How can inclusion succeed with the help of digital skills?

Social organisations are directly affected by the digital transformation .It is not only a question of whether today’s work components could be fully or partially automated or replaced by digital technologies. The business model of the social economy organisation itself is also being questioned. For example, whether work and service relationships can be accepted and perceived via open platforms in the future, or what consequences the increasing autonomy of people with disabilities through digital technologies will have for the business model. These challenges are being addressed by a joint project of the Brändi Foundation and the Bern University of Applied Sciences in the field of Humane Digital Transformation.

Figure 1: Young person in training at the Brändi Foundation. Source: Brändi Foundation

Digitalisation itself does not stop at the entrance doors of residential groups with people with impairments, nor at the production and training facilities. For people with impairments, the smartphone or tablet are already part of everyday life. This confrontation with the increasingly digitalised environment enables greater autonomy in everyday life and offers unimagined opportunities for inclusion.

Figure 2: Employees of the construction department. Source: Brändi Foundation

Digitalisation as part of the corporate strategy

In addition to its work with people with disabilities, the Brändi Foundation has also made an explicit commitment to the topic of digitalisation in its corporate strategy. The Brändi Foundation is convinced that its successful existence as a social economy institution depends decisively on its ability to meaningfully integrate and use the means of digitalisation in its own value chains.

Figure 3: An employee in the carpentry workshop. Source: Brändi Foundation

Large parts of the 700 or so professionals at the Brändi Foundation who accompany people with disabilities have a background in social pedagogy and occupational pedagogy. In the future, they should not only systematically strengthen and develop their own digital skills, but also be able to successfully accompany the people with disabilities in their learning path of digital skills.

However, the starting position of the individual employees in their digital competences is heterogeneous and very different due to their job profiles.

Before tools, technologies, media, automated or digitalised processes can be introduced and projects for further digitalisation can be started, the central question for the Brändi Foundation is how the employees can be individually accompanied towards a homogenisation of the level as a starting point for further digitalisation.

Two fundamental questions need to be answered.

  • which digital competences are necessary or relevant in the environment of the Brändi Foundation?
  • where are the employees today in relation to these necessary and relevant digital competences?

In order to clarify these two questions and to be able to define individual training measures based on them, the Brändi Foundation has started the project “Digital Skills @ Brändi” together with the Bern University of Applied Sciences.

DigComp – access to digital skills and the project with the BFH

First of all, it is necessary to define what is meant by digital skills at the Brändi Foundation. The European Framework for Digital Competences “DigComp” represents a suitable framework for surveying, developing and improving people’s digital competences. Five fields of digital competences are defined within DigComp (see Figure 1)

Fig. 1: Five defined fields of digital competences in DigComp.

For these five fields, 21 individual competences are in turn defined (see figure 2)

Fig. 2: 21 competences, Source: Joint Research

1. Which individual competences are relevant?

However, a general training of all employees in all 21 individual competences is not meaningful or motivating and from an entrepreneurial point of view not feasible for the Brändi Foundation. In a first step, therefore, those competences are identified that are relevant and necessary.

2. Relevant digital competences for employees

Once these relevant competences have been selected, a survey of the existing skills and abilities based on them can be carried out. A digital self-assessment is created for this purpose. The challenge here is not only to describe the necessary digital competences in the planned self-assessment by means of a few questions, but also to precisely record the existing know-how.

3. Integrate assessment results into the training concept

From the answers in the self-assessment of the employees, cluster groups are formed which describe the existing skills and abilities. The extent to which these cluster groups are structured according to hierarchy, function or training is to be explored in this applied research project.

In a second step, it is planned to implement the self-assessment with people with disabilities in order to develop suitable measures for them on their learning path.

More about “Digital Skills @ Brändi” and the foundation

Researchers from the Institute of Digital Technology Management (IDTM) and the Departments of Social Work and Technology and Computer Science are involved in the implementation of the project.

Prof. Dr. Alexander Schmidt is responsible for the implementation of the project at the Bern University of Applied Sciences. In addition to his work at IDTM, Prof. Dr. Andreas Liedtke of the Department of W is also Head of Digitalisation and ICT at the Brändi Foundation.

The Brändi Foundation is a foundation under private law and a professional non-profit organisation based in the Canton of Lucerne. Since 1968, its work has focused on promoting the professional, social and cultural integration of people with predominantly mental or psychological impairments. To this end, the Brändi Foundation runs a total of 15 of its own companies, which are active in 14 sectors in the areas of production and services and work closely with industry, commerce and the Canton of Lucerne. With a total of over 2000 employees, it is one of the largest employers in Central Switzerland.

The services for people with disabilities at the Brändi Foundation include sheltered workplaces in production and services, its own vocational school with 240 places, and residential offers with a total of over 300 places.

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AUTHOR: Andreas Liedtke

Prof. Dr Andreas Liedtke is a lecturer at the Institute of Digital Technology Management at BFH Wirtschaft.

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