Maya discusses the recent evaluation of Cheshire East Council's SHIFT programme, where creative and digital activities were used to bring about inter-generational learning.

April 17, 2018
My son learnt about the art of coding to Micro:bit… I also learnt new things about LED art!

Parent at Micro:bit LED Art activity

What is SHIFT digital?

The Audience Agency recently evaluated Cheshire East Council’s ambitious SHIFT programme, a year-long agenda of creative digital activities across Cheshire East. SHIFT set out to involve and inspire communities in digital creative activity, as well as supporting the local creative and digital sectors. It was underpinned by a strong commitment to making participation in the digital world accessible for all through activities and events staged in surprising and unusual spaces across the region, including Crewe Station, intended to attract less traditionally engaged audiences.

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The programme featured a mix of public learning and engagement opportunities, talks and artistic installations and activities. Most events were aimed at engaging diverse audiences, though young people were specifically identified and prioritised. Our evaluation found the project to be very successful in realising its key outcomes, achieving high levels of community engagement and interest in the activities. The programme successfully highlighted and celebrated local achievement through activities such as the Town Talks, which showcased local digital talent. As a result, the programme helped bring about a more positive sense of place. A survey showed that a whopping 81% of respondents thought that SHIFT’s digital arts activities made the area a better place to live, study, and/or work.

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Intergenerational learning

Our evaluation found the project to be very successful in realising its key outcomes, achieving high levels of community engagement and interest in the activities, as well as celebrating local achievement and bringing about a more positive sense of place.

Equally pleasing, though, was a delightfully unexpected outcome: that the digital activities had brought about intergenerational connection and learning. We noticed how parents, grandparents and/or carers bringing young people to activities often participated themselves. This was sometimes prompted by a direct invitation or request for help from the young person, whilst in other cases it was the adult who initiated involvement. This collaborative and evidently enjoyable intergenerational connection surfaced at numerous events.

I took my grand-daughter… I enjoyed quietly drawing, which I love but don’t get the opportunity to do. I was pleased with the animation I made… It was lovely to sit quietly with her whilst we both made our animations…

Grandparent at Scanner, The Senses activity

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It is often assumed that digital activities work well with young people but alienate and intimidate most older folk. Whilst this can be the case, what SHIFT illustrated so clearly is that, if activities are designed and delivered well, creative digital work can actually connect generations and result in learning for all.

I surprised myself by enjoying coming up with the patterns to try and make a tune. The children really loved making the picture appear on the screen and hearing their idea.
Adult participant at PatternBeats activity

As a result, we would strongly encourage anyone designing creative activities aimed at adults and older people not to shy away from digital elements. As the SHIFT evaluation has so aptly highlighted – digital activities have immense potential to connect and inspire across generations and we’d like to see them used more regularly to advance those goals.

Written by Maya Sharma, Learning and Participation Consultant
Featured in April's edition of The Learning Diaries. To receive The Learning Diaries, visit the sign up page.

Photo Credits

Crewe photographic society