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Digitall, intergenerational mentoring – London

About the project:

Digitall brought together young people aged 18- 25 who were willing to share their knowledge and experience of using computers and the internet with people aged over 45 who were interested in getting to grips with new technology. Young people acted as mentors, supporting their mentee on a one-to-one basis to achieve their digital goals.

Digitall was managed by national volunteering charity TimeBank and funded by v, ‘the youth volunteering charity’, for just under £300,000 over three years. Digitall has now come to an end.

Project aims:

  • To promote a better understanding between the generations by bringing together people of different ages and experiences
  • To enable people from all backgrounds and ages to access the opportunities offered by new technology and the Internet

Project outcomes

Outcomes for mentees:

142 older people were matched with a volunteer mentor during the first two years of the project.

Evaluation has shown that the project has been extremely effective in increasing mentees’ skills and confidence in using ICT:

  • The majority of mentees felt that they had improved their ICT skills and in particular, their ability to use email and the internet for accessing web-based information and services
  • Almost all the mentees felt more confident in using a computer, using the internet and communicating via email

The project has helped to increase mentees’ digital access. More than three-quarters of the mentees interviewed said that they now:

  • Use a computer more frequently than they did before attending the project
  • Use their computer to look for information on the internet and to communicate with others

As a result, the evaluation has found that Digitall has been successful in increasing older people’s digital inclusion and contributed to reducing their social isolation:

  • Almost three-quarters of the mentees interviewed felt they were now able to keep in touch with their family and friends
  • About half said that being able to use a computer and access the internet made them feel more independent
  • Nearly half were using the internet to become more involved in local events and activities
  • About a third were using it to get in touch with or get information about local services

Impact on mentors

Almost all the mentors who completed the end of mentoring questionnaire felt that they had improved their skills. In particular, mentors felt that the project had helped them to:

  • Improve their communication skills and enhance their ICT skills
  • Increase their self-confidence
  • Feel more fulfilled through having an opportunity to help others
  • Discover new areas of interest and make new friends

Some felt that working with older people had made them more patient and understanding whilst others felt it had helped them develop their careers. In the longer-term:

  • Over a third of the mentors surveyed said they had continued using the skills and experience they had gained during the project
  • Over a quarter of mentors who filled in the follow-up questionnaire said it had affected the direction they were taking in their life

In addition, involvement with Digitall appears to have resulted in a greater commitment from young people to volunteering:

  • All the mentors who completed the end of mentoring questionnaires said they would consider doing more voluntary work in the future
  • For some young people, their experience of volunteering for Digitall had changed their perceptions of volunteering and others were surprised at how rewarding it could be
  • Almost a third of the mentors we followed up had done further volunteering since the project ended and over three-quarters said they would still like to do more voluntary work in the future

Personal impact statements

Mentee’s view – Kanubhai:

Kanubhai got bored when he retired and was in need of some mental stimulation which he found through the Digitall project. Here he learnt the tools to continue to develop his computer skills and now uses the internet daily. It has transformed the way in which he accesses information and gains knowledge.

“Thanks to Neha I come to the centre everyday now to learn even more about the internet and make sure I am up to date on sending emails to my grandchildren – they love the pictures and links to exciting things to do in London that I send them. “I even do my accounting on the computer now. Neha is great, I can still call her if I need her now. I know I am a lot slower now because of my age but she was so patient with me – she’s like my daughter.”

Mentor’s view – Neha:

Through mentoring on the Digitall programme not only did Neha open up some new and exciting avenues for Kanubhai but she too discovered tons of benefits.

“Not being able to use a computer or access the internet is an alien concept to me. I can’t imagine what life would be like without having all that information at my finger tips. Volunteering on the Digitall project has given me the chance to help an older person find that vital information, which is really rewarding – it feels good to know I’ve contributed to my community. It also improved my commitment skills and helped me be more on time for things too.”


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