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Stories from lockdown: using the time to get organised

Michal Siewniak, worker at Wormley and Turnford, reflects on how he has been using the time in lockdown to focus on work that usually slips to the bottom of the to-do list.

I have been asking myself a lot in the last 5-6 weeks about the best ways in which the ethos of the Big Local project can be still implemented in spite of the pandemic. How can our ‘grassroots initiative’ flourish when we are all working remotely and perhaps feeling disconnected from the community? How can we ensure that engagement continues in spite of the lockdown? Personally, I find myself spending more time on my computer than before – could this time be used to complete other tasks?

Even though, I miss my office and daily encounters with residents, I try to remain positive and look for various opportunities for growth and development.

Modern technology means that we are still able to stay connected. Although it takes a bit of time to re-adjust to our new working practises, many partnerships are still able to function well and ensure that key decisions in relation to Big Local projects are being made.

Getting better at virtual meetings

I personally miss opportunities for real ‘human interactions’ and it’s hard to read the body language in online meetings, which is often so important to guide the tone and the direction of our conversations. I have found a couple things that make online meetings easier:

  • Concentrate on listening and try not to get distracted by what’s happening around you
  • Try to interrupt less
  • Ensure each voice is heard

Getting organised

I also realised that the lockdown is a good time to revisit some of our internal processes and ensure that the ‘governance’ is in place so that the organisation can grow and develop further. Some of these actions are not necessarily visible to residents however the consolidation work is hugely important to any project.

I know that in ‘normal circumstances’ I probably wouldn’t have enough time to do it and therefore I will be spending more time on reflecting on ways in which our Big Local is set up in order to cement and enhance its ability to make a difference in the most effective way.

In Wormley and Turnford, we have:

  • Re-drafted our internal processes, particularly in relation to conflict resolution/conflict of interest
  • Published two tenders, one for our new website and the other for the Community Centre Action Plan
  • Created a legacy subgroup, which will help us shape the vision of our Big Local area

It is more important than ever before to plan for the short and long-term.

Apart from supporting already existing initiatives, I think this is a really crucial time to continue building a strong and effective partnership. Our own ‘community intelligence’ can help us to indicate what kind of actions each Big Local area should be undertaking to mitigate against any current or future crisis.

I hope that this unusual and challenging period will help us to build a real sense of family, not just in the local community but on a national and even global scale as we recover from this and look to the future.  The journey of the Big Local continues and we are in a great position – despite some sacrifices and suffering – to get through this crisis together.

For support, tips and advice on managing the admin in your partnership, take a look at our programme guidance