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Looking back on 2022

The digital world: a highway for some, a hopscotch for others.
Digital inclusion is in. Many politicians are convinced that something needs to be done. In press reports, Minister Michel speaks of the Belgian Wallet, a digital wallet for every resident of Belgium. In this Belgian digital wallet, you will find the documents you need as a citizen.

This is a huge saving for the government. But when you know that 46% of Belgians are not digitally literate, that’s disappointing. 70% of the underprivileged population will not be able to use this portfolio due to lack of digital skills. Brussels minister Clerfayt calls for the abolition of personal counters in the Brussels administration. Maks vzw works together with civil society to keep at least one counter open.

For 1 year, Actiris has been assessing the digital skills of Brussels jobseekers. Conclusion: it is disastrous. Thanks to Digibanks, a project of Flanders, the FCC and Flanders are investing in developing the digital skills of Brussels residents. This will help 1,750 Brussels residents over the next two years. But the systemic approval of 28 public computer labs is stalled.

Three years ago we received two licences, one for our computer room in Molenbeek and one for our computer room in Cureghem. Structural recognition allows us to make a professional and systematic long-term commitment to digital skills of the most vulnerable Brussels residents. In 1999, Maks vzw started one of the first Belgian public computer rooms. Various projects such as Digidak, Link in de Kabel, District 09 in Ghent, Digipolis Antwerp came to see how things were going. Structured networks of public computer rooms exist in Flanders and Wallonia. When will they arrive in Brussels?

Away from bars: a new story ?

In April 2022, we started an operation aimed at (former) prisoners. This target group has a strong presence in Cureghem and Molenbeek. Poverty and crime apparently go hand in hand.
Investing in (digital) education, soft skills and guidance into employment are essential to counter relapses. In 2022, we counselled 53 (former) prisoners. It is brutal to see the medical consequences of detention: damage to the eyes, stress and anxiety when in a group, drug and medication use. Justice assistants want them to work on soft skills, but they hate soft skills and want to develop technical skills. There is no housing, they have sky-high debts, no network and some big drug dealers are doing everything to get them back on the circuit. Intensive individual counselling is needed. But developing didactic creative methods for learning soft skills and developing self-reflection is also a must. Our trainers will have to be creative.

Screen Or Shout: SOS ?

Digital wellness is a hot topic. Teachers face cyberbullying, sexting, overuse of digital resources, lack of sleep, little focus on learning.

23% of young people have a problematic relationship with the smartphone. Thanks to funding from the Brussels Capital Region-Perspectives and the UCB Foundation, we developed a first test module on cyberbullying and digital well-being.

There is an obvious need. Demand from teachers and parents is high. Maks vzw is doing groundbreaking work here. But at any SOS, you should arrive with the appropriate tools. One in five young people cry out for help. Parents recognise the problem but are themselves in many cases unable to be role models. Which government pushes the alarm button?
Welfare and education will have to work together to provide long-term resources.

Digital design for change

What do you want to change in your world?
Resilience and empowerment are keywords of this method. You go looking for a social problem. You analyse the problem and create empathy for it. You find a solution, test this solution and digitally share a story with a call to action for your target audience. Young people are good social media users, but have few digital skills that are useful in day-to-day life. Digital design for change teaches you the basic skills of digital competences. It involves digital problem-solving, digital production and collaboration, data processing and security.

In Belgrade, Maks vzw, together with Vega Youth Center, trained 30 Belgian and Serbian teachers and youth workers. Clearly, this method is going to be in our portfolio.
To be continued.

Challenges for 2023

The financial fragility of Maks vzw certainly remains a focus. We are trying to make up for the loss of 2022 in 2023 partly through restructuring and partly by seeking other resources and recognition.

In 2022, we worked a lot on results-based working. We will continue this and aim to digitally map our impact by 2023. We have done some preparation for this now but it will certainly be a challenge to train all staff in that direction. Thanks to the Impact Together fund, we can call on resources to make this happen.

I hope we have been able to bring you as readers and stakeholders some interesting moments in the wonderful world of Maks asbl.
See you soon for some partnership or collaboration.

Make agreements together and take decisions together. Think about screen time.
VERONIQUE DE LEENER, DIRECTEUR