Understanding and mapping digital skills

The framings of digital activity, skills and maturity below are drawn from One by One, a multi-stakeholder, University of Leicester-led, international initiative working to build digital confidence in museums, of which Culture24 is a founding partner.

The framing breaks digital skills down into three distinct elements: 

  • competency
  • capability 
  • literacy 

A competency is action-oriented, the ability to use a tool or system. For example, being able to use a hammer and nails to fix two pieces of wood together.  

Being able to use the Twitter platform, simply knowing how to post a tweet, re-tweet, use hashtags and so on, is a digital competency.

A capability is more contextual and achievement-oriented, knowing how to successfully apply that ability to a task. For example, knowing how to use the hammer, nails and wood to make a chair. 

A digital capability would be understanding how to create successful marketing content on Twitter.

A literacy is more reflective, being able to evaluate the appropriateness of those competencies and capabilities, taking a holistic and strategic approach. For example, who is this chair for? Do we really need a chair? Would a bench or stool be better?

A digital literacy, staying with our Twitter example, would be to understand what success means and whether or not Twitter is the best platform to use to reach your target audiences and serve your organisational purpose.

Not all three of these digital skills are needed by all members of staff all the time. However, depending on the context and activity, you will need to have all three areas covered between you. People in leadership positions should usually be operating more within the literacy and competency areas (depending upon organisational capacity and scale), but they should feel confident that there are people within their organisation who have the necessary capabilities and competencies. 

Mapping activity

You can use the simple triangle ‘Digital Skills and Literacies’ framing for this mapping activity, draw it yourself on a piece of paper or in a Word Doc or copy and paste it from this document. If you would like to do the activity collaboratively with other members of your team, online, you could use tools like Padlet, Miro or Google Jamboard.

Having a conversation is a great way to begin the process, as a way for people to map and discuss the how and who of your digital activities. Start by discussing which digital competencies, capabilities and literacies different activities may need and to what extent the group feels confident, individually and collectively, that they have the relevant skills to do the work.

Through these conversations, for instance, you might discover that your volunteers have the competency to use Twitter – understanding how to send a tweet or how to re-tweet on the platform. You might find that they lack the capability to create impactful content on Twitter or the literacy to know why Twitter may or may not be the best platform to use to reach your target audiences. 

In another example of using this exercise, you could map the competencies, capabilities and literacies related to using Google Analytics on your website.

Competency: 

  • Using Google Analytics to collect data around the length of time people spend reading an article on your website
  • Using Google Analytics to track how many people have purchased a ticket for an event from your website
  • Capturing data on the number of users that visit your website each month

Capability:

  • Using that data to make informed decisions on the best length of the article
  • Creating a Google Ad to help promote the event and increase ticket purchases
  • Creating a dashboard to visualise the data you are collecting and report on t each month

Literacy:

  • Identifying the potential need to create all of your articles to a consistent length to keep audiences engaged
  • Understanding if Google Ads is the best way to drive ticket sales for your events 
  • Using the data collected to make wider decisions about your organisation’s approach to content creation and marketing activities. 

Conversations and processes of this kind work well across every level of organisation, from Board to brand new volunteers. It encourages a culture of openness around skills development, is an effective way of planning, strategically and practically, and often shines a light on previously hidden talents and interests amongst team members.