Digital Services at HEIs to Support Digital Action for Social Change – A HEIDI short film

By Hannah Gibbs.

As the HEIDI project comes to an end, we at UCL and our partners Citizens in Power in Cyprus, Université Paris Cité in France, Web2Learn in Greece and L-Università ta’Malta in Malta, have enjoyed looking back over what we have learned and the various communities, people, and organisations we have worked with in the last 2 years. At UCL one of the ways we have done this is to produce a short film which showcases how UCL has and can support external groups to engage with digital skills and services to address issues important to local communities. We use the definition of digital skills provided by the European Digital Competence Framework for citizens, where “digital skills include the ability to use knowledge and know-how to carry out tasks and solve problems” (DigComp 2.0, 2016) (you can read this here).

Our HEIDI short film, which you can watch separately on YouTube here. Find the HEIDI playlist here and the HEIDI Citizen Science For All Talks playlist here!

The film is exploring digital skills in the context of changemaking. We define that changemaking is organisational or societal change that happens over time, transforms cultural and social institutions, makes a positive difference, and has profound and long-term consequences. In the context of higher education, it includes the following: social entrepreneurship; social innovation; civic engagement; and social justice. In HEIDI we are interested in any form and process of social change that may happen from bottom-up, inclusive participatory processes to address social issues. We specifically highlighted the opportunities UCL provides as UCL has a long-standing commitment to, and tradition of, engaging in bottom-up public engagement approaches to science and across faculties, which demonstrates a commitment to Digital Action.

At HEIDI we describe that Digital Action is a practice which integrates a wide variety of digital platforms and skills to support individuals and groups to come together and address issues which matter to them. Sometimes this is also described as digitally social action. Across the project we have described three forms of digital action: citizen science, where accredited and non-accredited researchers work together; hackathons; and makeathons. All these forms of Digital Action encompass public participation in activities that may be run in collaboration with universities or Higher Education Institutions. Many departments and groups at UCL have worked in HEIDI, and the film captures what they contribute to Digital Action, how they support communities and external groups to participate in, develop and lead Digital Action Projects, and demonstrates how Higher Education Institutions can work profitably with citizens to shape better societies.

The film is available online through existing HEIDI dissemination channels, Citizen and Open Science networks and on various UCL department pages. Along with describing how UCL broadly supports voluntary sector organisations, local community groups and individuals, it also offers different groups at UCL the ability to highlight the support and resources they can offer, or specific areas they work in. For example: evaluation tools provided by the The Evaluation Exchange; social hackathons with the Volunteering Service in the Students’ Union UCL; collaboration with the local voluntary and community sector at the Community Research Initiative; and citizen science training and open science and library resources with UCL Library, Culture, Collections and Open Science. The film uses a mixture of audio, video, images, diagrams and text, and includes footage from events held, and details of some of the resources and expertise community groups, voluntary organisations, or individuals can find at UCL.

It was great to have such a variety of public facing work at UCL in the film, particularly how digital skills provide opportunities to enhance community-led social change. We thank all those who contributed to these events and collaborated with us in the production of the film, and hope you enjoy watching it!

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