publishing tools and local broadcast media, Communities and Local Government wish to:
* empower individuals and communities by giving those citizens who feel ‘voiceless’ or ‘unheard’ new tools to express their views and collaborate on issues of relevance to them
* provide informal and formal learning opportunities and assist people into employment, particularly in the creative industries
* improve access to public and other services
The problem with these sorts of statements is that what Govenment means by empowerment is not necessarily what people in deprived communities hope for. I suspect that the digital mentor programme will help tease that out.
Over on the digitalmentor blog Dave poses a question:
This is, I think, an appropriate moment to ask people who visit this blog what they see as being the continuing role of the site? Should we scrutinise the actions taken by MediaTrust, or just leave them to get on with it?
Or should we continue to highlight all the good work going on in the digital mentoring field and share knowledge and experience on how it was done?
Keep it going, Dave, there or elsewhere. There’s plenty to do.
Update: over on the Voicebox blog Helen Milner, managing director of UK online centres, says she is reeling from the disappoinment of losing, but offers generous congratulations to the Media Trust, and promises to continue with open development of policy and practice:
The successful bidder was Media Trust, and so I’d like to congratulate their team who also worked really hard to develop the winning bid.
As you’ve read from the Voicebox blog so far, we’ve come such a long way since last autumn in terms of the understanding how an open and collaborative approach to developing bids can work, and so this wont be the last time we will use this approach to develop other opportunities that come our way!
A big ‘THANK YOU’ to all of you that contributed to the Voicebox blog. I’ve learned a great deal from you all and hopefully, some great contacts too. I’m sure these links wont be lost!