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The Mentor Ring: Supporting staff and volunteers through digital inclusion training

An older woman receiving help to use a laptop

Sujatha Thaladi from The Mentor Ring in Cardiff discusses how digital inclusion training has supported staff and volunteers.

The Mentor Ring (TMR), a registered charity based in Cardiff, supports communities through mentoring and guiding people of all ages and backgrounds. TMR strives to break down substantial barriers to social inclusion through various programmes tailored to the needs of the local community. These programmes include providing revisions sessions to young people, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes, volunteering opportunities and celebrating diversity throughout the year. Recently, Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being (DCW) has been helping the charity to improve the digital skills of those they support.

The importance of promoting digital skills as part of TMR’s work

Sujatha, CEO of TMR shares how it is important for staff and volunteers at TMR to have opportunities to access digital training as they support a diverse range of communities and deliver various programmes for the people of Cardiff. This can enhance the skills, knowledge, and confidence of individuals, which not only supports them in their roles but also the people and communities TMR engages with and supports.

Sujatha explains: “The digital environment changes so fast and it is important we stay up to date and continue refreshing our knowledge. We are seeing more and more services going online over the last few years. We understand it is important to have the skills and knowledge, particularly around the applications and platforms that we use within our roles. As this can aid us in the way we carry out tasks and support others.”

She continues:We continue to give opportunities to people to come and practise their digital skills at our centre, which hopefully gives them the confidence to navigate the online world. At the same time, it gives staff and volunteers chance to engage with users and making them aware of useful apps that can benefit them in some capacity. For example, teaching and raising awareness around how to be able to use Google Translate when a common language is not spoken.”

Working in partnership and identifying key areas of training

Upon first contact with TMR, Digital Communities Wales provided details of the support available through its programme and how it can support staff and volunteers. DCW then worked closely with TMR to carry out a digital skills audit for staff and volunteers. This allowed DCW and TMR to identify the level of digital skills and confidence of staff and volunteers and identify the training topics that would benefit the people that TMR support the most.

Through the digital skills audit, TMR were able to identify these key training sessions. In this instance, there was a need for sessions focused on digital tools for health and wellbeing, as well as online safety. Recognising their role as mentors and guides, both staff and volunteers also actively engaged in sessions focused on helping people to get online, gaining insights into supporting others on their digital journey. These sessions were all delivered online, ensuring accessibility and convenience for all involved.

Ensuring equitable access to the Internet

While TMR have taken advantage of the offer presented by Digital Communities Wales, Sujatha realises that not everyone she supports has the luxury of easy online access to continue developing skills at home. This can be for reasons such as cost and digital literacy, but also more complex social and cultural factors can be at play.

She said: “Everybody is talking about digital. People are referred to internet platforms to carry out tasks for everyday life, but it’s important to realise that for a variety of reasons not everyone has access to the internet in 2024.”

Seeking to leverage their influence for positive change, TMR is already a member of the Internet Society, an organisation dedicated to advancing the Internet as a global technical infrastructure, enriching people’s lives, and as a force for good in society. Having been made aware of the Digital Inclusion Alliance Wales, they are now considering joining the network which brings together organisations from across Wales that are working together to make Wales a digitally inclusive nation. In addition, TMR are also looking into joining the National Digital Inclusion Network, a network of organisations in UK providing free local support for people to use the internet, set up by DCW programme partners, Good Things Foundation.

Final thoughts on from Sujatha

“The training accessed by TMR has helped us to be more conscious about navigating the internet and accessing digital tools and platforms which are important for our communities. For example, the online safety sessions have helped us to be more conscious and critical in thinking when we, or our users, are unsure about messages and emails received from unknown people.

“The support received through training has proven highly beneficial for both staff and volunteers, enabling them to apply their newfound digital know-how in various aspects of their lives, be it personal or professional. Taking on the learning from Digital Communities Wales, we’re now able to better cascade information to the people that require our support and assistance getting online or making the most of digital connectivity.”

Speaking of the digital inclusion work Sujatha and The Mentor Ring are doing Mohammed, Basit, DCW’s Digital Inclusion Advisor for Ethnic Minority Communities, said: “It’s been great to engage with Sujatha and provide support to TMR through training that can benefit staff, volunteers and mentors. TMR deliver some fantastic programmes for the local communities, and we hope any learning can be cascaded to the beneficiaries. We look forward to continuing working with TMR.”

For more information about digital inclusion support for ethnic minority communities in Wales, support, or even just a chat, please reach out to Mohammed Basit by emailing or calling 07824 035880.