The next steps on the Bee Smart journey

Three young adults work together with notebooks and devices.

Over the past couple of months we have been busy developing Bee Smart, our pilot project in Greater Manchester.

Internet Matters’ Policy Manager, Ali Bissoondath explains what’s coming next.

What is the Bee Smart pilot project?

The core aim of this project is to enhance the digital literacy and online safety awareness of care leavers and the professionals who support them.

As set out in our previous blog, earlier this year we led focus groups to identify the topics that we would cover. We wanted these to be informed by care leavers’ own experiences online, and the concerns that they face.

In this blog post, we share the latest Bee Smart developments.

How we upskill through in-person training

Following the research phase, our content team crafted resources on each topic. Our guides and training plans will provide essential tools to aid our Digital Champions in delivering online safety sessions to their peers.

In April, we organised two in-person training sessions for our Digital Champions. Our cohort of Digital Champions – made up of care leavers, Personal Advisors, social workers and local graduates living and working in Greater Manchester – will take a leading role in delivering impactful online safety sessions in their home boroughs, tailored to the needs of local care leavers.

Drawing on insights garnered from our previous focus groups, we designed the training days to cover cyberbullying and hate speech, misinformation and disinformation and financial scams. As a result, conversations, debates and practical insights arose in conversations with our Digital Champions.

Exchanging insights and best practice

Our approach to these training sessions emphasised interactivity.

We explored the meaning of terms such as cyberbullying and trolling, and engaged in hands-on activities designed to promote critical thinking. By using realistic scenarios – spanning from mitigating instances of online bullying to discerning credible information – our Digital Champions participated in discussions and learned from each other about how to be more vigilant online.

We were particularly impressed by how aware our Digital Champions were of online harms such as disinformation and scams. They shared their knowledge amongst themselves and with us, resulting in an exchange of insights and learning.

Collaboration with the local community in Greater Manchester has been a central element throughout the project. Our partner, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), continues to play a crucial role in facilitating these connections. Our GMCA colleagues have connected us with local authorities and have been instrumental in recruiting our Digital Champions.

Creating opportunities in online training

We were delighted to welcome representatives from three organisations in Greater Manchester to our online training session: Reform Radio, Greater Manchester Youth Network and The Prince’s Trust. We are actively collaborating with all three organisations to create opportunities for our Digital Champions to deliver online safety training sessions for specific groups of young people.

During our online training session, we were excited to share a suite of dedicated resources that our content team created for Digital Champions. We reviewed the resources and how to use them, while also giving them tips on how to prepare a session and how to present confidently.

We also discussed the four dynamic 60-second videos filled with top tips and insights on online safety that we will be co-producing with care leaver Digital Champions. These concise and impactful videos will be integrated into care leaver channels across Greater Manchester, and will be translated into various languages, broadening their reach and impact.

It was wonderful to see how engaged everyone was in the training session, and we’re looking forward to being right there alongside them as we head into the next phase of the project!

What’s next for the Bee Smart project?

With content in hand, our Digital Champions are now prepared to go out and deliver their own online safety sessions across Greater Manchester. Over the next few months, Digital Champions will be delivering these sessions to groups of care leavers and professionals working with care leavers. We’re eager to hear all about how these sessions go, as well as what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to delivering them.

While our Digital Champions step into their roles, we will be standing by to answer any questions that arise throughout the delivery phase, while also providing support and guidance along the way. In the coming months we will also organise a keep in touch session to check in with our Digital Champions and hear how their online safety sessions are going.

Finally, after receiving feedback on the format of the videos from our Digital Champions, our content team will compile and refine the video content, preparing them for dissemination.

We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who’s giving us their time to participate in Bee Smart, either in the role of a Digital Champion or a local supporter offering our Digital Champions space to present.

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

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