The baseline report for the SMILEY evaluation of community development and digital inclusion (Social Media Initiatives in Local East York), co-authored by Alison Gilchrist and myself, is now available here.
Joseph Rowntree Foundation is developing a programme to deliver digital inclusion interventions and support existing digital inclusion initiatives in these areas. Our role is to assess the impact of the programme activities, which are intended to support the development of social links and networks between residents within and between these three localities.
Our results suggest a sharp contrast between those who recognise and appreciate the potential of digital media to contribute to local life, and those who do not. We found that for almost half of those who have been involved in a local community issue, this has come about as a direct result of online contact ('once', 'a few times', or 'often'). But at the same time, a significant 40 per cent of respondents did not see any potential in local community uses of the internet, either through connecting with active local groups, or as a way of raising and influencing local issues.
In several respects we found that approximately 20 per cent of respondents seem to experience digital exclusion. For example,
- eighteen per cent say they are ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ comfortable trying out new digital technologies
- twenty-two per cent say they lack, or lack confidence in, their online digital skills
- one person in five does not expect that the internet could help them to keep in touch with friends or social contacts locally.
The baseline survey was conducted between November 2014 and January 2015. It was carried out by five community researchers in Derwenthorpe and the surrounding areas. Download the full report. There’s more on the SMILEY project here.
Our evaluation will go on to examine if and how JRF's interventions lead to the improvement of digital skills and literacy, generate a positive online identity for the area, and support community development and the integration of Derwenthorpe residents with neighbouring communities.