And the winner is … DigiLocal

Huge thank you to Tech South West and category sponsors BoostCo for our award for Commitment to Diversity.

Our purpose is to give underrepresented young people the opportunity to discover and develop their digital talents.

All of our community based clubs start with … a lead community organisation. This ensures that we are genuinely addressing local needs, and not simply dropping in a ‘cookie cutter’ solution dreamt up in a focus group. Our communities are as diverse as the people within them and what works in one location may not work in another.

At the core of our clubs, and our whole purpose, are our young people. We want to support them on their journey of developing their problem solving skills and building resilience. That journey isn’t a single point of contact; we’re in it for the long haul. Most of our clubs start at age 8 years and some of our young people have been attending for over 4 years. We’ve even begun to place young people with paid internships.

Some of our young people are into developing narrative games and flourish with the BAFTA Young Games Designer competitions, others are more data-driven and excel in the NASA Space Apps Challenge.

As long as they are enjoying themselves and moving on to more challenging projects, we’ll keep finding cool challenges for them.

One of the major barriers for greater diversity in tech is the opportunity to access resources from home. Since the first COVID-19 lockdown we have worked with a wide range of partners to source, repurpose, and onward gift over 1,000 laptops to young people and families. This work is ongoing and represents a vital component of our support for underrepresented young people.

In parallel to the laptop repurposing, we launched DigiLocal Online and have hosted an online coding session every night of the week (and two sessions on Saturdays) since March 2020. Those sessions have provided a vital point of stability for some young people over the pandemic and will continue to support young people into the future.

As an organisation we also want to be a place that celebrates diversity, and everyone is present because of the value they bring to our mission.

Our trustees bring a range of vital knowledge, skills, and experiences to ensure that our clubs address the needs of young people from diverse communities, as well as the diverse industries they will eventually find themselves. Having a diverse Board of Trustees is vital to building a resilient and purposeful organisation and I’m grateful to all of them for their time, support, and critical friendship in building DigiLocal.

Beyond our Board of Trustees, we also host a Youth Advisory Board and a Community Advisory Board. These advisory boards report directly to the Board of Trustees and their suggestions shape our strategic business planning for the charity. Each advisory board is chaired by a named Trustee and has an open agenda to consider anything that may help DigiLocal better support underrepresented young people to discover and develop their digital talents.

We rely completely on our fantastic volunteer STEM mentors to deliver club sessions. Many are developers and engineers with companies in Bristol and around the UK, but all are committed to supporting young people and nurturing a passion for problem solving and working with tech.

In addition to the Commitment to Diversity Award, we are thrilled to have been the Bristol and Bath Cluster Winner as well. We work closely with the tech cluster champions such as TechSpark and many of the amazing firms in the region so it’s fantastic to be recognised by them specifically.

If you’d like to be part of our journey, please get in touch.

Thanks again to Tech South West and all involved in the awards and the tech scene in the region.

DigiLocal celebrates after receiving £10k from the National Lottery to support local young people developing their digital talents

DigiLocal is today celebrating after being awarded £10k in National Lottery funding to support its work with young people. The Bristol based charity will use the cash to expand it’s range of free clubs supporting young people in developing their digital talents.

DigiLocal has been running since 2015 and is staffed by nearly 40 volunteers. It was founded by John Bradford after talking to the Somali community about lack of provision in supporting their young people into the tech industry. Since then it has grown to 14 weekly clubs across the Bristol region.

Clubs provide safe, structured spaces for young people to develop their problem solving skills and build resilience. Each club is provided with access to laptops, project guides, admin support, and additional challenge opportunities. Volunteers are supported from local firms to mentor the young people and provide positive role models into tech careers.

For many years my daughter has used [DigiLocal] at her local youth centre and she enjoyed every moment of it. While other children opted for other activities she was more interested in coding. She is now set on being an architect when she’s older (she’s currently 9).

Mum, North Bristol

Charity CEO John Bradford commented “The COVID-19 pandemic forced all of our activities online. This funding allows us to expand our physical club provision. Our communities are key to giving more young people the opportunity to discover their digital talents and develop the problem solving skills that will be vital in their future career choices”

About Digilocal

DigiLocal® is an independent registered charity (Reg: 1185746) for the public benefit, to advance the education of young people in the UK from groups that are under-represented within the technology industry, in particular but not exclusively, by supporting free technology clubs. It supports communities to run free tech clubs for their young people. Its mission is to support a tech club for young people with every community in the UK that would like to provide one. The charity was founded in 2019, having previously operated as part of the High Tech Bristol and Bath CIC since 2015.

About The National Lottery Community Fund

We are the largest community funder in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. National Lottery players raise £30 million each week for good causes throughout the UK. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.  

We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.

DigiLocal @ the BAFTA’s

Saturday 7 July saw myself and Anish Raja (DigiLocal@Bradley Stoke) heading up to London for the prestigious BAFTA Young Games Designer awards 2018!

BAFTA don’t release how many young designers enter the competition, but it’s run nationally across the UK. I know at least half a dozen other young people from the West of England region entered so Anish did exceptionally well to be selected as a Finalist.

In total there were 40 games on display across four categories:

  • Game Concept (10-14yr)
  • Game Concept (15-18yrs)
  • Game Making (10-14yrs)
  • Game Making (15-18yrs)

Anish was in the Game Concept (10-14yrs) and up against some very stiff competition.

In the end, the award went to Dalvia & Tiya Dhillon with their game concept for addressing mental health issues: Trapped

The BAFTA YGD stage

I was there as a Nominated Mentor of the Year. An amazing and very unexpected nomination, especially as you aren’t told who’s nominated you until they play the supporting video clips from your nominators.

I was completely floored when Primrose & Alex from DigiLocal@Barton Hill came up on the big screen!

Ultimately the mentor award went to Adam Syrop for his work with youth offenders.

However, as my nomination was the only one that draw a collective ‘Aww’ from the audience over Primrose’s statement, I think I was the real winner!

All told a fantastic day out, and I’ll be encouraging all young people within the DigiLocal communities to enter their ideas next year. We’ve developed some additional materials to help structure ideas and present them to the BAFTA judges.

We’ve also got more challenging projects to help develop those critical story-telling, and software engineering skills for a great game production.

DigiLocal Spring Celebration – 2018

Demonstrating an original game idea in Scratch

The next generation(s) of high tech innovators came together on Saturday 10 March 2018 for a morning of sharing ideas, code, and enthusiasm for building cool stuff! We had representatives from Barton Hill, Bedminster, Bradley Stoke, Docklands, Malcolm X Community Centre, Redmaids, and Shirehampton clubs.

Our celebration events are an opportunity for young people from across our DigiLocal communities to gather and share their ideas and enthusiasm. Some have been working on projects guided by CodeClub materials, some have been working on their own side projects, and some on our larger Challenge project. All came on Saturday to showcase their work and learn from others.

In September 2017 we launched a major Challenge across all our DigiLocal clubs. The invitation has been for the young people to develop an idea for a business or environmental simulation / game, and to then build it in Scratch or Python. We’ve provided them with additional resources to help structure their development process. Many of the young people on Sat were exhibiting their projects and seeking testers for the next iteration.

One of the major announcements on Saturday was the launch of this year’s BAFTA Young Games Designer competition. Not by coincidence, the resources we’ve been using with our young people are from BAFTA. We expect these projects to be further enhanced over the next couple of months ready for the 25 April deadline for BAFTA. Volunteers have access to additional resources to help develop the applications and support our young people.

The second major announcement was the launch of our LINKS scheme for recognising the achievement of our young people. We want to encourage young people to 1) learn new things in their club activities; 2) put that learning into practice through our projects and challenges; and 3) to be rewarded for their achievements.

At each stage of LINKS, we review the projects our young people have undertaken, assess their commitment to their community club, and then reward them with a coloured USB wristband. As they undertake more complex projects, and become more involved through peer-mentoring, we reward them with different colours and higher capacity USB wristbands.

Dr John Bradford announcing the launch of our LINKS awards programme

Alongside the LINKS scheme we’re introducing new projects, such as our Mission Mars series and our ongoing series of Challenges to give young people even more opportunities to enjoy tech and practice what they have been learning.

This will provide us with a structured approach to maintaining engagement over the long term, whilst recognising the huge contribution our young people make to their communities.

Another really positive feedback from the day was the number of parents that asked to have access to their child’s saved work folder so they can continue working from home (where they have access to a home computer). We’ll be adding that parental access over the coming weeks to encourage more participation in high tech.

Redmaids’ Redland Hall

We were very grateful to Redmaids’ High School for the use of their fabulous Redland Hall for the day.

Redmaids has been an early supporter of DigiLocal and their club has produced a number of fantastic projects from the girls participating.