Networking online – the norm for the time being at least
With a couple of county-wide network meetings having been held online over the summer, it became clear that online networking would be the norm for some time and therefore it made sense to get the area network meetings back on track. This would provide an opportunity for groups in the north, south east and west to get together with their colleagues and share their experiences of operating under COVID-19.
A meeting with North Northumberland VCS organisations attracted 16 participants and it was great not only to hear how groups had adapted to continue to provide support for their beneficiaries but also to share information and re-connect with one another.
Adapting to digital has been a big learning curve for many organisations and service users, and preparing facilities so that they are safe and secure for users in the interim has been demanding, only to then be beset with a second lockdown.
The Assembly is keen that if there are issues that members want to raise and discuss then we can arrange online meetings on specific topics. This is exactly what we did when the issue of food arose – in particular food distribution, coordination, reducing waste and ensuring it reaches those in need.
We invited a number of groups that have an interest and role in this field and made a general invitation to groups too. Attendees talked about their experiences, such as the difficulties getting gluten free food and halal food for those shielding, the variability of some of the food received from suppliers, concerns about the increase in demand for food at the end of furlough, which we now know has been extended but will be of no help to those who have already lost their jobs.
The meeting also recognised the importance of working with Northumberland Communities Together and understanding their experiences of what worked well and what didn’t in terms of coordination and provision in the first lockdown, so we can all work together better in future.
The group were keen to meet on a regular basis to share information and good practice to assist in providing effective food provision to support residents and minimise food waste, and so a Food Network meeting has been arranged for late November. So do join us if your organisation is involved in providing, distributing and supporting residents with food (provide link).
Also if there are other topics that you would like to discuss with other organisations online then please do let me know.
Take care and keep safe.
Assembly Development Officer