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Digital Culture Award Winner Case Study: Julie Nicholson

It's a sunny day and two women are in a large lawned area. One has grey hair and glasses, and the other brown hair wearing a blue t-shirt. Both are interacting with a digital tablet.
Image Credit: Julie Nicholson

Julie Nicholson founded Digital Voice – a non-profit social enterprise that works with those typically excluded from digital media – because she is passionate about using the power of creative digital media to amplify the voices of marginalised people. With a focus on creating digital inclusion projects, her work aims to harness the power of digital technology to build the digital skills, self-esteem, and confidence of vulnerable or typically marginalised individuals and communities.

Julie won the Digital Ambassador category in the 2023 Digital Culture Awards, for her work at Digital Voice and on the DigitalMe project.

The winning project

The DigitalMe project was developed to give a voice to vulnerable individuals, whilst maintaining anonymity. Participants are invited to design their avatars, and write and record their stories, all to produce powerful digital artworks which describe their experience of difficult subjects such as being in care, hate crimes, domestic abuse, and mental health. The works are then used as learning resources or campaigning tools to enact real change and help others who find themselves in similar situations.

Julie is dedicated to staying up to date with the latest advances in digital technology to enhance the impact of the Digital Voice programmes. Under her leadership, the DigitalMe artworks have evolved from stop motion animation to digital animation and AI, and many of the other Digital Voice programmes focus on building confidence in digital skills, both creative and every day.

Innovative, and powerful use of technology to give people affected by hate crime a voice, allowing them to own their stories.

Zoe Amar, Digital Ambassador Judge

A truly forward-thinking digital ambassador, Julie is deeply committed to using the power of digital technology to uplift and amplify the voices of underrepresented and marginalised individuals.

Julie, a woman with short dark hair wearing a dark floral dress, is accepting her award on stage. She smiles as she speaks into lectern microphones. Beyond Julie is Emma-Louise, the host, who is wearing a bright yellow jumpsuit, Beyond Emma-Louise is the BSL interpreter, who is signing for the audience.
Image credit: K Lam-Clark (Mediorite)

Lets hear from Julie to learn more about the long-term impact of the DigitalMe programme.

What did you learn?

DigitalMe is about telling your story to change the world. I’ve realised that so many people who take part have something in common- childhood trauma and how much that impacts on people throughout their lives. If this was addressed at an early age, then many problems people face as adults – such as addiction, homelessness, and severe mental illness – may not have such an impact on the lives of so many people in our communities.

It’s really important to gain people’s trust and make the sessions engaging; to think of ways to ensure that participants are co-producing and in control. The most common feedback we get is that, while they have been talking about difficult experiences, they have had fun and feel pleased with the digital work thy have created. We are always across new aspects of digital media too and adding in new elements such as using AI image generation.

Digital Voice specialise in empowering people to harness the power of creative digital media to have their say about important issues. What I’ve learned from my team is how to develop ways of giving people who need to stay anonymous a voice in a safe, but very powerful, impactful way.
DigitalMe: Messages That Need to be Heard – a YouTube playlist

Has the project impacted your strategy or ambitions?

I’m so happy to win in this award for our DigitalMe programme; awards are a big deal for small organisations like mine. The power of our DigitalMe programme is how we share and disseminate these impactful messages and use them as a catalyst for change. Being nominated for awards enables us to reignite the discussion with a wider audience and can mean that we’ll be able to continue to work with our partners to deliver the promised changes.

I’m proud that DigitalMe works but I’m not finished yet. People are supported to give their views which is a very valuable process in itself, but if the ‘right’ people – i.e. policy and decision makers – do not hear them, then the messages are soon forgotten. My team and I will continue to work to make sure those messages are remembered by the people in society who have the power to make positive change.

DigitalMe gives a voice to those often ignored when social services are delivered, and by winning this award, my hope is that decision-makers will place greater importance on the power of these voices when it comes to designing and delivering services. More needs to be done to address important issues raised by ordinary people and this award is a step forward in creating awareness and making positive changes in society.

What’s next on your digital journey?

We are currently applying for funding to work with care-experienced young people who have experienced childhood trauma; they want our help to co-produce DigitalMe content for trauma-informed training they will deliver to school, to help schools understand the impact of trauma on their lives and how that affects their behaviour in school. Our hope is to improve the way teachers understand – and therefore treat – care-experienced children. This would have a huge impact on the lives of many people across the country.

We are also working with a range of partners on new DigitalMe animations, including Barnardo’s, Rape Crisis, nepacs, the NHS and local authorities, working to amplify the voices of people with lived experience of a range of issues that need to be addressed.


About the Digital Ambassador category

Digital Ambassador celebrates an individual who is using digital technology or tools to drive meaningful and long-term change, either on their own projects or within an organisation. Julie Nicholson won the category in the 2023 Digital Culture Awards with her entry DigitalMe: Tell your story. Change the World.


2023 Digital Culture Award Winners

Meet and be inspired by more of the brilliant Winners in the 2023 Digital Culture Awards. The nine categories celebrate innovation in areas including digital content creation and distribution, online audience engagement, digital income development strategies, data-led decision-making and overall commitment to digital skills development and capacity building.


Are you an aspiring digital ambassador?

Maybe the Digital Culture Network can help! Our digital experts can provide free 1-2-1 support to all creative and cultural individuals and organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help with a specific issue or would just like to chat about your digital ambitions, please get in touch.

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