Effective Peer Support Online

Effective Peer Support Online Notes from Digital Conference 24th March – 4pm-5pm session

Three local organisations with experience of running community peer support in their activities share their advice and tips on good practice and overcoming key challenges.

Nicola Bruce: Gateshead Older People’s Assembly

  • www.gatesheadopa.org.uk  
  • Facebook: @gatesheadopa
  • Gateshead Older People's Assembly (GOPA) is a charity offering opportunities for Gateshead residents aged 50+ to socialise, exercise, and learn.
  •  Usual services closed so GOPA moved most classes online.
  • It was important to making sure everything was easy to use.
  • Created video guide how to get onto Zoom.
  • Made Zoom instructions really clear, including adding the class, date and time in the subject box of the email.
  • Made the password to enter room something memorable rather than Zoom generated
  •  Created a new email account where multiple staff had access, in order to make sure participants had quick responses.
  •  Had a co-host in the Zoom room to let people in, help people who were struggling so the person delivering could just concentrate on the session itself.
  • Reopened in November with a limited outdoor activities.
  • Found that some people preferred the Zoom session to the ‘normal’ version as they felt it was easier – e.g. no travel.
  •  Peer support and encouragement was really important.
  •  Having a Facebook group was good for interacting and engaging with the beneficiaries. It was important this was a safe, positive engaging space. 
  • GOPA evaluated the experiences of their service users to gauge the experiences of the beneficiaries and what they want in future: o 73% of beneficiaries wanted to keep having online activities after lockdown o 83% of beneficiaries said they were now more confident online o 69% of beneficiaries said they tried a new activity because of the zoom sessions
  •  GOPA intends to continue and enhance their digital offering, and embed digital into the GOPA strategy

Alisdair Cameron: Recovery College Collective (ReCoCo)

  • www.recoverycoco.com
  •  Facebook: @RecoveryCoCo
  • ReCoCo is a charity covering mental health, peer support run and lead by people who have experienced mental health problems.
  •  People attend groups or courses, these are usually a series of sessions, to which people are expected to commit.
  •  People gain confidence and skills
  •  ReCoCo had an emphasis on face-to-face groups enabling participants to build ‘real-world’ connections with each other. • When the pandemic hit, they moved services online – with uncertainty about whether those connections could be replicated.
  • A quarter of the students were digitally excluded, due to a deficit in skills or digital poverty, or both.
  • There was a high level of wariness around technology: seeing their own profile online, seeing into people’s homes.
  •  Used paid-for Zoom accounts, advantages of this are considerable – numbers, length of sessions
  • Were too ambitious when taking everything online, ongoing attendance to complete series of sessions was much patchier. Service user weren’t committing to several sessions so; Ran taster sessions so people could get a sense of the sessions before committing. o Each session had to become stand alone.; Needed to provide a strong level of leadership o More group-led so facilitators didn’t need to attend every session; Made website better, used twitter, Facebook and Instagram more. o Twitter was better for engagement for organisations and professionals; Facebook was more accessible to beneficiaries; Produced paper resources which were widely distributed to encourage engagement online.
  • Students adapted to online, but majority would prefer in-person work.
  • A significant minority engaged because we were online who would not have previously done so.
  • Will find it a stretch for our capacity to deliver whilst we figure out a blended way of future service-delivery including digital and in-person.
  • Important to take active steps to maintain the well-being of staff and volunteers as it has been challenging.
  •  The organisation had not been aware of the types and extent of digital exclusion in the communities they serve.

Bob Malpiedi – Chilli Studios

  • www.chillistudios.co.uk
  • @newcastleandgatesheadartstudio
  • Chilli Studios is a registered charity that delivers services to those who are, or are at risk of experiencing diagnosed mental health problems, and those who experience other forms of social exclusion within their communities.
  • Provides a safe community space for people with mental health challenges offering a safe environment to be creative.
  •  Moved everything online and had to find a way to do that.
  •  Addressing tech needs, needs of members, getting devices and data-provision for those who didn’t have it.
  • Had to work really quickly to move people online and help facilitate creativeness.
  • Hand-delivered creative packs that linked with the workshops that were online.
  • Organised some outdoor activities with North East Wilds.
  •  Focused on being a caring employer and made sure we helped staff, volunteers and freelancers as there was a great risk that they would lose their income.
  •  With the enforced changes had to adopt a new way of working, but new opportunities and skills were embraced because of this.
  • Staff and beneficiaries embraced it.
  • Developed and delivered a fun and engaging programme. It helped that we are a creative based service. It lent itself really well to online workshops.
  •  Feedback was that we want to return as much as possible to face-to-face sessions back in the studio.
  • Evaluations reflect a real desire for the online offer to continue in some form.
  •  How do we meet the challenge of delivering something in a physical space, whilst also providing an online offer - as doing both of these with take up a lot of resources.
  •  Chilli Studios has developed ‘Canny Social’ – an online platform for organisations to work together – offering both an online space for people to be ‘canny together’ and for organisations to share good practice and resources and to pilot new ways of working together.
  • Several local art-based/creative projects already involved, all with a shared interest in an online platform.
  • ‘Canny Social’ is at research and planning stage but is moving quite quickly.

Organisation support category