Finalist category: Community Impact Award
Community Impact Award, Finalist, 2018
DigitalMe – Creative expression for vulnerable groups.
Over the past 10 years, social enterprise Digital Voice for Communities has designed and delivered a wide range of media projects to support marginalised individuals and groups – helping them to find and express their own unique ‘digital voice’.
Their new service – DigitalMe – uses technology to enable a new, unique way of creative expression for vulnerable groups who need to keep their identity private. It is the culmination of years of learning, research and development, drawing on the collective experience of a team of highly trained professional artists and consultation experts.
Gateshead Council wanted to give Looked After Children a voice to influence policy and professionals. To do this, Digital Voice developed a process that would allow them to give opinions but also explore and express their personalities, showing the viewers that they are real people, not just a statistic or some kind of ‘special case’. The process began with the young people drawing their own face on paper – which would later become their digital avatar. They used 16 apps and recording equipment to help the children explore and examine their lives to date; providing anonymity to the young person while still allowing them to represent themselves directly. Using a 3D Timeline app they mapped everything out on a timeline and added media or voice recordings to each entry.
Other workshops used photography collage, animation and music to promote a range of creative expression which would be used in the final DigitalMe presentations. These workshops produced striking imagery to form a back drop for their avatars to speak to. The finished pieces pull together the views, opinions and artwork of the group, and are a vibrant and visually strong expression of the children’s experiences. Audiences seeing the messages that the children express, were clearly moved. It helped council services to understand the views of children and better take them into account. At Gateshead Council, they have been inspired to make changes to how they work with young people – ordering a new Arts and Activities Sub Group of the Corporate Parenting Partnership to address the issues raised.
Digital Voice has been asked by several organisations, such as Rape Crisis, to work with them to give a voice to people who wish to do this anonymously. The organisation is currently working on a new innovation for DigitalMe, and applying for funds to roll the project out to others. This pilot was supported by the Ragdoll Foundation.