Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Online giant rewards 'imaginative' internet projects

In partnership with Citizens Online, AOL has awarded 30 grants of £2,000 to charity website initiatives, writes Anita Pati.

Jigsaw4u, a bereavement charity for children, is one of 30 small not-for-profit organisations to win £2,000 in this year's AOL Innovation in the Community Awards.

The charity intends to use the money to develop an audio feature on its website, allowing children to listen to other young people's experiences of bereavement. In its third year, the Innovation in the Community scheme is run in conjunction with Citizens Online, a charity that campaigns for universal digital access. It awards grants to UK community groups or charities that champion innovative or imaginative internet projects. Priority is given to young people, particularly those outside mainstream education, and people with disabilities.

John Fisher, chief executive of Citizens Online, said: "The level of innovation in the award applications never fails to amaze us. The internet is clearly very beneficial for charities and community groups, and this year's winners have realised its potential in some extremely creative ways.

"They have looked beyond the obvious to create valuable projects that have clear benefits for their communities, this year enhanced by the increased availability of broadband across the UK."

Jigsaw4u is not alone in its creative output. The North Wales Bird Trust in Llandudno will use its winnings to fund a webcam that will capture footage of the rare ashy-faced owl, which is found only in the Dominican Republic. The trust, which has two of the birds in its care, will encourage local Welsh schoolchildren to raise cash to buy computers for schools in the republic. The children will then stream the images across, linking both nations online.

Winners were selected by a panel of judges who considered, among other criteria, how feasible the project was and its likely benefit to the community.

This year's panel included representatives from AOL, Citizens Online and national disability charity John Grooms.

As well as the money, charities win a year's free AOL Broadband Gold subscription, which allows access to AOL's member services team.

anita.pati@haynet.com

COMMENT - SIMONE ENEFER-DOY, FUNDRAISING DIRECTOR, E-LEARNING FOUNDATION

By encouraging the creative use of ICT and the internet, these awards are an ideal illustration of the way the power of this new medium can be harnessed as an inclusive tool for communications, learning and sharing knowledge.

This year's award winners link in perfectly with the e-Learning Foundation's belief that knowing how to use and having access to a computer are both vital to all children in this digital age of ours.

We know from our own projects that children's learning is turned on like never before by ICT, and that many disaffected young people have re-engaged with learning and their communities through the magic of computers. That is why we - in conjunction with schools, parents and companies such as AOL - are seeking to address the 'digital divide' by ensuring that the most disadvantaged children in our country have access to learning with ICT when and where they want.

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