Connecting grassroots groups to create impact

Read how Prospects Community Housing set up a Slack channel to ensure effective communications between organisations continued throughout the pandemic and facilitated vital networking and support.

Power Up grantee Prospects Community Housing sets up a Slack channel to ensure effective communications between organisations continued throughout the pandemic and facilitated vital networking and support.

When organisations were forced to close their doors in light of Covid-19 restrictions, and planning for community support moved online, it was clear community groups without basic digital infrastructure would need support in order to thrive.

As the pandemic took off, it soon became obvious that the swiftest and most efficient responses were being delivered by small grassroots community groups, like the Calders Residents Association, distributing essential food parcels across the neighbourhood.

They faced serious – although basic – challenges in the new digital environment. Despite having an online presence through Facebook, they simply didn’t have the right equipment, and were using the Chair’s old personal laptop for everything – which was slow and unreliable.

Power Up grantee Prospects Community Housing set up a Slack channel – an online messaging platform – for the Wester Hailes Together group to ensure that effective communications between organisations could continue throughout the pandemic and facilitate vital networking and support.

Calders Residents Association used this channel to ask if anyone had a laptop they could donate. Wester Hailes Connects responded, and were able to purchase a new laptop to support their emergency food provision, and to provide the longer-term benefit of facilitating them to connect with wider networks.

Another local organisation, About Youth, shared their community flat with the group, and kindly gave them access to their Wi-Fi. This connectivity enabled Calders Residents Association to participate in online discussions, access information relating to food safety and delivery, and get valuable advice on social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE).

As more local groups connected with the Prospects Community Housing Slack channel, word got around about the support they had received and other organisations started to come forward and ask for help to boost their digital capabilities.

Mums into Business is a group of local women, all with small businesses, who were coming together to hold regular markets before lockdown. The Association was able to provide them with a laptop so they could better connect with other groups, deliver online training to the group and offer informal support sessions through Zoom.

Local residents’ group, Murrayburn and Hailesland Community Park Association runs a community garden and is working towards the development of a park in their neighbourhood. During lockdown, they supported food distribution by donating garden produce to organisations cooking meals for the vulnerable. The laptop they received – as well as digital support provided by WHALE Arts – meant they could deliver and coordinate this efficiently and provide a quick response to any requests for produce. The lockdown experience has demonstrated how instrumental small, grassroots projects can be in making a real difference to communities – especially during challenging times. But these groups often find it difficult to access support and funds, and being locally-focused, often lack the wider contacts needed to get help.

By developing their digital skills and giving them the tools to make the most of those skills, Prospects Community Housing and its wider network has enabled a range of inspirational community groups to maximise their impact through connectivity and get their voices heard across influential online networks.