SeniorNet — SeniorHangouts and evaluation
Ciara Arnot Community Advisor •
SeniorNet is a community training network known around the country for helping seniors to use and enjoy technology in their daily lives. They have 56 physical Learning Centres and around 12,000 members. Their volunteers are the same age, able to lead Learning Centres and provide peer support.
The lockdowns of 2020 highlighted the importance of using technology to address issues of social isolation and to enable key functions such as contact tracing, banking, education and health management. It threw up some new challenges for SeniorNet as well. With funding support from Google, SeniorNet responded by starting SeniorHangouts — a Virtual Learning Centre pilot programme currently offered free of charge to all SeniorNet members.
Adapting to the needs of their members, these online sessions shifted away from a traditional and physical course model, to provide practical advice on specific technical issues facing people at the time. It gives seniors a way to connect with their peers, learn, bond, and share their own knowledge. This has been ideal for social distancing, as well as for anyone who could not access a physical Learning Centre.
The SeniorHangouts programme offers a less formal experience, open for discussion and real time problem solving with peers. Demand has only increased in the latest lockdown, with two sessions running everyday, and on average around 40-60 people taking part. They have also partnered with Shanti Niwas, to run sessions everyday in Hindi, expanding the pool of people who can benefit from the programme.
Heather Newell, Executive Officer said “This programme marks the beginning of how we will need to operate in future — more online, socially distanced and will address issues we have with our physical learning centres where people gather socially and educationally, — which may be at risk in the near future, especially under a Covid environment.”
With an eye to the future, SeniorNet took the opportunity to learn and develop evaluation capabilities with support from our recent grant funding. They benefited from mentoring and advice provided by evaluation consultants Standard of Proof, working to understand and plan how to measure the effectiveness of the SeniorHangouts pilot programme.
For example, SeniorNet has been working to shift their thinking from the internal focus of “did we teach this course well?” towards an external focus “what can you do now that you didn’t do before?”
Undertaking this sort of capability building effort takes a lot of time and energy, particularly with the huge network of volunteers involved in this work. But the potential is huge. Being able to demonstrate impact will help them to improve the programme and continue to attract support and funding. This evaluative thinking can be applied to the wider SeniorNet Learning Centres in the future.
We look forward to seeing the continued growth and development of these types of programmes.
Each year InternetNZ uses profits from the sale of .nz domain names to give out community funding. They provide funding for community-led initiatives that extend the availability, use, and benefit of the Internet in Aotearoa.
This initiative was the recipient of funding in 2020/21.