Partnerships are the key to providing all effective digital inclusion services, and the opportunities will vary according to the purpose of the housing association's digital inclusion strategy.
Effective digital inclusion partnership working requires common purpose, common values and clearly understood respective roles. It requires flexibility and time investment, and it will often be dependent on key individuals to ensure success. Community learning and development (which includes the 'wider role' played by housing organisations) always requires the development of trust relationships to support engagement, and the trust relationships which require to be developed are not just between partners and customers, but between partners.
Housing organisations provide a real opportunity for many other agencies who would otherwise regard some of their customers as 'difficult to reach'. One role of housing organisations is to promote digital opportunities which exist anyway with other organisations - for example, in their local library or learning centre. Another is in assisting the bringing together of venues and services regarded to benefit customers (for example, Thenue Housing Association has been instrumental in bringing Coder Dojo to centres in Castlemilk and Bridgeton, GHA has supported Glasgow Kelvin College's Wider Access programme to establish itself in some learning centres). Housing organisations are, obviously, specialists in housing services and some have developed specialist digital roles within their wider inclusion programmes, but even specialist digital inclusion officers are dependent on partners for delivery.
- Public Libraries and colleges all have connectivity and access which may be available to support groups and individuals to gain access and skills development opportunities.
- Many community centres support connectivity - in Glasgow all the Glasgow Life community centres have WiFi Internet access, as do the public libraries
- Many community centres include learning centres of some sort
- The local college is likely to provide some form of flexible learning access (for example, Glasgow Kelvin College provides tutor support for flexible learning programmes in its Springburn, East End and Easterhouse campuses 5 days per week);
- The public library is likely to provide some form of tutor service (e.g. Glasgow Life's Digital Learning Team) and library staff will support customers in overcoming problems to gain basic digital access
- The local college is likely to provide some form of IT tutor service on an outreach basis (for example, Glasgow Kelvin College's Wider Access programme)
- There is no need, almost ever, to create learning materials: partners specialising in learning will have their own learning materials, and If it can be done, there's probably a YouTube video showing how, and there are freely available web-based materials which support basic skills
- Housing organisations can reach their own customers;
- Youth work programmes specialise in engaging with young people, employment support agencies specialise in engaging with job seekers...
What Works Scotland has produced a useful 4 page evidence review on how to create successful partnerships in public services