avana LLC

iSandwell, it belongs to you

We have 316,720 people in our region, and we take our drive from them.

iSandwell takes community consultation immensely serious and that is why a large part of what we do is physical activities such as roadshows, talks and workshops, weird for a digital project right?

Well no, not at all. We are realistic about digitalisation and we recognize the agenda starts with citizens, some of those need support in regards to digital but it's how job they have an influence on the policy we write.

You can read our last report that features updates on all our projects and feedback from Minister of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Margot James MP and Minister of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Tom Watson MP by clicking here.

Views from residents

“Lack of jobs is a really big issue in Sandwell, and also we have a big lack of quality jobs. Hopefully helping residents to understand digital can help us learn new skills” - Mike Peters, Tipton

“Youth crime is a problem for Sandwell, if people had the opportunity to learn some new career skills, I believe it will give people the incentive to better themselves” - Samantha Horrocks, Oldbury

“We really need better jobs in Sandwell and to do that we as a community needs to realise we have to do something about the skills gap and shortages” Neave Gaskin, West Bromwich

Setting the scene

Sandwell has some very unique issues, problems in some part digitalisations can aleve or even solve.

“A smart city uses digital technology to promote performance and wellbeing and to increase its ability to respond to citywide and global challenges.” - Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

iSandwell is, in essence, a smart city thinking project in regards to it’s innovative nature however at its heart it is a community development project that uses digital as a vehicle to create social change.

Because of the regions demographic, we know forcing a narrative on our community does not work and that is why we have taken a collaborative approach to include our citizens in the building process. To do this we have taken a community developement route and ask people what is important to them, sometimes with a clipboard standing in one of the 6 towns.

For a “smart city”, “civic tech” or “open data” project to work in places like Sandwell, we have to accept that our area is different and some demographics harber a distrust for digital services, but if anything this makes digitisation projects such as this more important to ensure our citizens do not get left behind.

Sandwell’s skill set in regards to its citizens and business infrastructure is lower than most of our counterparts in the West Midlands. But this doesn’t mean we should be overlooking digitalisation but to see it as a challenge to do something that is new and groundbreaking.

This is a real opportunity to build infrastructure using the best resource that Sandwell has, it’s people. An opportunity to plant an acorn that could turn to economic growth and help to develop the region.

Some long term outcomes for Sandwell would be:

1. Innovative business creation by installing new skill sets in the region
2. New enterprise coming to Sandwell to take advantage of upskilled workforce who are ultimately cheaper than other areas of the UK
3. Creation of better quality jobs and retaining talent
4. Citizens managing their lives better online
5. Relieving capacity on Council services

This project goes beyond digital, it is a regional development project looking to innovation to provide solutions and develop new services in the face of reduced public services.

iSandwell understands the best platforms to upskill the people who live in Sandwell’s neighbourhoods is giving our voluntary organisations what they need to pass on digital skills to the people they work with whilst also upscaling their own work to gather evidence, widen impact and increase their chances of attracting resources.

It’s important to approach projects in a realistic manner and ensure it has the capacity to reach the goals set out, this is why a large part of iSandwell is to train our community groups to pass on their skills to the people they support, this is a peer to peer approach.

The project also takes a realistic and deliverable approach to project volunteers who we call “iSandwell Digital Champions”. By installing a journalistic mentality we give people the tools and platforms to document digital skills and projects in Sandwell, alongside this a training programme that offers a range of transferable skills that can enhance employability.

We offer opportunities that are not available elsewhere in the Borough such as social campaigning, creative industries and IT - More engaged Digital Champions will be stationed with nonprofits in the region to help upscale their social media channels and mentor their digital output.

In short, anybody can become an iSandwell Digital Champion, no matter what age or skill level and it is important it stays that way.