Tackling Digital Exclusion During Covid-19 in Manchester
Our research in September 2020 found that communities in the North West were particularly hard hit by Covid-19, strict lockdown rules and hardship.
In order to address this, and harness the strength knowledge and relationships formed by our staff in Manchester, we delivered an outreach programme to tackle digital exclusion and provide racialised people and communities with accurate information in order to make informed decisions during the pandemic
As a new, Covid-19 response organization, we believed deeply in the power of local community partnerships; these enable us to gain insight, intersectional awareness and deliver activities. We worked with three grassroots and community led organisations to deliver those programme: .
- Let’s Keep Growing: a community-led gardening project working on turning Longsight alleyways and other spaces into friendly, green havens for people and wildlife. We partnered with them to reach their network in South Manchester.
- V2020: central Manchester organisation, enhancing people’s personal development self-confidence and esteem. Our partnership with V2020 enabled us to reach their wide network and knowledge of working with racialized communities in Manchester.
- Partisan: a largely volunteer-run collective and space for independent, community-led DIY and cultural projects focused on the arts. Partisan are a truly community led organisation and based in North Manchester, which gave us a good spread of reach.
Together, these partnerships offered us a reach across Manchester, to racialised people and communities of different ages, backgrounds and interests.
With each of our partners, we conducted a research survey in order to better understand how people were facing digital exclusion, what they needed and the most effective way of supporting them.
In total, our partners completed 100 online surveys, and 20 offline in depth insight interviews. Key themes identified included:
- Misinformation and mistrust of information was a big issue with respondents telling us
- Good mental wellbeing was a challenge, with people requesting ‘fun and relaxing activities to take their minds off things’. over 70% of participants selected this answer to the question ‘what would help you in the coming months?’
- Feelings of loneliness and isolation
To address the lack of trusted information on Covid-19 symptoms and guidelines, as well as the demand for activities we launched a community info-zine making project . A community info-zine is a small self published magazine with information in, designed by the community it aims to serve. The goals of ours was to allow the space for the community to create a zine with information they need and address the three key themes identified in the surveys - misinformation, wellbeing and isolation.
We delivered the community zine making workshop with artist and facilitator Luci Pina. 8 people attended in total; participants came from a range of locations and backgrounds, each with expert knowledge of their communities.
Using the survey responses as a guide for what content to put in the zines, participants sourced, drew or created images, along with vital information such as phone lines supporting those feeling isolated, and how to tell the difference between Covid-19 and a regular cold.
The images people sent were full of love, community; and the one which really brought a glisten to everyone's eye was a man holding a 'hope' sign (you can shop the Hope print here). Luci drew a combination of everyone's images, including the iconic hope sign, which made the centerfold of our zine. The zine was accuracy checked by a Doctor, before it was printed at Tender Hands Press (a woman of colour led printer in Glasgow).
Our partners distributed the info zines to individuals and families facing digital exclusion and struggled to access accurate information online
To further address the research response highlighting people’s need for fun and relaxing activities, we collaborated with our partners Writerz and Scribez to deliver 70 arts and wellbeing activity packs to South Manchester residents facing digital exclusion.
We have further supported Lets Keep Growing with a bursary for delivery of wellbeing activities, enabling us to building a longer term partnership.
- 200 families facing digital exclusion were able to receive an info- zine made by and for their own communities. The content included trusted Covid-19information, resources for where to find help, and messages of solidarity and hope.
- A further 70 received activity packs to help with mental wellbeing and feelings of connectedness.
- 8 participants attended the info zine workshop. By running - and paying for - a community made info zine, members of the community were able to connect and learn new skills, whilst being valued for their time and expert knowledge.
One of our participants, Mo, who took part in the workshop said "It was really interesting. It was something I had not done before and feel that it is a skill that I will share with some of the groups I work with".
Luci, workshop leader said “The project was a really lovely way to connect to professionals and people making a mark in their communities. It was really rewarding for me as a creative to make a community zine that was informative but personal and bespoke to communities in Manchester”