The world is changing. Working and collaborating remotely using digital tools is becoming much more commonplace. For many, this means developing new skills. However, working online doesn’t need to be difficult, and is a great way to bring people together when you can’t meet in person. In fact, it can make things easier and remove barriers to participation.
This interactive guide offers quick and easy steps you can take and tools you can use to get the most out of these online resources – all low-cost and high impact.
You just need to have a few things setup in advance to start using the tools outlined in the guide.
What you'll need
an email account in order to sign up for most of these tools. In some cases, you may be able to use your Facebook account if you have one.
access to the internet and an IT device, such as a computer, phone or tablet. Most platforms can be downloaded as an app (search your device’s app store) or accessed via your internet browser
Support from The Good Things Foundation
If you want to improve your confidence online, Good Things Foundation offers comprehensive and free online training and it’s likely you will have a local centre to guide you on your learning journey.
Working with people in different locations has become much more common, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still collaborate with colleagues and community members when you’re in different places.
These tools will help you keep track of your team’s tasks, work on documents together and keep in touch.
Tool: Google drive – documents, speadsheets, calendar, forms
About: Google Drive comprises a whole selection of useful tools, similar to Microsoft Office. You can use Google Drive to make word documents, spreadsheets, presentations and surveys and then easily share them with others so they can view or contribute.
To create an account head to https://drive.google.com/, enter your email and create a password. Google Docs is Google’s equivalent to Microsoft Word. It is free and very simple to use. It updates in real time so multiple people can edit a document at once. It’s easy to share with others and users can comment and ask questions about aspects of the text.
Google’s version of Microsoft Excel is called Google Sheets. It’s easy to create spreadsheets and budgets with simple calculations and formulas are available with a click.
Pros: Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) combines all of Google’s online productivity tools. It is reliable, incredibly easy to get started with and will allow you to start collaborating with others in your Big Local area.
Cons: You’ll need an internet connection to be able to work on the most recent version of a document or access a one that you haven’t already downloaded to your device.
About: WhatsApp is a widely used messaging tool, primarily for mobile devices, although it can also be accessed on your web browser via WhatsApp Web.
It’s an excellent and very reliable social tool for keeping in touch with others.
Pros: Easy to use. Likely that many people are already using it.
Cons: Can be hard to track back through discussions. Can also be intrusive; most people have their phones with them wherever they go, so using WhatsApp for work as well as personal messaging can make it harder to keep work and personal time separate.
About: A straightforward, easy-to-use scheduling tool that helps organise meeting times. Create a Doodle poll with suggested times, share with your colleagues and immediately find the best time for everyone to meet.
Pros: Very intuitive and easy to use. Online support is available if needed, and it can sync with Google Calendar.
Cons: Not as visually appealing as some other apps.
About: Trello is a project management tool that takes the form of a visual pin-board where you can add tasks on your to-do list. It’s useful for setting out projects and tasks and gives a great overview of everything you’re working on.
Trello is very collaborative and enables you to see what other people are working on, and assign or add certain people to specific tasks and lists.
Pros: It’s visually engaging and user-friendly. It also integrates easily with apps such as Google drive.
Cons: It doesn’t have a feature for seeing how your project maps out over time but it does have a content calendar function, so you can still plan ahead.
Cards and tasks are limited to only one board. For example, if something came under marketing and event boards you would either need to have them twice or limit them to one board.
Tutorials: Trello have their own YouTube videos to help you get started.
Cost: A basic account is free and allows you to assign a maximum of 1,000 tasks per team. A premium account is £9.49/month.
About: Asana is a project management tool. It’s useful for creating checklists for tasks, assigning these tasks to different team members and getting updates on projects.
It’s quite intuitive to use but can become more complex depending on the project you’re managing and the number of people in your team.
Pros: It’s great for seeing exactly which tasks make up a project and for assigning those tasks to individuals.
It integrates well with other programs such as Google drive, enabling you to link through to spreadsheets or to synchronise with your Google calendar.
It’s good for notetaking in meetings and has useful templates to get you started.
Cons: Although the layout is quite intuitive it can get complex for larger projects.
Tutorials: Asana have their own great YouTube videos showing how to get the best of the software.
Engaging with your community remotely
Using digital tools to communicate with members of your community is a great way to keep everyone updated and involved in events, discussions and activities. The following tools can help you achieve that.
Cost: There is a free version. Paid subscriptions start from £25/month.
About: Survey Monkey is the UK’s most popular site for carrying out surveys. It enables you to send out polls and analyse the responses you get. It can be really useful for asking questions in your Big Local Area and finding out what people think about community events or projects.
It has a free version and can be downloaded as an app or accessed through the Survey Monkey website.
Pros: There are lots of templates to use, or you can customise the survey as you wish. The programme is very user-friendly, and the survey responses themselves are anonymous.
Cons: The jump from free to paid is quite large.
Tutorials: Survey Monkey has an active YouTube channel with lots of support available.
Cost: A free plan is available. Subscriptions start from £66/month.
About: Typeform creates people-friendly forms and surveys. They’re very visual – the app is based on the idea that beautiful, more personal forms and surveys will result in a higher conversion rate (users following through and taking the survey) and better data.
Pros: Simple and intuitive user interface for customers, with a lean and pleasing design making it easy to create simple questionnaires.
Cons: The more you want to include in your form, the more complex it gets.
This section contains some useful tools to take your social media to the next level. They will enable you to do things like schedule and plan your posts, and help keep your profiles consistent, organised and professional.
Cost: A basic free plan is available. Paid subscriptions start from around £12/month.
About: Buffer is one of the most simple and easy-to-use tools for managing your social media profiles. Simply connect your social media accounts to Buffer, create a post within it and drag-and-drop it to the date and time you’d like it posted.
Pros: Buffer also offers Pablo, a free image creation software for designing visuals before posting. The Buffer chrome extension also allows you to share anything you’ve found online, such as an interesting article or event, with your followers.
Cons: You need to pay to access the analytics, which show you how people are engaging with your posts. Built-in analytics are available for free on Facebook and Twitter but include less detail than those on Buffer.
About: An email marketing platform with drag-and-drop simplicity.
Pros: Campaign Monitor has a lot of professional-looking templates. You can easily create automatic replies (such as thanking people who sign up to your mailing list). Online video training showing how to use their platform is also available.
About: Canva is a graphic design platform that enables the user to create social media images, posters, newsletters or any other visual content. It’s very simple and intuitive to use, with drag and drop images, different fonts and stock images to draw from. It has a lot of templates to use or get inspiration from. You can also upload your own images to use.
Pros: Simple to use. Lots of templates, stock images and visual resources to access. Professional quality design. You can also create GIFs and short videos.
Cons: You have to pay to use some of the images. You can collaborate with others by sharing a draft of your image, however they are not able to adapt or change it.
Tutorials: There are so many tips and tricks available on YouTube. We’d recommend starting with Canva’s own page.
Many community groups choose to create their own website. This can be a great way to showcase what you do, let people know about events and enable people to get in touch with you.
Cost: Free plan available. Paid subscriptions start at £3/month.
About: WordPress is the largest website builder in the world. It’s incredibly diverse in terms of possible applications and flexible in how it can be used, but isn’t as easy to pick up as other website builders.
Pros: WordPress stands out for being highly customisable – once you learn how to use the platform.
There are huge range of plugins (pieces of software that enable a programme to do something it couldn’t otherwise do) available, which helps to make your site exactly how you want it to be.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is built in. This helps to give you an idea of how people are finding your website, and what you can do to get more engagement.
Cons: Beginners can use WordPress to build basic sites, but it is not as straightforward to use as a drag-and-drop builder like Wix.
Tutorials: Get started with WordPress tutorials on YouTube.