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Stories from lockdown: how can we stay connected?

This series brings together some of the incredible ways that Big Local areas are responding to coronavirususing their deep understanding of the local area to provide support to their community.  

More people than ever are now relying on digital tools so they can order essential items, access services, maintain social interactions and organising local responses to COVID-19.

We have put together a round-up of some of the brilliant online initiatives being implemented in Big Local areas to ensure that where possible, community networks continue to operate and regular activities still go ahead.


What’s happening in Big Local areas? 

Getting residents online 

  • In Dewsbury Moor Big Local, the partnership bought tablet for one of their members who was previously only able to join meetings through his phone. Now that he’s had a bit of training on how to use the tablet, he’s can not only speak to other partnership members but see them too!
  • Riverside Community Big Local bought 16 Zoom licenses for local charities to help them stay connected and bought 25 tablets and 20 hotspots for people who aren’t able to access the internet at home. The Big Local used Charity Digital Exchange to get a 50% discount for the Zoom licenses and tablets, and are now in the process of training people up to ensure they get the most out of their new digital tools. 
  • Dyke House Big Local have bought SIM cards to partnership members topped up with unlimited data so they are able to check their emails while they’re not able to meet in person. This has allowed people to access the internet, particularly if they can’t afford broadband in their home.  

Moving activities online 

  • Ramsey Million Big Local suspended all its usual activities, except for their weekly youth clubThe BOSH Ramsey Youth Club moved their weekly session for 5 to 10-year-olds online, with their Big Local hosting Facebook Live sessions in the regular slot. The first broadcast generated over 1,000 views.  
  • Kingswood and Hazel Leys art club have kept their sessions going by delivering art supplies to members and running their art sessions online instead 
  • Arches Big Local’s boxing club is now running free online sessions for people of all ages. 


Helping people get online 

A number of areas have mentioned challenges they’re facing to get people online and stay connected. It can be time consuming to train people to use digital tools, especially when you can’t do it face to faceLocal Trust is offering support to help Big Local residents and partnership members to stay connected, mainly through Zoom. Each area can access a free premium Zoom account, paid for by Local Trust. We also offer events and one to one support to help you better use it.  


Common challenges to getting online  

  • While getting people online is now more important than ever, it’s also quite difficult if you can’t help them face to face. There’s no one size fits all answer, but similar to Dewsbury Moor and Riverside, you can try some different ways of connecting people to see what works best, such as providing tablets and training or working with local charities.  
  • Broadband speeds are also an issue for some Big Local areas. There are features in Zoom, such as turning your video off, that can help increase quality if you have low broadband speedSIM cards topped up with data could be another option if mobile service is better than internet.  
  • If you feel like you need more expert digital advice, Digital Candle can offer charities and community groups one hour of free advicesuch as how to move service delivery online and support community members. 

To hear from other Big Local areas about their responses to Covid-19 you can attend one of our weekly online drop-in sessions or join the dedicated workplace group