As part of our interview series with charity leaders breaking new ground with digital during the pandemic, we spoke to Pasna Sallis, Founding Director of Weekday Wow Factor, a volunteer, occupational therapist led social enterprise delivering leisure activities across Greater Glasgow for people of all abilities. We find out how the organisation adapted and moved forward its digital delivery in response to COVID and discovered the value of partnerships.
1. Can you tell us how Weekday Wow Factor has evolved digitally during the pandemic?
After a Cobra meeting on Friday 13 March 2020, Boris Johnson announced that older, more vulnerable adults were at most risk from the COVID-19 virus. From that moment, I knew we needed plan for digital delivery.
By the Monday morning, we had organised our St Patrick’s Day themed ‘Daytime Discos’ over WhatsApp groups. These had the maximum capacity of four devices, i.e. only four community members at a time. Clearly, we required something bigger that could include more community members. WhatsApp had been a good starting point pre-COVID. We had created a WhatsApp group for our community members and the first tentative foot into digital was simply activating the intimidating WhatsApp video button!
Next, we looked into Skype. This was something a lot of our community members had heard about and some even had old accounts. One by one, and with my limited digital skills, I assisted community members with connecting to Skype but found it difficult to access Skype support. Once I got it set up and running, the music played like a bad radio station. Fortunately, the community members didn’t mind the poor sound quality, they were just pleased to be socially connected with fellow members.
I signed up to the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) digital Zoom learning and support sessions. I found this extremely helpful as it allowed me to learn all about Zoom and build new partnerships. One of the pivotal partnerships was with Leonard Cheshire and Gerri Tait, Digital Inclusion Co-ordinator. We worked closely together and Gerri kindly assisted our community members with adapting to Zoom. To this day, we value this partnership work as we’re now helping more community members use digital platforms.
We have evolved our digital opportunities and currently have a full programme of Zoom activities, such as Daytime Discos, walking/cycling sessions, science lectures, yoga, tai chi, fall prevention exercises, and games hour. We even had Halloween shows written and performed over Zoom by community members in partnership with Beacon Arts Centre.
2. What have you learned along the way?
I have learned to ‘just start’. If I hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have realised the incredible potential of our community members. They are fabulous role models in their 70s and 80s, all learning new skills, such as Zoom, and applying this daily through our programme. We’ve also learned how much further you can go when you work with partners to benefit community members.
Some of our community members will not try using Zoom. However, our communities are resilient and naturally take care of each other. Those who are using Zoom keep in touch with those who aren’t and so a natural social network is formed. We have put in the energy to test our ideas and are now at the refinement stage after two years of work. We’re adding health and safety officers to our exercise sessions, as well as documents, such as our terms and conditions and safety briefs, to our online offering.
3. What are your digital plans for 2022?
We’re planning to expand our services out to Greater Glasgow. We already have some community members from Yorkshire, Sussex and even San Francisco! We hope to build on this and are currently looking to grow our community with local, national and international community members.
4. What would you advise other social sector leaders taking their next steps with digital?
I would advise them to suss out the right digital partners. As our experience has shown, these invaluable partnerships can complement your existing skill set and ultimately enhance the quality and digital delivery of services to benefit more members of your community.