How the Craig Macdonald Memorial Prize is helping to bridge the digital divide in Doncaster
The year 2021 was a very challenging one for Knowledge Pool . We battled the Covid 19 pandemic, with the issues that came along with it. We received unprecedented referrals from the organisations to support the community, and the digital divide in our community had never been so obvious. We worked extremely hard, and approached grant providers for help, so we could continue to support the vulnerable among us; the elderly on the mandatory shielding, the parents home-schooling without the digital knowledge and devices, and the furloughed.
Then, the Digital Leaders announced the launch of the Craig Macdonald Memorial Prize on the 6th of July 2021. This award was to recognise the best grassroots organisation working in their local community to help close the digital divide. To receive a nomination in this category was quite exciting, but it was also intimidating, as we are a very small organisation that grew organically. Knowledge Pool was created to just help friends and family solve problems using Microsoft Office 365, and was meant to be a one-off training session for about twenty people. To be in the same category with well-established organisations who have made a huge impact was both thrilling and intimidating.
The award saw over 700 nominations nationwide, with over 20,000 votes. I was amazed to receive an email, notifying me that we had made the top 3. The implication of this was that we were closer to clinching the prize, but that we also had to face the task of an interview to justify why we should win. This interview was my first encounter with Rob Wilmot, who I later discovered is an innovator with a great passion for bridging the digital divide in communities.
On the night of the awards, I was excited just to attend the prestigious event. Although I thought it would be great to win, I didn’t think we had a chance. However, by some miracle, we were awarded the prize on the night. The award came with a prize of £5000.
What did this mean for us?
The award gave us validation of the good works had been doing, as well as valuable publicity, as the news was shared nationwide.
We’ve recruited 6 professional volunteers since winning, as people are more interested in collaborating with us. We also had the opportunity to recruit a part-timer to manage our volunteering process.
Most of the grants we receive are usually tied to delivering training or purchasing equipment, however the award from the Craig Macdonald Memorial Prize had no restrictions.
We increased our reach very quickly with the grant we received, and we were able to support a lot of people that we weren’t able to help in the past. We have provided more digital devices like tablets, mobile phones and internet access. We have enhanced the performance of our organisation, for example through our website, learners management system, and volunteer recruitments. We also created a new guidebook to support learners.
We launched our new digital capability project ‘’Smart Buddies’’; delivered 12 weeks of training to the Afghan community in Doncaster; and ran weekly drop-in digital training sessions at the Sprotbrough library for elderly people struggling with the use of digital devices.
“Smart Buddies” is a digital capability project introduced by Knowledge Pool to meet the needs of the community. Locally, digital exclusion is a very big issue, especially among the difficult to reach people in the community.
The Craig Macdonald Memorial Prize is an award that has continued to benefit us as time goes on. The support we have received from Rob Wilmot (a patriotic citizen of Doncaster) is invaluable, and goes beyond the evening of the award and subsequent grant. His experience in the digital world and sphere of influence has greatly boosted our efforts and profile.
Rob wanted to give the award to a worthy winner, and we happened to be one. The cherry on the cake is that we are also Donny citizens, and proud to put our community on the map for the great things that are going on here.
I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and wish all the applicants for this year’s Craig Macdonald Memorial Prize the very best of luck. I strongly recommend that any grassroots organisations working in their local community to help close the digital divide should apply.
Craig Macdonald Memorial Prize, Open to grassroots organisations working in their local communities to help close the digital divide. You can enter or nominate here.