Partner profile: Burmantofts Senior Action and Accenture

Burmantofts Senior Action have formed a partnership with Accenture, who have been helping them with skills and capacity as part of their Corporate Social Volunteering scheme. The partnership was formed in June 2023, when 100% Digital Leeds, Leeds Community Foundation, Voluntary Action Leeds, and Leeds Digital Ball worked together to convene a roundtable discussion to explore how skills within the tech and digital sector could be passed into the community sector to help address the digital divide.

For the past three months a small team of volunteers from Accenture have supported Burmantofts Senior Action’s ‘Breakfast and Browsers’ digital skills sessions. The volunteers have provided more one-to-one support to learners along with faster, more effective guidance on technical troubleshooting. The volunteers have also helped Kelly, Burmantofts Senior Action’s Outreach and Digital Engagement Worker, to develop her digital skills and confidence so she is better equipped to support members. Accenture’s commitment to supporting Burmantofts Senior Action over a significant length of time, and providing the same volunteers week on week, has allowed the volunteers and members to form trusted relationships, making members feel comfortable asking for help without fear of judgement. This support with skills and capacity means Burmantofts Senior Action have been able to take a more creative approach to digital inclusion, designing and delivering projects that are meaningful and engaging for members who otherwise might be reluctant to try digital.

“I don’t know what I would have done without Accenture. The volunteers have been amazing.”

Kelly, Outreach and Digital Engagement Worker, Burmantofts Senior Action

Supporting digitally excluded people helps Accenture understand the barriers people face to using the digital systems they create, supporting them to design more accessible and inclusive digital tools and services.

“When you work in an IT company you can just be behind a desk all day and you might do important work, but you don’t get to meet people who use it and see the benefits of it.”

Tim, Full Stack Engineering Associate Manager, Accenture

The partnership

Burmantofts Senior Action is a charity supporting people aged over 60 in and around LS9, the neighbourhood with the lowest average household income in Leeds. They have an annual turnover of around £160,000, 5 paid members of staff, and support approximately 500 members. Burmantofts Senior Action has a focus on improving the quality of people’s lives by helping them to live independently in their own homes, reduce social isolation and loneliness, and assist with individual support such as benefits, housing, and health. Burmantofts Senior Action celebrate the individual, what they have achieved in life and what they still want to achieve now.

Accenture is a leading global professional services company that helps the world’s leading businesses, governments and other organisations build their digital core, optimise their operations, accelerate revenue growth and enhance citizen services. The company has 732,000 staff serving clients in more than 120 countries. Accenture offers a wide range of voluntary support, including pro bono consulting projects and volunteering. Last year their UK workforce provided 35,732 hours of pro bono consulting to charities and social enterprises. Accenture offer their staff three paid volunteering days per year and last year their volunteer programme, Time to Volunteer, saw more than 16% of their UK workforce provide 33,564 hours of support.

Breakfast and Browsers

Burmantofts Senior Action runs ‘Breakfast and Browsers’, a digital skills session with an average of 17 older people in attendance each week, all with very low digital skills and confidence. Many members cannot afford the cost of a device and connectivity, and have only recently started their online journey after being gifted a smartphone or tablet by Burmantofts Senior Action. Having lived a life without digital, many of Burmantofts Senior Action’s members struggle to understand the potential personal benefits of being online, meaning they lack the motivation to learn these new skills.

“I’ve worked on systems for the NHS or GP booking systems and they’re brilliant, but if you’ve had no training or practice and experience, you’re becoming increasingly excluded from that, and that’s horrible for people. They’re exactly the people who would get the most out of digital services, if they don’t have to walk to the post office or they don’t have to get a bus into town to go to the nearest bank. They’d get the most out of it but they’re the ones excluded.”

Tim, Full Stack Engineering Associate Manager, Accenture

Members often find using new digital tools stressful and need a lot of one-to-one support to progress in their digital journey. Breakfast and Browsers is run by Kelly, Burmantofts Senior Action’s Outreach Worker. Kelly has the skills and confidence to support members with the basics but describes herself as being “often only one step ahead” of the members.

Positive outcomes from Burmantofts Senior Action’s partnership with Accenture

The volunteers from Accenture have brought additional skills and capacity to Burmantofts Senior Action, meaning members are supported to develop their digital skills and confidence in the right way, and at the right pace, for them. Supporting digitally excluded people helps Accenture understand the barriers people face to using the digital systems they create, supporting them to design more accessible and inclusive digital tools and services.

Increased capacity for more one-to-one support for members

The additional capacity provided by Accenture volunteers has allowed members to receive more of the one-to-one help they often need to learn new digital skills without finding the experience confusing and frustrating. Although they are all absolute beginners, each of the members is at a different point in their learning journey and some have additional needs such as sensory impairments, memory issues, and language barriers. Being able to receive dedicated support at an individual level means members have a more positive experience, developing their digital confidence as well as skills.

“I wouldn’t be able to survive doing this type of digital work without the volunteers, because you need a lot of time for each individual person. Sometimes people find doing new things stressful and with the volunteers we have extra capacity that means we’re able to give people the support they need.”

Kelly, Outreach and Digital Engagement Worker, Burmantofts Senior Action

“Kelly does all the hard work. She organises and provides all the training material. We’re just there as an extra pair of hands. The members are all very independent, they’ve all got different questions and they all want to do different things, so we’re just extra ears really to listen and help out.”

Tim, Full Stack Engineering Associate Manager, Accenture

Forming trusted relationships between members and volunteers

Because members are low in digital confidence, they are often cautious of asking for support from people they don’t know, for fear of judgement or being made to feel stupid. Accenture have committed to consistently supporting Burmantofts Senior Action on a weekly basis with the same volunteers. This has meant the volunteers and members have been able to form trusted relationships over time, so members are more comfortable and confident to ask for the support they need.

“Our members have got to know these volunteers because they come every single week, so they’ve been able to build a relationship, which I think is really important. Our members feel like they can ask the volunteers for help because they’ve built a connection with them already. I think when you have different volunteers every week that it’s harder because members still ask me for help. At the beginning it would always be “Kelly, Kelly, Kelly” but now they’re getting used to the volunteers and will shout for them as well, so it is nice that the members are building relationships with other people.”

Kelly, Outreach and Digital Engagement Worker, Burmantofts Senior Action

“It’s a really nice way of doing something for local communities and I find it super rewarding. I just love going down there and meeting all the people. Kelly and Tom doing an absolutely fantastic job and the folk there are absolutely amazing. I find it uplifting to help the members. It’s just so nice to talk to them all, and we usually get an egg sandwich and a cup of tea thrown in.”

Tim, Full Stack Engineering Associate Manager, Accenture

Where there has been volunteer turnover, this has been effectively managed by existing volunteers introducing new volunteers to members. This approach has allowed a level of consistency to be maintained whilst existing volunteers drop out and new people come in.

“Tim’s been coming every week and he has been amazing. He’s so good and he’s so popular with people. He brings a team of three or four people with him to Breakfast and Browsers and some of them have been the same people every week, which I think has been helpful. When a new person has come as well, Tim and others have still been there so there are still familiar faces, and they can introduce the new volunteer to the members.”

Kelly, Outreach and Digital Engagement Worker, Burmantofts Senior Action

“I’ve got family in that same bracket of not having digital skills. They didn’t grow up with it, and they miss out on so much, so I’ve got a personal investment.”

Tim, Full Stack Engineering Associate Manager, Accenture

Developing the skills of the organisations

Burmantofts Senior Action’s staff are not digital experts. They often have the skills and confidence to support members with the basics such as internet searching, form filling, and using email, but find it difficult to support more technical queries. Whilst staff at Burmantofts Senior Action are able to find solutions to problems, doing so often takes time and can be frustrating for everyone involved. Issues with devices usually come up at an individual level so are difficult for one member of staff to solve whilst running a group session. Common issues the volunteers have been able to help with include device optimisation, freeing up storage, managing data access, and connecting to wifi.

“I’m always learning. I know the basic skills to help get people online, but I don’t have much technical digital knowledge. The volunteers are quite tech savvy and having them there to support me helps me to support my members.”

Kelly, Outreach and Digital Engagement Worker, Burmantofts Senior Action

The volunteers have also been able to use their expertise to quickly and efficiently find solutions to more complex problems that may prevent individual members being able to make best use of their device, such as downloading translation software for a member with low English language skills.  

“I have a member who has a language barrier and asked me to put something on to the tablet so that it would translate everything into her language. I was trying for ages to work it out and couldn’t, but one of the volunteers knew how to do it straight away and they were able to put it all on for her. Now she can understand everything more easily which has made such a big difference to her, and I learned how to do it which has helped me to be able to help her in the future.”

Kelly, Outreach and Digital Engagement Worker, Burmantofts Senior Action

For Accenture, experience of supporting digitally excluded people helps their staff understand the barriers people face using the digital systems they create. They can use this insight to design more accessible and inclusive digital tools and services.

“I try and get our younger engineers to come along from Accenture because if you’re in your 20s, you’ve often grown up with screens, computers, touch pads, and it’s like second nature to them. Volunteering gives our engineers insight into the things they need to think about when designing systems. Part of our audience have got absolutely no experience of using digital and we need to be mindful of that, otherwise we’re potentially losing a whole lot of users. So it’s really important for us, as well.”

Tim, Full Stack Engineering Associate Manager, Accenture

Support from Accenture has allowed Burmantofts Senior Action to take a more creative and engaging approach to digital inclusion

Having the support of trusted volunteers bringing additional skills and capacity has allowed Burmantofts Senior Action to support the group to develop basic and transferrable digital skills and in creative ways that members find engaging and relevant. This included a trip to Wetherspoons for breakfast where members used the QR code to download the app and order their meal.

The group’s current project, ‘Browse Down Memory Lane’, sees members documenting their lives in Burmantofts. Members bring in personal family photographs and use their device to scan and save them, and search online for archive images such as the school they attended or street they grew up on. They’re using the content to create annotated slide shows that will be shown in a group screening. The project supports members to develop transferrable skills like internet searching, downloading and saving, screenshotting and cropping, and locating and uploading saved files.

“I think people enjoy it because they’re talking about the stories and then showing you the pictures and seeing their presentations come together. It’ll mean a lot to people to see what they’ve actually created, up on the big screen”.

Kelly, Outreach and Digital Engagement Worker, Burmantofts Senior Action