Many of our member organisations bring people together in support or social groups. That kind of contact is even more crucial now to maintain the mental health of sometimes isolated people. But how do you keep in touch when you can’t meet physically?
Lots of solutions are available. Which one you’ll use depends on what technology your staff, volunteers and service users have available and feel comfortable using. The better that is, the more choices you have – so now may be a good time to learn something new. But even if you’ve just got phones, we have suggestions.
Just phones – telephone tree
This is a way of quickly getting information out to a lot of people, without any one person having to do too much work. The first person decides on what information to distribute, and rings up three people, making four people in total. Each of the three people agrees that they will also ring three people – so that’s nine extra people get rung, a total of thirteen. Each of the nine ring three people, which brings your total to forty. And each of those people – there are twenty-seven of them – ring three more, which extra 81 brings your total to 121. The diagram gives you a rough idea of how it works.
Of you could get a bit more sophisticated, and give the more committed people more calls to make, and less involved people fewer calls. Suppose you ring 5 people, each of them rings 4 people, each of them rings 3 more and so on. By the time the last people have made one call each, you’ve reached 326 people.
Smartphones or computers – keeping it simple
Remember that you don’t need a computer to use the internet any more – a smartphone can do almost anything a computer can do. And people who are nervous of using computers, and are unconfident about IT, can find smartphone apps easy to use.
Three out of four people in Britain are on Facebook, so many of your members may be. As you probably know, people can share messages, photos and videos with people who are their “Facebook friends”.
What if you want to create a private area, for example for a mental health support group, where people can post without their friends seeing? Here the answer is to set up a “group”. Some groups are “public” – anyone can join. Others are “private” – you have to ask to join, but non-members can see who the members are. So, if you need to be confidential, be sure to create a “secret” group, where non-members can’t see anything. For help setting up a group, see https://www.facebook.com/help/1629740080681586.
Facebook is a big, complicated app, and some people aren’t keen on social media. An alternative is to use WhatsApp. Here you set up an account using your phone number, join a group and can share photos and videos. It’s like sending texts, only in a group of people. For information about WhatsApp see the website, where you can also download a version for use on computers.
Smartphones or computers – a bit more complicated
Exchanging messages and pictures is great, but it can be even better to see friends’ voices or even see them. Zoom works on any smartphone and many computers (as long as they have a camera, speakers and a microphone – most recent ones do). Until the pandemic began, Zoom was mainly used in workplaces for video conferencing. Now people are using it to chat to friends and hold social events – everything from tea parties to training sessions is happening on Zoom. On Zoom, one person sets up the meeting and invites others to join. There’s an introduction to Zoom, written without techie jargon, here.
Tell us your ideas and how you get on
Lots of groups are being creative with technology – so let us know what’s worked for you, rise issues or ask for help. Email us at email@example.com.