COVID-19 is putting society is under pressure.
Social isolation, loneliness, health anxiety and consequences of an economic downturn are visible challenges that no one organisation can fix alone. And while the nation stays at home to keep people safe from the virus, some people are worried about a looming mental health crisis that is following close behind.
Many of the local authorities, health organisations and charities we work with are struggling to meet rising demand for public services at a time when their available resources are shrinking and traditional ways of working have become ‘unworkable’.
But the good news is that communities are showing great resilience. As lockdown starts to ease, and the country begins to adjust to a ‘new normal’, we wanted to share our own observations and reflections from working with communities in recent months. How are people responding to the challenges? How are organisations working together? How are our community platforms making a difference?
How are communities stepping up?
During the last 8 weeks since lockdown, communities across the UK have risen to many challenges. Citizens, businesses and public services are adapting to new ways of doing things - quickly adopting digital services and apps to help with their work, learning, health and wellbeing.
We are proud to be helping frontline service organisations support and mobilise their communities as a force for good – proving that a community led response is often the best response in a crisis.
Communities in Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Wales and as far away as Tasmania have been using our platform to coordinate volunteers, exchange offers of help and find the support they need.
Throughout the despair, it has been heart-warming to see to the overwhelming kindness from people in all the communities we support. Thousands of people have stepped up to help others through the crisis. From delivering essential groceries and collecting prescriptions for neighbours, to organising online fitness sessions and providing emotional support by phone.
How are our community platforms making a difference?
In Bristol, the City Council have recruited over 4,000 volunteers using their ‘Can Do Bristol' platform. They are mobilising volunteers and matching them with residents in need, whilst community groups are using platform features such as 'project teams' to organise local activities and 'challenges' to crowdsource ideas and support. Its been great to see how residents are getting involved with foodbank collections and other initiatives designed to boost peoples' wellbeing.
In Cornwall, Age UK Cornwall and the Inclusion Matters partnership are using their Cornwall Link platform to help communities find and access support and services supplied by community groups, businesses and individuals. In just a few weeks after they launched, the community directory had 200+ support listings added by local people.
And as the online community grows, we are beginning to see members make connections, share stories and access useful resources online.
In Monmouthshire, the County Council have re-launched 'Our Monmouthshire' to help communities stay connected, find information and exchange kind offers or requests of help. We have been encouraged to see local people coming forward to volunteer as 'Street coordinators' - acting as a trusted point of contact for people who are self isolating. The role of the street coordinator is to organise small groups of local timebankers who have volunteered to help with small things like delivering a food parcels or providing some IT support.
Working in partnership with the County Council, leading voluntary sector organisation such as GAVO are adding useful resources and providing additional resources to ensure that timebankers are supporting each other safely.
In Torbay the Imagine This... partnership are using their Torbay together platform to share educational resources for young people and support services available to families living in the area.
Imagine this… is a partnership involving 42 organisations working and supporting children, young people and families across Torbay. They deliver a wide range of community-based interventions and actively support the creation of new opportunities.
For more information and links to other community platforms please click here.
To get in touch if you would like some help building an online community click here