Govan Housing Association has been running a diverse range of Digital Inclusion projects for the last 4 years; however, with the rise of Coronavirus and the lock down that followed, we faced several challenges in continuing to deliver our Community Inclusion programme. To that end, we made the following changes to our work approaches.
Meeting Immediate Needs
Our first actions were to meet the immediate needs that came from the closure of our community spaces, The Hub and Digital Hub, in the heart of central Govan. They’re popular for lots of different reasons such as regular groups, workshops and events. We use these spaces to engage with a wide demographic of the community to meet essential needs such as; food provision, social inclusion, health and wellbeing, and digital access and connectivity for the local community.
To that end, we’ve developed a partnership approach to support those in need of assistance alongside the Salvation Army and Govan Youth Information Project, offering a touring food truck and food parcels, food bank collections and deliveries and helping collect and essential prescribed medicines to tenants across the Govan area, 5 days a week. We have identified those most in need of this support and have put in place measures to ensure we provide safe and efficient assistance.
We’ve made Wi-Fi connectivity part of this offer too, putting a dongle on the food truck and promoting the login details locally for tenants. We are sure to encourage anyone using the services to observe the social distancing guidelines and have staff on hand to support where we can.
Building digital into our welfare calls
As our staff started working from home, we started to make contact with all our tenants and checking in; asking what support they had in place, if they had any immediate needs or concerns that we could help with.
We quickly built digital into those conversations; we’re asking tenants if they’ve got access to devices or Wi-Fi, letting them know where they can get connected locally, offering them support in learning how to use WhatsApp/Facetime or other communication tools.
Our Lending Library
We’ve been operating a digital lending library for a couple of years now; 20 iPads and 10 laptops which are all out being used in our locally community, by tenants, volunteers, partner organisations or by our staff.
Due to the remote nature of our working now we’ve moved our devices to a more robust mobile device management (MDM) tool and for this we’ve chosen Jamf. We’ve been able to simplify the set up and “out of the box” experience for tenants who have maybe never seen an iPad before. We’ve simplified their layout and installed some important apps on making them it less daunting.
We have recently purchased 4 Netflix Premium Accounts to allow us to have 16 people access either on our library devices or on their own at home. Through some additional funding from Foundation Scotland and Big Lottery, we have been able to extend our offer of mobile Wi-Fi dongles for service users. We’re looking to extend both initiatives if demand is high.
One of our main challenges now is how to move from the immediate firefighting, troubleshooting phase and start planning mid-term during this crisis. We have begun this process via video calls with partners and establishing forums for information sharing to establish what the key priority themes might be once the community has established a sense of normality again.
We want to be able to respond quickly to local needs once lock down restrictions are lifted and offer support for tenants, the community and our partners, especially with the potential for another lockdown in the near future. With the rise of remote working, there have been some valuable lessons and needs identified, we want to reflect on these now so that we can roll out training and resources so that should we be in this position again in the future, we’re in a stronger position.