Bee Smart: How care leavers in Manchester are sharing online safety with others

A group of young adults or older teens sit with their devices in a semi-circle.

We’re thrilled to share the strides we’ve made since our last update on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) pilot project.

Over the past 3 months, the project has achieved significant milestones that underscore its impact and resonance within the care leaver community.

Earlier this year, Internet Matters and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) came together to launch Bee Smart, an innovative pilot project funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).

The primary objective of Bee Smart is to train care leavers and Personal Advisors empowering them to conduct online safety sessions tailored specifically for care leavers in Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs. These sessions delve into key online safety topics including mis/disinformation, hate speech and online fraud.

How care leavers deliver online safety sessions

Over the past few months, our Digital Champions, comprised of dedicated Personal Advisors, care leavers and local graduates, have been going out and delivering online safety sessions in their home boroughs using the online content created by our team at Internet Matters.

Bee Smart’s innovative peer-to-peer delivery model allowed our Digital Champions to effectively communicate key online safety topics in a relatable manner. The approach recognises that not all care leavers are receptive to advice from professionals. Therefore, enlisting fellow care leavers to lead the sessions alongside Personal Advisors provides a more engaging and relatable experience. As one care leaver aptly put it, “Not all care leavers want to listen to professionals, whereas they’d listen to me.”

Online safety videos for care leavers

In an age dominated by short-form content, we created four dynamic 60-second videos, co-narrated with one of our care leaver Digital Champions. These videos address key online safety tips and insights.

These videos are now available on Bee Connected, the app designed specifically for care leavers in Greater Manchester, as well as on the Internet Matters’ YouTube channel. They are easily accessible and cater to the diverse needs of the care leaver community. They serve as a quick and engaging resource, reinforcing the importance of online safety in a format that resonates with the audience. We have also released versions of these videos with Arabic, Pashto and Farsi subtitles, ensuring accessibility for a broader audience.

How we're assessing effectiveness

In September 2023, we organised and held a Bee Smart Keep in Touch session with our Digital Champions. This session was a valuable opportunity for us to learn more about what’s working well in the online safety sessions and identify areas for improvement.

The Keep in Touch session demonstrates our commitment to staying attuned to the evolving needs and challenges faced by care leavers online. By actively seeking input from our Digital Champions, we’ve tried to ensure that Bee Smart remains a relevant, responsive and effective initiative to deliver online safety education.

The Bee Smart final evaluation report

Looking ahead, our journey culminates in the publication of the final evaluation report by our independent evaluator. This report will serve as a testament to the efforts of our Digital Champions, while also highlighting data from an evaluation survey completed by our Digital Champions and beneficiaries, offering a quantitative perspective on the project’s impact.

In addition to survey data, the report will integrate qualitative insights gathered from ongoing focus groups. These insights, coupled with the findings from the Keep in Touch session, will provide a holistic view of Bee Smart’s effectiveness in enhancing online safety awareness and digital literacy among care leavers.

If you would like to learn more about this project, please feel free to contact the author at [email protected].

More to explore

Explore more of the Bee Smart project from Internet Matters and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

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