Strengthening the network

06 May 2020 |Written by Gabrielle Woodhams


Six weeks after our network community partners had to physically close their doors, Gabrielle Woodhams, Head of Network at Good Things Foundation, updates us on the response.

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It’s been both humbling and inspiring to see how the Online Centres Network has responded to this crisis. Despite isolation and social distancing, you’re making sure the most vulnerable people in your communities don’t feel alone and aren’t forgotten. You are working tirelessly to make sure digital exclusion doesn’t shut out the people who need to connect the most.

I’m proud of how you have all been supporting each other; and I particularly like how Nicola Wallace Dean, Community Organiser at Starting Point in Stockport talks about volunteering as simply “neighbours helping neighbours”. You all inspire us to do more. We truly are being led by the network in our actions and I wanted to share an update on some of the things we’ve done to date.

Response and Resilience Fund

We quickly established the Response and Resilience Fund totalling £375,000 to enable Online Centres to continue to support their local communities and to be sustainable, in order to be in a position to reopen once the current challenges subside. We received 238 applications and have been able to provide a one off £3,000 grant for 125 of them. We could never find the reserves to fund as many of you as we’d like to, but we do hope that this funding will contribute towards the sustainability of those who do receive it.

Skills Toolkit

Last week, a free online toolkit to build skills during the coronavirus outbreak and beyond was launched by the Government and it features our free Learn My Way and Make it Click resources.

The Skills Toolkit aims to boost workplace skills, offering high quality, flexible courses in digital and numeracy. The toolkit will give people the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge that employers value, gain confidence and support the country’s economic recovery. It’s great that our resources have been included in the toolkit - take a look today if you haven’t already.

DevicesDotNow

So far we’ve distributed over 1,300 devices to 130 Online Centres and we’re already starting to see the impact of this; it’s made a big difference to the lives of isolated and vulnerable people like 91-year-old Mable in Stockport, who has been able to video call her family in Australia for the first time. And Hafsha Shaikh, Founder of Smartlyte in Birmingham has told us about her experiences of distributing these ‘life changing’ devices to people within her community.

If you’ve not already done so, you can register your interest to receive some devices here.

Funding database

We’ve updated our funding database this month and there are lots of new funding opportunities that may be suitable for your organisation. We have also added a COVID-19 specific grants tab. You can search by country to make it easier to find opportunities closer to home. I hope you find this useful.

Learning new things and keeping the conversation going

I’ve heard from some people in the network that webinars have been a lifeline - a way of learning new skills and keeping in touch with people. Just last week over 100 people attended two of our webinars - Writing Better Bids and Teaching and Facilitation, if you attended I hope you took away some practical advice. Webinar topics in May and June include Building Resilience, Fundraising Online, Social Prescribing, Fundraising Surgeries and Getting more from Learn My Way. Please take a look at the training page on our website for a summary of these webinars and to book your free place.

We’ve also used Zoom to come together with you. These sessions are a place to share best practice and ideas, share challenges, realise that you aren’t alone and to feel supported. We are listening to you and your insight helps to shape our network sustainability planning. We’ll be holding more Zoom sessions throughout May so look out for a link in the newsletter to join.

We will continue to be network led in our approach so please do let us know if there is anything we can support you with. If we can, we will.

The Online Centres Network and everyone in it is important to us. You are the ones on the front line, contributing to the delivering of our goal and mission. Thank you!