On the 6th December we were invited to take part in the annual Prince’s Countryside Fund’s conference in London. Cosmic is now into its second delivery of projects benefiting from the Prince’s Countryside Fund grants and so we were asked to run a workshop sharing the success of these projects. Our Operations Manager Vicky attended the event and was able to share our experiences, the things we have learnt and the successful stories of farmers and farming businesses we have worked with.
Passionate about the countryside, The Prince’s Countryside Fund works towards a confident, robust and sustainable agricultural and rural community. Established by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2010, the Prince’s Countryside Fund exists to improve the prospects of family farm businesses and the quality of rural life.
Our first project began in February 2015; we ran 20 digital workshops and offered farmers and rural businesses 40 one-to-one sessions. Initially our objective was to provide support for farmers with the new online payments schemes, but very soon we realised that their needs were greater than this specific issue and so we were able to adapt the project. This resulted in us providing a range of support; from creating Excel spreadsheets, to digital systems which were tracking egg orders, to engaging a team to fully understand and use social media to increase awareness.
This first project ended in March 2016, but it was clear that there was still a high level of demand for the support we were offering. On this evidence we applied for another grant, developing and enhancing the approach used so successfully in the initial project. We changed the format of the project and instead of offering workshops, we are offering support focussed on mentoring service, where individuals can access up to 4 hours, providing more intensive support.
We are currently working with a range of rural businesses, one being an independent fishery in Devon. This business has benefited from both projects we have run. In the first project we supported them with basic video skills, transferring videos to their computer from their camera, editing videos and uploading them to the internet.
When we were successful with securing the second fund, the fishery contacted us again, this time asking if we could build their video skills further and support them with their new Apple iPad. They have been so pleased with their mentoring that they wrote a message to say thank you:
A huge THANK YOU for letting me profit from another great computer session. Like last time it was absolutely brilliant how Jack managed to explain and demonstrate all kind of things in an easy understandable way.
People at the Princes Countryside Fund event in London were very complementary of the projects we run, even asking if we could provide this across the UK. One member of the audience also read out testimonials about our trainers, which was extremely humbling to hear. These projects have made a huge different to the lives of individuals that have taken part, not just building their digital skills, but building their general confidence and tackling social isolation.
The conference provided everyone with the chance to share good practice, to discuss challenges and hear about the great work organisations are doing for this sector. As well as this delegates were treated to a visit from HRH Prince Charles, founder of the charity. As a workshop speaker, our colleague Vicky had the honour of a meet and greet with HRH Prince Charles, as well as being able to discuss our projects and in particular rural broadband, which he stressed is a real issue for rural communities.
Our current project is running until July 2017, so if you know anyone who could benefit from some 1:1 digital support, please do get in touch with us by sending an e-mail to Alicia (firstname.lastname@example.org).
It is estimated that over 5.8 million people have never used the internet at all, so there is still a lot more work to do.