Knaresborough Connectors is a community support organisation in Knaresborough. During the COVID-19 restrictions, they are connecting residents who are self-isolating with other residents who are available to support them. They aim to connect people based not only on location and needs, but on shared interests too, to help reduce loneliness in isolation and maintain a sense of community. During the lockdown they are matching residents together to provide shopping, urgent supplies like prescriptions, support with hobbies, helping with pets and dog walking, posting mail or a friendly phone call.
This recipe has been in use since March 2020.
We are not sharing this recipe as the perfect solution to a problem, but we believe Knaresborough Connectors’s learnings could be very useful to other organisations.
Users and needs served
Members of the community contact this service for different reasons:
As a person in isolation, I want to feel connected to others and also need tasks done such as my shopping.
As a person who wants to support their community, I want to know who I can help in my local area and how.
As an organisation, we want to connect people to one another for support with their needs and to share their interests.
Google Forms is an online tool that allows you to collect information from people through a personalised survey. The information is collected and results are automatically populated in a spreadsheet. Knaresborough Connectors use Google Forms to gather information from people who want to volunteer for the organisation. In the online form, people are asked for their basic details as well as their location and interests. This enables Knaresborough Connectors to make a suitable connection.
This is free to use for anyone with a Google account, which is also free to create. Google also has business account options at different prices, starting from roughly £4 a month. These accounts have different features which can be seen in the price plan.
You can create a new form and edit it with others at the same time.
It’s easy to deploy and publish.
There are a range of pre-made templates that you can use, or you can create your own.
Google Sheets is a free, web-based program for creating and editing spreadsheets. It is part of the office suite offered by Google. Knaresborough Connectors use it to keep track of all their client information, both volunteers and those requesting support.
This is free to use for anyone with a Google account, which is also free to create.
Shared access and editing in real-time of online files that are accessible from any internet-connected computer or mobile device.
Allows others to view online files, whilst also ensuring the file is secure by editing sharing settings to restrict access.
Google maps is an online map that allows you to easily create custom maps with the places you want. You can find places and save them to your personal map as well as add layers and colours to differentiate the different saved points in your map. Knaresborough Connectors use the location information from their spreadsheet to geo-locate volunteers and connect them to others in their neighbourhood who need help. They keep track of all volunteer locations in one map to make it easy to connect new people who contact the organisation.
This is free to use for anyone with a Google account, which is also free to create.
You can create a map and edit it with others at the same time.
You can adjust privacy settings so that your map limits access only to those you want to see it.
You can create multiple layers of information and overlay them on your map. This helps with managing large amounts of data on the map and is useful if you need to filter out specific points.
A Facebook Group is a place for group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion. Knaresborough Connectors have their own group which they use for broadcasting information about their service and community.
This is free to use for anyone with a Facebook account, which is also free to create.
This facebook group helps Knaresborough Connectors reduce the demand on their phone line, which means they can be available for people who want to connect in a more meaningful way, or who don’t have digital access.
Although it’s a useful tool for broadcasting, Knaresborough Connectors have found it less useful for engaging with residents. This is because people may not want to seek help in a public group setting.
The group requires moderation in order to be effective. Knaresborough Connectors has 5 volunteer moderators whose interests and skills lie in social media.
1. For a resident
Residents call the number for Knaresborough Connectors, which they can find online or from the leaflets distributed throughout the community. Alternatively, the council will notify the organisation if there are residents who need support.
The resident leaves a voicemail on the service phone line and is called back by a Knaresborough Connectors coordinator. Here, they have a ‘strengths based’ conversation that focuses on what they're good at, as well as inquiring about what support they might need.
The coordinator inputs the location of the resident into their online google map. The coordinator is then able to review the volunteer map to see who is nearby and then matches the resident to someone who is in their neighbourhood, maybe even on their street.
The coordinator then rings the volunteer and provides them with a description of the person they’re helping. Volunteers can be matched based on interests, hobbies or errands. Knaresborough Connectors then connect the volunteer and resident with one another, and encourage them to keep the connection going.
Knaresborough Connectors encourages their community to focus on what’s strong, not what’s wrong. They believe that the residents inquiring for support can help the community just like the volunteers. They do this by utilising the skills and interests of their community to support one another. For example, someone in self isolation can give back to the community by knitting for families and kids in their neighbourhood.
2. For a volunteer
People can sign up to become a volunteer by filling in a google form on the Knaresborough Connectors website.
A member of staff within the organisation integrates the information from the google form into their own client spreadsheet. They then geo-locate the volunteer by placing a pin on the map to note where the volunteer is based. From this, the coordinator is able to see which residents the volunteer can help in their near-by area. This process is done manually as the staff member has to decide if the person will be a ‘regular’ volunteer or a ‘trusted’ volunteer. This depends on whether the volunteer has a DBS check, or is a member of a community or faith group.
The difference between these volunteer types is that only trusted volunteers are allowed to do shopping and collect medication on behalf of the resident.
After signing up, you have to wait to be telephoned by a member of staff to be given a task or errand. This waiting period can vary depending on the volunteer’s location and residents’ needs in the local area. Some people are called frequently because of high demand in their area, compared to others who are called less often.
When volunteers are called up by a coordinator, the coordinator explains who the volunteer is being connected to and how they can help.
Every few weeks, emails go out to the Knaresborough Connectors network to thank the volunteers for all the work and support given in helping their community.
Try to capture the right information from volunteers at the beginning. When Knaresborough Connectors began recruiting volunteers, they didn’t have an online form for signing up. Instead, they had a link on facebook but they found that the information being given by people was too difficult to manage. Having a tailored form allows you to capture relevant information at first point of contact. Data gathered is kept consistent and there is less processing needed..
Think about how you manage the expectations of people trying to volunteer. Knaresborough Connectors retrospectively reflected on the best way to do this. They recommend detailing the process that volunteers should expect to go through on the volunteer sign up form. For example, how and when they’ll be activated as a volunteer. This way, volunteers know what to expect.
Have a system in place for payments during errands. Knaresborough Connectors encourage volunteers and residents to come to a mutual agreement. If a resident doesn’t have cash, the volunteer pays upfront and will be reimbursed by the organisation. The resident then repays the organisation. If for some reason a resident cannot pay the money back, the organisation has a small fund to ensure the volunteer isn’t left short of money.
Try to have one person responsible for GDPR and data protection. Knaresborough Connectors have someone in the role of Data and GDPR administrator and have said that this works well for them. A dedicated role is needed as they use different tools for collecting and storing information. They have also ensured that the ‘connecting process’ between resident and volunteer is protecting both clients’ information.
Make sure to collect consent from people registering to help in the initial sign up form. This should clearly state how their information will be collected and stored during the connecting process.
Knaresborough Connectors recognise there are risks to safeguarding both volunteers and residents. There are different types of potential abuse and neglect, for which Knaresborough Connectors have controls in place to both identify and mitigate any harm occurring. As mentioned, they take a ‘strengths based’ approach in their service which means they looked at the community strengths and worked backwards in order to create these controls. For example:
Having a phone call rather than a text or email allows you to pick up on tone or voice or background noise which may indicate stress or harm.
When having a strengths-based discussion with someone, if the person can’t tell you what they're good at or how they’re spending their time, this is cause for concern.
Volunteers are only allowed to do shopping or errands for a resident for a few months. This is to make sure residents in isolation are continually building new connections. It also prevents any harm which could develop between a volunteer and resident over a long period of time.
There is a spending limit of a maximum of £40 pounds to reduce the risk of financial abuse. This limit was introduced to encourage residents to stay in contact with the service frequently. It also means that volunteers aren’t handling large amounts of money.
There is less likelihood of financial or material abuse to happen due to the close proximity of volunteers and residents. Generally, they are neighbours and will see each other frequently, which discourages dishonest behaviour.The service connects people based on strengths, not vulnerabilities. They also encourage friendliness within the community. This helps to build genuine relationships between residents and volunteers and also build trust.
Points of contact
For further information about this recipe, you can contact:
Many thanks to Knaresborough Connectors for contributing this recipe.
Do you have thoughts on this recipe? We would love to hear from you.