Improving online media literacy in local communities
Claire Levens, Ofcom’s Head of Media Literacy Policy, outlines why our research into the most effective ways of boosting media literacy in local communities is crucial.
Feeling confident and able to flourish online has never been more important. We believe it’s vital that people in the UK have the digital skills they need to live their lives – but right now media literacy skills are unevenly spread across the population.
That’s why we have plans in place to improve media literacy in local communities. Last year, we set out our aim to commission community-based initiatives to improve media literacy amongst underserved groups.
To understand what resources are needed to improve media literacy amongst those who need it most, we conducted research into UK community initiatives tackling a broad range of issues between January – March this year. We carried out interviews and focus groups with staff and service users of ten initiatives. The initiatives we selected help individuals such as older people, foodbank users, domestic violence victims and disabled people with things such as digital skills.
We discovered excellent work being carried out by these organisations. It’s essential that we understand what approaches are really helping people ahead of commissioning projects to improve media literacy ourselves. In our latest research document, we distill our learning into seven best practice principles and recommendations on how to deliver educational programmes at a local level.
The thread holding these principles together is flexibility. Our activities will be pilots, designed to explore what works and be honest about what doesn’t. Each project we commission will be evaluated and we will share our insights to build knowledge among the media literacy community.
We can only be effective at improving local media literacy projects by partnering with organisations trusted by the communities we seek to engage with. Our first job is to reach them and share our commissioning plans. We recognise they may not be regular followers of Ofcom’s social media channels or frequent visitors to our website. So we are delighted to be kicking off that work this week through a series of in person events in Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast.
Our research shows that communities, whether forged through location or shared experience, need resources that will actually help improve their lives. Therefore, local communities must be involved in teaching one another these skills. It’s crucial that the right conditions are in place for that to happen – which is where we come in as a commissioner. That’s our ambition and we look forward to working to deliver that goal.
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