Groundwork Blog

Changing the way we work to respond to COVID-19

Karen Tozer, Clore Social Fellow 2018 and Programme Manager at Groundwork inspires us with the organisation’s agile and strategic response to COVID-19.

Groundwork have been working in Hull over 10 years with communities and individuals that are often those most in need. The work we do builds the skills and knowledge of people through experiential learning and/or volunteering so they are able to begin to address some of the issues that impact on their lives.

We enable people to learn through hands-on participatory activities to grow food, cook healthier meals, learn crafts and DIY skills that help make their money go further and improve their physical and mental wellbeing. Our volunteering opportunities give people a sense of purpose and enable them to build their skills, confidence and social networks.

We also have managed Springhead Park Golf Club since 2014. We have worked hard to transform this former municipal facility into a hub for the whole community.

In Hull I am lucky enough to have a small but dedicated and creative team. Prior to 19 March we recognised that many of those we support were the most vulnerable and would have to self-isolate. We also studied what was happening in other countries and quickly realised that full lockdown was inevitable.

Myself and the team looked at how we could change the way we worked to ensure we were able to provide the best service possible to the communities we support.

Springhead Park – We shut down the course and Club House and transformed the Coffee Shop into a takeaway and home delivery service that runs on a skeleton staff and volunteer drivers. We immediately contacted all the local homecare providers and agencies supporting the elderly and vulnerable in our area. We sent them information on our new affordable meal service with free delivery for the elderly and most vulnerable.

Our Communities team were also quick to move and offer a virtual service on Facebook.

Groundwork Connect – A daily mix of quizzes, healthy recipes and useful information together with live stream and pre-recorded `how-to’ videos covering crafts, growing and up-cycling that utilise everyday items and things we might otherwise discard.

We also established a number of different Facebook Groups where people can meet virtually and interact.

The Virtual Shed – Here people post their lockdown up-cycling and DIY projects that use what others or they might normally throw away. People are able to inspire others and be inspired and we have found there is a massive appetite amongst all age groups. People have tried things they might never have tried and the ‘Likes’ they receive give them a much needed boost. One young mum who joined undertook her first up-cycling project and has now gone on to provide tips to others.

The Virtual Veg Plot – Excited by the success of The Virtual Shed we quickly developed The Virtual Veg Plot. Now more than ever we believe people need to be thinking about growing their own food. We provide tips on growing and how to make a planter out of everything from an old shopping bag to a pallet. To support The Virtual Veg Plot we are also sending seeds by post to those who live in our Growing St Andrews project area, around Hessle Road. I have also sought additional funding to expand this wider in the coming weeks.

The Virtual Kitchen – For a long time Groundwork have delivered healthy cooking sessions. The Virtual Kitchen along with our daily recipes is a way in which we can still encourage and support healthier eating.

The Virtual Sewing Room – This is our latest addition in response to requests by our Facebook followers. The group provides tips and ‘how-to’ advice from sewing on a button to taking up a hem; skills that many people were never taught.

Hull Story Time – Ground Hull has a long established partnership with Hull Library Services. As soon as schools were shut down we began work on this joint project. Every Friday at 1.30pm live on YouTube we have children’s stories being read by local authors, performers and currently local celebrities and sports stars.

Groundwork Connect Radio Show – Growing St Andrews project had an existing radio show that went out to over 250,000 households across West Hull and the surrounding villages. We wanted to develop something that was more frequent and interactive to support those who may not have access to social media. Groundwork Connect now goes out via live feed three times a week on FM radio, internet and Facebook Live. This has enabled us to keep the community informed, interact with volunteers and connect isolated families and friends through song requests.

It is important that we are continually looking for the 'How Next' so that we can respond quickly to the needs of local people...

As a result of the changes we have implemented, Springhead Park is now producing approximately 100 meals a day, ensuring the elderly and vulnerable can receive a home cooked meal for just £3 and our Coffee Shop social media following has soared to almost 900.

Our virtual community engagement and activity has also grown our already strong Facebook following by over 200% and this is still increasing daily. Our post reach is now regularly over 7,000 and our first Hull Story Time was viewed by over 4,000 families on YouTube.

My team and I are now thinking about the next phase of COVID-19. The way of life and working we knew before will not return for quite a while. Social distancing and other measures may stay with us for many months, perhaps into next year, with a potentially longer lasting impact on the communities we work with.

It is important that we are continually looking for the 'How Next' so that we can respond quickly to the needs of local people and the challenges and opportunities the 'New Normal' present for us as an organisation.

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Karen Tozer, Clore Social Fellow 2018, is Programme Manager at Groundwork, an organisation that positively changes places and people's lives, in partnership where possible. Visit @GroundworkHull on Twitter & GroundworkHull on Facebook.

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