Champions Digifest

Community Champions 2024 – achievements, challenges and the year ahead.

This year at Digifest we introduced a new Community Hub area in the main hall. The space was a hive of activity hosting workshops and community meetups allowing attendees to connect. Sessions from the Digital Storytelling Community, Learning Analytics Community and AI in FE Community, plus many more were involved. Links to the write-ups from a number of the meetups and workshops can be found at the end of this post.

Image of a workshop taking place on the Community Hub.

Jisc’s 2024 Community champions also joined, alongside previous alumni, to share their achievements. It was a perfect opportunity to get together, celebrate and learn about how the champions are supporting their peers and wider institutions across the sectors and what makes their communities so successful.

Community champions workshop

On the Wednesday morning, we hosted a workshop and asked the champions: what makes them proud and smile and what are the challenges they face.

In my new role as Community intelligence and impact lead within the Advice Team, I was very curious to see what themes would emerge to understand their motivations and how we might be able to support them.

Photo of the Community Champions workshop

People and connection

A standout theme was about the importance of people and connections to enable great community work to happen. Words like ‘friendly’, ‘open’ and ‘trust’ appeared multiple times. The importance of being open and vulnerable to create mutually supportive environments is essential to our champions. Similar themes also emerged from the session ran by our Digital Leadership and Culture team on the traits that digital leaders will need in five years’ time.

Even where challenges were mentioned, in terms of winning over ‘hearts and minds’, these were all focused on building connections with others in order to work collaboratively and find common ground to achieve shared goals.

Knowledge sharing and impact

Knowledge-sharing is a key factor in effective communities. Champions reflected on how much they benefit from being able to share their expertise and practice with others. Another benefit is that many communities they engage in include a variety of roles who can offer diverse perspectives.

There was an emphasis on the impact of a lot of our Champions’ work in the wider sector, such as the success of Phil Whitehead’s Teachblend YouTube channel, Puiyin Wong’s #TELresearchers and #HEresearchers podcast series, and work by Hannah Crago on The Essex Student Journal.

Resourcing challenges

It is not surprising that many of the shared challenges faced by our champions relate to resourcing, particularly around time management, staffing and disparities in tech availability and access, depending on the type of institution they work in. These challenges will no doubt persist beyond 2024, but what I admire most from our cohort of 2024 Champions is their personal and collective resilience to cope with the challenges they face, and their determination to see the bigger picture and provide the best possible learning experiences for their students and fellow colleagues. Their ability to innovate and experiment despite the challenges they are all facing is something to celebrate.

A call to action

In the last section of the workshop, we asked our champions about the opportunities they were looking for in 2024 and to reflect on what support they might need and who they could connect with. This helped them to reflect on how far they have come and focus on the future.

They talked about cross-pollination with other communities and institutions which is something we encourage. For anyone new to Jisc communities, check out the Get Involved page for details of current communities you can join. We encourage members to reach out to other community members to build connections and start conversations. Being brave, open, and vulnerable to take that first step. These communities are for all Jisc members to get involved with and can help give you the inspiration to get started with that idea or project you’ve been thinking of.

Links to blog posts and outputs from Community Hub sessions

Many of the teams who ran workshops or meetups at the Community Hub have blogged about their experiences. You can read them at the links below:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *