Digital media can lead to social inclusion in deprived neighbourhoods – this was the message from Robert Woolf of Penryn-based digital media consultancy SEA when presenting at the EU commission’s conference on ‘Social Fairness in Sustainable Development’ in Brussels last week.
One of only seven pioneering projects from across Europe to be selected as an exemplary initiative, and the only one from the UK, Woolf was representing Knowle West Media Centre in South Bristol where he has been an important part of the team delivering “Carbon Makeover” – a project tasked with reducing the Carbon Footprint of a South Bristol community which ranks in the worst 10% in the country for housing, health, educational attainment and employment; and where the carbon footprint of the neighbourhood was scored as one of the worst in the city.
Digital media has played an important role in developing the creative, educational and social potential of people within the locality and one of the things that Woolf and the Carbon Makeover team realised early on was to think less about a faceless issue like carbon reduction and more about responding to the real needs, values and motivations of the community (e.g. energy, health, nature, food, travel and waste). In this sense, what started as an environmental project has had wide-reaching social benefits too – initiating positive behavioural change alongside low carbon living.
Woolf believes that digital media has been key to unlocking people’ potential and he is keen to bring lessons he has learned from the project in Bristol to Cornwall.
“In the last year,” said Woolf, “what I’ve really enjoyed is working with the community to up skill them in digital media, gain their trust and help improve their social/economic situation. To see previously unengaged individuals become engaged, and stay consistently engaged, has been life-changing for me. I aspire to deliver the same results across similar projects in Cornwall.”
Woolf’s role in Carbon Makeover has been to help communities make sense of digital technologies available to them and develop individual projects. All of these projects were created by and for the South Bristol community providing them with media and social skills – removing physical boundaries, raising literacy, self-esteem and confidence and allowing previously excluded people to have a voice.