Our Digital Volunteer Award highlights and celebrates those who volunteer their time and skills towards individuals and causes. As the Tech4Good awards open for nominations, we wanted to highlight some past winners of the award.
Our previous award winner is Chris Grant who is AbilityNet’s Area Coordinator in Scotland, or “King of Scotland” as he is affectionately known by the central team. Since starting in May 2018, he has completely transformed their free services in Scotland, generating huge growth in the number of volunteers and the hours of free tech support provided to older people and people with disabilities. He has recruited and now manages a team of 25 volunteers who provide telephone, remote and in-person IT support to older people and people with disabilities, with another 25 volunteers in the pipeline. The volunteers can fix IT problems, give impartial advice and adapt equipment to suit the clients’ individual needs. Alongside this, Chris motivates and supports his volunteer team offering regular meetups, training and one-to-one support & coaching. In Scotland, he is a networking champion, contacting like-minded organisations and charities to spread the word of their free services and increase their impact. All this is despite long term health issues that mean he is in constant pain and discomfort. As well as recruiting new volunteers and clients, he has also set up eight training sessions in Scotland, inviting experts from other organisations or running it himself, covering topics such as Facebook security, Dolphin, Apple software, etc. He instigated and organised their first ever Scottish volunteer event. Collaborating with RNIB, he set up the day, and organised for volunteers and local charities to attend and take part.
“In recent years, the Scottish volunteer community had become quite dormant, with very few calls coming through. Chris breathed new life into the area, putting an immense amount of energy into working with the existing volunteer group, finding new volunteers and looking at ways to publicise the service so that we find clients who need our services. He’s pretty much the non-stop human dynamo in this regard! He also carefully finds the right balance between providing a professional service to our clients on the one hand and awareness that the people providing the service are volunteers with many other demands on their time on the other. This is a real skill – to get the best response possible from a volunteer workforce, while keeping everyone feeling that they are making a valuable contribution.” Simon Flower, AbilityNet volunteer
Since volunteering at Ability Net, he has increased the volunteer team from 6 to 50, and just last year, the Scottish team have supported 137 disabled and older people with their IT, compared to a mere 22 for the same period the previous year. An increase of over 500%. Their customer satisfaction rating is impeccable at 100% – with all their clients rating the free service given as excellent or good.
Another previous winner of the award is Anna Holland Smith, Co-Founder of Manchester’s Codebar and CodeYour Future branch. Anna is committed to democratising coding education and promoting a more diverse, inclusive and equitable Tech workforce.
She volunteers for a number of organisations to further this aim, alongside her work as a software engineer. These include co-founding CodeYourFuture Manchester – a charity teaching refugees and asylum seekers how to code. As well as acting as a volunteer instructor for CodeFirst:Girls in Manchester – which seeks to redress the gender imbalance in Tech by providing free coding courses to young women from a non-computer science background. She also set up Codebar Manchester, a multi-city volunteer-led initiative providing coding workshops for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Through her volunteer work and more, Anna seeks to make coding (and tech careers) accessible to everyone, whilst challenging the tech industry to be more inclusive. For example, CodeYourFuture offers a free coding course for refugees and asylum seekers – looking to support them into tech jobs. The course provides laptops and internet connection as well as covering the cost of childcare and travel expenses incurred through attending classes. This empowers students with the possibility to pursue careers as software engineers whilst also addressing the need for more junior developers and greater diversity within the Tech industry.
The sheer number of initiatives Anna is involved in is impressive, but her commitment and determination to make a difference is not compromised by this. Anna’s willingness to go above and beyond the normal expectations of a volunteer is demonstrated through her work with CodeYourFuture. Anna is a visible role model to many who previously thought that they were unable to pursue a career in Tech. Having only started learning to code two years ago, Anna’s professional success (being listed in Manchester’s top 30 Women in Tech) alongside her commitment to volunteering is an inspiration to many.
To enter the award, please visit here. The Digital Volunteer Award is open to any individual who donates their time and skills to help individuals or organisations. The nomination can be made by the organisation/ charity/ community that the individual supports, or it is possible to nominate yourself.