Necessity and invention - learning from challenges for positive change
Stories of the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic have been filling the media for many months now. But in amongst the heavy burden of this news, there are lots of very real stories of cooperation, community, creativity and invention.
Lockdown restrictions have forced Kids Kabin and other community organisations in the east end of Newcastle to completely change our approach to community support and the delivery of our activities. We’re trying many new things – and, as you might expect, we’re failing with some and succeeding with others!
On the less successful side...one early plan was to make hundreds of inspiring short videos of home creativity projects. The Kids Kabin team made a number of these, but, alas, we haven’t quite become global YouTube superstars! As you'll remember from the beginning of lockdown, social media was awash with sporty, creative and practical projects and challenges – many of which were a little more professional than ours.
So we went back to basics and refocused on what we know well – the community, our children and families, local partnerships and day-to-day practical, creative activities. We phoned, we listened, we talked, we reassured, we advised, we referred, we created, we delivered, we Zoomed, we adapted...and we repeated these processes, week on week through lockdown.
Reflecting on the last three months, we're beginning to realise a few things:
We’re starting to really think about the challenge of home creativity
One of our central objectives is to encourage and celebrate creativity with practical, hands-on activities. Over the last 25 years, we’ve worked out how to promote this through Kids Kabin workshops. But we've had to work out how to promote this at home, something we've never really had to think about before. With lots of trial and error, we think we’re beginning to develop home creativity kits that are both intuitive and creative.
We’re reminded that trust and relationships in communities are essential
One of the biggest challenges of lockdown has been to effectively match offers of help to individual need. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of volunteers have stepped forward to help. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people in our communities are in need. However, the two haven’t necessarily been effectively matched.
What's worked for us is calling on the relationships of trust we have with people in our community. We've used the principle that whoever knows a family best will speak to them, listen to what they need and find support for them. People have therefore been able to overcome barriers of fear, pride and lack of information – and get help when they need it.
There are of course some areas in which we don't yet have the relationships we'd ideally want. And through this process, we've realised there are many families that aren’t receiving support from anyone. Meeting these hidden needs is a major priority for our local partnerships from now on.
We’re realising that partnership is strength in communities
Local partnerships, the Walker Workers and the Byker Children and Young People’s partnership have been able to react quickly and responsively. On a very simple level – people knew each other and could ask for help and advice. But partnership also went a step further. We’ve really started to sharpen our thinking about those most in need and how they can be best supported. We've also started to think into the longer term about community strategies driven by need and partnership, rather than activities and organisations.
‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ is a well used cliché, but there is truth in it. It'll be interesting to see how this momentum is maintained through the challenges ahead.