Since the beginning of the pandemic and the launch of the lockdown, the internet and social media has enabled thousands of individuals to form support groups and to respond quickly to calls for help. That so much community action has taken place by so many has been both humbling and heartening but, at the same time, there is concern that it has left some individuals exposed and potentially vulnerable on ‘open’ platforms with little digital protection. The Neighbourhood Care Networks, employs three digital platforms that are individually – and in combination – appropriate, efficient and secure:
Twilio: POP+ is using Twilio to power phone lines that people, isolated at home, can text or call for support. When someone contacts the phone line, Twilio responds with a message which reassures them; lets them know their message has been received and informs them of the name of the person who will be returning their call. At the same time, their message is sent to the ‘on duty’ volunteer who, along with all other volunteers, has been recommended by someone already in the network.
Slack: a digital tool designed to help teams communicate. Each NCN has a space on POP+’s account that allows members, receiving requests for support from individuals-in-need, to coordinate a response with each other. It also enables network members to communicate the opportunities and challenges they are facing. Furthermore, it allows people from different NCN’s to use Slack to interact with each other; access expertise; share information; discuss ideas and access useful resources.
WhatsApp: Some Neighbourhood Care Networks are using WhatsApp, where appropriate, to organise support around an individual. In one example, a WhatsApp group has been set up to support a resident with dog-walking: none of the individual’s details has been shared with anyone outside the group or without her consent. There is oversight, transparency and a sense of community enabling the volunteers to work together.
Many people are discovering how useful, important and enabling these technology platforms have proved to be. Working in combination, they have allowed POP+ to create an innovative digital infrastructure to care for people in a way that is safe and reliable; that makes rapid and appropriate connections and respects an individual’s privacy.