The Digital Commonwealth goes live
It’s been a few months in the making and involved a great deal of sweat (and tears) but I’m now in the position to talk about the Digital Commonwealth project that I’ve been successful in being funded by the Big Lottery Fund. It’s a big grant and that carries with it great responsibility to ensure that our University of the West of Scotland-led team deliver the project outcomes up to and beyond the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. I’m not going to go into too much detail in this post on the specifics of the grant as much of that is explained in the official Big Lottery Fund press release and my own institution’s follow up communication. I do, however want to set out the four main elements of the project so as to initiate discussion on how to ensure the project is a success and where collaborations outside those we have already established might become imagined. Building on the #citizenrelay project delivered in the summer of 2012 (see slideshare, below) I was keen to develop and secure funding for a project that would take the best of that initiative whilst ensuring that more people were supported to become active media makers within a wider range of community settings (especially in schools) using a more diverse range of participatory arts and media resources.
The Big Lottery Fund was our chosen funder because of its focus on those most in need, on the importance of initiating change and in its desire to enhance the capacity of individuals and groups to use freely available digital (and social) media tools and techniques to ensure their voice (s) is heard in a saturated (and often commercially) motivated media landscape. The context for this project is also important to consider. Scotland’s Digital Future strategy identifies a gap in the possession of digital media skills in community and school settings and gaps in capacity and networks to support a more widespread use of accessible digital tools, techniques and environments to tell stories. The Digital Commonwealth project focuses on lowering the threshold for involvement for individuals and groups from areas of socio-economic deprivation and those experiencing other forms of marginalisation, so that they can be empowered to exploit creative tools and technologies for their communities.
The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games provides a unique opportunity to enable (and support) individuals and communities to explore and articulate their own stories. The Games bring attention to issues of global citizenship and identity as a focal point at this important point in Scotland’s history and the project provides a space for a conversation to take place (and be recorded) that includes individuals and communities less well represented in mainstream media narratives. The project activities delivered will develop the foundational skills, capabilities and confidence in the ‘unvoiced’ to ensure they can make a digital media contribution in the lead up to, during, and after the Games. It will do so by:
- Creating four community media clusters in the North East, the East, the Central West and the South West delivering community media cafe sessions, digital media workshops (audio, video, blogs, social media) and facilitating community cluster meet-ups across Scotland.
- Creating a school reporting programme involving primary and secondary pupils from across Scotland’s 32 local authorities, delivering in-school workshops and leaving a legacy of equipment and digital media resource packs.
- Creating three creative intervention projects (documentary film, creative writing & community songwriting) involving participatory workshops and benefitting individuals in four areas where the landscape of identity has been shattered around University of the West of Scotland campuses (Dumfries, Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire). Focusing on giving a creative voice to older populations, migrant communities and excluded young people.
- Coordinating a community reporting initiative for the Queen’s Baton Relay, involving individual beneficiaries and project partners, showcasing the rich tapestry of Scotland’s response to the Commonwealth Games and hosted on a specially designed and archived website.
The Digital Commonwealth Project is ambitious and multilayered but at its core I want to ensure that participants are given the platform to generate a creative response to the largest multi-sport event that Scotland will ever host in a year when the nation will be asked to vote on an issue of fundamental importance for the future shape of individual and collective identities. School children, older adults, migrant communities and those living with a disability will have the opportunity to respond creatively as part of the Digital Commonwealth project. More updates to follow soon as the project progresses.