Somerset celebrates emergency volunteers

To continue Volunteers’ Week celebrations, registration has opened for the 4th annual Somerset Resilience event, with residents invited to sign up to a month of free, interactive online training with emergency incident responders and volunteer organisations. Volunteers’ Week celebrates the contribution volunteers make, recognising the huge positive impact they have, with many of these volunteers key to their community’s emergency preparedness.

The ‘Somerset Prepared’ partnership is organising the resilience event which will run across October. Throughout the month, there will live online talks, videos, toolkits and training which aims to help communities become better prepared for emergency situations, as well as looking at wider preparedness measures that anyone can take.  

Anyone who registers will receive a goody bag and information pack, and weekly emails throughout October, signposting to pre-recorded videos and written toolkits on a variety of subjects.  

Somerset Prepared co-chair and Environment Agency organiser Hannah Ovett said: “Interactive events like this are an excellent way to raise awareness with local communities and individuals and help them to take vital steps in preparing for an incident, which could ultimately save lives.  

“The month’s sessions will cover a range of subjects from how to use Natural Flood Management to Food Resilience and First Aid, and will also feature case studies from communities who have written and used emergency plans during incidents.”  

“The community chat sessions will be a great opportunity for groups to hear from each other, share their experiences and get together in a safe, online environment, whilst the training workshops are scheduled to help with topics we are consistently seeing raised by communities, including recruiting volunteers, how to assess risk and GDPR.” 

Sessions will be led by a range of organisations including the Environment Agency, South West Ambulance Service Trust, Communities Prepared, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, Somerset Rotary, Somerset Civil Contingencies Unit, Spark Somerset, and Community Council for Somerset.   

To attend this free event, residents can register their interest on the Somerset Prepared website www.somersetprepared.org.uk.  

From floods to pandemics: adapting to COVID-19

Andrew Turner is the Emergency Officer for Sixpenny Handley and Pentridge Parish Council in Dorset, whose role until COVID-19 largely covered groundwater flooding. Here, he discusses how he and his team of community volunteers adapted to the impact of COVID-19.

Can you explain some of the steps you took to adapt to COVID-19?

I started to review our Community Emergency Plan in February 2020 as more COVID 19 outbreaks were occurring. At this point, I had planned out the workings of our Flu Friends support group but had no community volunteers. In early March I put posters up around the village with my contact details asking for volunteers. Within a week I had 18 and by the time the lockdown occurred I had over 80. I divided the Parish into areas based on the number of houses and allocated a team to each with a Leader and Deputy. I also established a Phone Buddy team, made up of people in the community with appropriate skills or those who wanted to be involved but couldn’t as they had to self-isolate.

We sent letters to residents, explaining how to order food from our local shops and arranging for prescriptions to be collected. This was issued along with a newsletter explaining what we were doing and helping keep people informed. We’ve kept the newsletters going and each one has had a different angle, including good news stories and reminders about key safety aspects.

Everything we have established through COVID-19 needs to be maintained so that we have a package ready should it be needed again.

How did you find the process of adapting?

It was very quick to get the group up and running because I had done the groundwork with the plan and received a lot of community volunteers willing to support those having to isolate. Our Dorset Councillor was and is very supportive and I have a call each week with the Parish Council to keep them up to date. However, making decisions in the beginning, based on what I felt was the right thing to do, was very difficult; no county wide communication loop had been established and I did feel very isolated as a result.

Within the team I have maintained weekly calls with the Team Leads, Phone Buddies and Reserve volunteers. This ensures we have a chain of command and consistent messaging as well as the ability to feed back. I gather stats from each team every week and collate these to establish how much ‘work’ we are undertaking. Initially, this was to know whether any team was overloaded, and is broken down in terms of shopping, prescriptions and phone calls. As we gathered data, I have been able to build a profile and can now see we have a steady volume of trips and calls that is sustainable within the team.

How did you use social media and other communication tools during the crisis response?

I set up a Facebook page and a group in the NextDoor app to push information out – either updates on our group’s activities or output from the GOV.UK daily update. This information also gets uploaded onto our community website, so those not using Facebook or NextDoor can still access it. I have also set up a free Microsoft Teams area where all our documents are stored.

I used the Communities Prepared website for information and guidance in setting the support team up and continue to check back for other resources to utilise.

Have there been any key learnings from this experience that you’ll take forward?

Everything we have established through COVID-19 needs to be maintained so that we have a package ready should it be needed again. I made use of Communities Prepared training/briefing packs to ensure we were covering the right scope at a realistic level and to inform community volunteers joining the team. Engagement within the community has been key to the success of the plan and so we need to ensure we maintain this going forward. We need to work with Dorset Council to ensure we are better integrated.

Will you maintain engagement with the new volunteers you’ve acquired through the pandemic? If so, how do you see them playing a role in future emergencies?

Yes, when we’re able to meet, I want to workshop the whole experience to gather everyone’s thoughts and ensure we track what we did but also what could have been done better. With this information I will update the Pandemic Flu plan for future use. I also want to keep everyone registered so that I can contact them periodically and look at how we can extend other areas of our overall emergency plan if needed.

What stage is your community at now? Are you looking at crisis recovery?

We are continuing our support model and expect to align this with the overall Government recommendations.

Andrew Turner sitting with his dog

As lockdown restrictions ease, communities will be starting to look at ways to rebuild and strengthen. Our free upcoming webinar takes a practical look at how community volunteer groups & Town & Parish Councils can assist with crisis recovery. Book here.

Building resilience in rural communities

Communities Prepared (a Groundwork South programme) and Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) have published a new guide to help rural communities become more resilient in the face of emergencies.

Drawing on the experience of local rural charities and existing initiatives, the guide provides practical tips for rural residents to prepare for, and help each other, at times of crisis. It shows how volunteer groups can be set up to develop emergency plans that identify local risks, and maps out the resources and support that can be mobilised should situations arise that threaten the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of people in the local area.

A tractor clears snow from a roadway after the Beast From The East Winter Storm.

Financial backing for the guide has been primarily provided by The Prince’s Countryside Fund, with additional support from The National Lottery Community Fund.

Zoey Ayling, Programme Manager for Communities Prepared said: “As the outbreak of Covid-19 has demonstrated, unexpected events can and do happen, threatening the way of life we have become accustomed to. Sometimes the impact on individuals and the services that support them can be severe, with recovery taking months, if not years. That’s why we created this guide to help communities plan ahead, offering information and practical guidance on how to identify risk, understand the key roles during an emergency and pull together to build long term resilience.”

The guide features stories where rural communities took a proactive approach to anticipating and responding to emergency situations. These include the delivery of hot meals to residents in Caddington, Bedfordshire, who were left without electricity and gas after heavy snowfall, and community and voluntary organisations that joined together to help residents and businesses recover following the extensive flood damage caused by Storm Desmond in 2015.

David Emerson, ACRE’s Chair said: “We are delighted to publish this guidance with Communities Prepared, which builds on the ACRE Network’s rich heritage of helping rural communities to help themselves – sometimes at the most difficult of times – by making the most of their local knowledge, capacity and resources. In contrast to their urban counterparts, rural communities are not well served by public infrastructure and services so initiatives led by volunteers can make a tremendous difference to the wellbeing, livelihoods and security of everyone locally. This way of working has been demonstrated brilliantly in the context of Coronavirus – when we are seeing rural communities across England taking a lead on local responses to the pandemic, from good neighbour schemes to village halls being used to distribute food parcels.”

Building community resilience to challenges also has many other benefits beyond the emergencies. Examples in the guide show how this can also bring about environmental improvements, foster new community networks, and underpin social cohesion.

A close up of a person’s gloved hand picking up a plastic bottle from leaves on the ground.

This essential guide will make it possible for everyone in the countryside to recognise the risks to their community, understand what can be done to prepare for them, and be familiar with the emergency actions that can be taken in conjunction with other agencies should the worst happen.

Celebrating community emergency volunteers

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week 2020, we chatted to Calum, aged 25, who started volunteering with the Bradford on Avon Town Council Community Emergency Volunteers (CEVs) in February. Paul Robertson, who heads up our training and development for the Communities Prepared programme, is the group’s senior coordinator.

This interview with Calum took place before the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown. The group has since been on duty for over 10 weeks, providing deliveries to the vulnerable and self-isolating in the community around the clock. A further 10 volunteers have joined the team during the pandemic, including many younger members of the community who have been either furloughed, home working, or back from university.

What motivated you to sign up as a community emergency volunteer?

I had always had in mind that I would get involved in volunteering at some point in my life, but I think there’s a danger as a young person with university and employment pressures to think, “I’ll get myself set up first, then I’ll do it.”’ Even though I’m currently in a bit of a transitional phase, I felt that I was perfectly capable of giving up the odd evening and/or weekend to volunteer.

To my shame, I thought it might contain a bit of a busy-body element, but the reality is far from that and is quite admirable.

Can you tell us a bit about your role and how you support the community?

I was hesitant at first about the idea of a local community support group. To my shame, I thought it might contain a bit of a busy-body element, but the reality is far from that and is quite admirable.

We operate, to a certain degree, as a voluntary extension of a variety of public services, helping with some of the lower level tasks. For example, during the flooding, we helped the Environment Agency monitor water levels as well as the flood barrier. I’ve yet to be involved in such activities but I believed they’ve also supported the NHS in getting doctors to their area of operations during poor weather and helped the local authority transport department. With the group training and equipment we receive, you really get a sense you’re part of a professional outfit.

How do you fit the role in around your professional and social life?

It hasn’t taken up much time so far, but on the occasions that I’ve had a late evening or given up an odd day at the weekend, I just try to remember the many other people across the country who find time to volunteer with far busier schedules than me. 

Do I feel a sense of appreciation towards people who volunteer? Yes. Is there anything stopping me from doing something like that myself? No. I just want to feel like I’m contributing.

What do you get out of volunteering with the group? Why is it important to you?

For me fundamentally, it comes down to two questions: do I feel a sense of appreciation towards people who volunteer? Yes. Is there anything stopping me from doing something like that myself? No. I just want to feel like I’m contributing.

How do you see climate change affecting your role as a volunteer moving forwards?

Climate change played a part in my thinking when considering volunteering. I think a lot of people have a sense that we might be in stall for more frequent adverse weather conditions. As such, I think the training around the community response to these situations will get more of an impetus, even though it’s quite developed already for things like flooding and snow conditions. 

What would you say to encourage more young people to get involved in their local community emergency volunteer group?

Once you’ve done the odd thing with a voluntary group, be it an hour a week or a weekend a month, it tends to fit quite comfortably into your day-to-day life. I’d emphasise to younger people to just join the first meeting to find out more information and get an idea of what’s involved. And although this shouldn’t be the principal motivation, most employers love to see voluntary commitments on a CV. 

A note from senior coordinator, Paul, on the impact of COVID-19 on the group and how they’ve adapted during this challenging time:

Despite previously having trained with Wiltshire Council on public health emergencies, nothing prepared us for the intensity of work over the last 2 months. So far we have undertaken over 200 individual tasks from shopping and medication deliveries in partnership with the town’s spontaneous volunteer neighbourhood ‘street champion’ network, as well as putting up information posters around town on behalf of the Town Council and assisting with furniture deliveries for a homeless charity whose client was moving into an unfurnished flat.

Whatever the task, our volunteers have brought a friendly smile and in some cases, home-picked flowers to spread some cheer to those self-isolating.

Calum has fitted right into our COVID-19 response and, after some online training and mentoring, has even undertaken coordinator responsibilities, managing the volunteers as they respond to requests for help across our community.

It has been a privilege to be the senior coordinator for such a committed, cheerful, and eager group of volunteers, who have lost none of their enthusiasm after 10 weeks. They, along with every other volunteer across the country, should feel rightly proud of the important work they have done.

A close-up of two volunteers in front of a car, facing away from the camera. Both volunteers are dressed in high-vis clothing and are carrying boxes.
Photo credit: Lydia Booth Photography
A volunteer helps move a bed onto the back of a 4x4 vehicle. Another volunteer can be seen in the background.
Photo credit: Lydia Booth Photography

Thank you to Calum, the Bradford on Avon Town Council Community Emergency Volunteers, Lydia Booth and to all volunteers across the country for their incredible efforts and dedication to community resilience. Thank you!

Coronavirus case studies: NALC

Local (parish and town) councils across England are galvanising their staff and volunteers to take action and look after the most vulnerable in their communities during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the country being in lockdown, local councils are stepping up to coordinate emergency action plans which include support groups, buddy schemes and the collecting and delivering of shopping and medication. Others have donated funds and food to their local food bank. Some are putting vulnerable and self-isolating residents in touch with businesses who are delivering food. Many are collaborating with other local councils, principal authorities and third sector organisations – to ensure a coordinated effort to help as many people as possible.

Local councils, as the first tier of local government, are closest to their communities and their coordinated efforts are a crucial contribution to the national effort to keep on top of the pandemic.

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has worked closely with the sector to gather a collection of case studies on local councils as an exemplar of the essential work that they are carrying out to help their communities during the pandemic.

Local councils, as the first tier of local government, are closest to their communities and their coordinated efforts are a crucial contribution to the national effort to keep on top of the pandemic. This show of leadership is seen through many examples, such as:

  • Cottenham Parish Council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, organised 140 volunteers who are performing tasks such as shopping, collecting prescriptions and making friendly phone calls. Through the General Power of Competence, the council is using its website to become a pre-payment shopping system, in conjunction with the local Co-op store, to allow volunteers to multi-buy for residents. For elderly residents unable to use that system, the council is using a Monzo card which can be used by the volunteers to pay for the shopping directly.
  • Yate Town Council, Avon, is working with representatives of churches, Neighbourhood Watch groups and a Facebook group followed by 2,500 residents wishing to assist. It awarded the local food bank an emergency grant of £4,000, donated food from the closure of cafés, 750 Easter eggs and organised a virtual Easter competition. It has also given £4,500 to aid community groups and will provide activities and support to home educators.
  • Midhurst Town Council, Sussex, helped set up a volunteer group, Midhurst Angels, which is putting businesses, charitable societies, community groups and residents in touch with each other. It is coordinating the local café, the greengrocers, the butcher and other companies which have all offered to deliver food. It is also ensuring volunteers have been DBS checked and are First Aid trained.

The case studies showcase best practice and demonstrate actions that benefit not only those at high-risk and vulnerable but every resident. For more, read the full NALC Coronavirus case studies publication.

Claire Goldfinch is project officer at the National Association of Local Councils, having joined in 2019.
Established in 1947, the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is a membership organisation and the only national body representing the interests of local (parish and town) councils. NALC works in partnership with county associations to support, promote and improve local councils.

Communities Prepared complements the work of NALC and other national organisations by providing training and support for town and parish councils looking to set up community emergency volunteer groups. For more information and to find out how we can help, please get in touch.  

Community resilience in the time of Covid-19

To say we are in the midst of an extreme event would be an understatement. As a result of Covid 19, the whole world is having to readjust to new routines and ways of living. Frontline workers and essential services are working harder than ever and at risk of burnout and getting ill themselves, or worse. This global pandemic is having an impact on our personal and professional lives and the role of the community is more important than ever.

But what do we mean and define as community now? Most people
associate the word community with a geographical space, and although this is
still true, we are now restricted from accessing those geographical spaces in
the traditional way. We also often call our fitness group a community, or our
profession, as well as our neighbourhood. These communities are moving to
online spaces and are reiterating the importance of connection and shared
experience within the context of this extreme situation we find ourselves in.

The passion and commitment that is taking place to create these online spaces is evidence that we as individuals and communities need to connect in order to thrive as well as survive.

Our recent research focused on looking at building community resilience in response to extreme events in Scotland. We held interactive workshops with communities, academics, local organisations, emergency services and local and national government to explore our understanding of resilience and supporting or developing communities.

Our group identified seven main components essential to developing and sustaining a resilient community. These were:

  1. Experience and shared memory: This is extremely evident at the moment in our current situation with Covid-19. We are learning what matters to us, what symbols and rituals of community are of particular importance and recognising the attachment we have to particular places. Collectively we are acknowledging our shared experience and the impact this is having on our sense of selves and community.
  2. Leadership, engagement and shared responsibility: We are likely still figuring this part out, but what is evident is that leadership is emerging in a variety of forms and there is a shared responsibility for supporting everyone through this experience. There has been clear leadership from employers and from government, and also from community groups, individuals and small businesses.
  3. Social ties and wider connections: Our need for connection is stronger than ever right now. The things that link us together such as sports, interests, cultural experiences, religious events, coffee shops, libraries and other shared spaces have all shifted into an online space. It is taking time to adjust to this new way of interacting , however the passion and commitment that is taking place to create these online spaces is evidence that we as individuals and communities need to connect in order to thrive as well as survive.
  4. Mindset, collective thinking, openness to adapt and cultural change: This is also an incredibly important aspect of community resilience that has emerged through this current Covid-19 crisis. We need to be able to adapt to this new way of being in order to keep going. We need to acknowledge that there are different ways of working, different ways of knowing and different ways of interacting with the physical and natural world that need to be embraced and celebrated. This is not an easy process and we need to support each other through these learnings.
  5. Integration, inclusivity, equity and diversity: With the move to online spaces and the recognition that this crisis is happening to communities all over the world, we are able to see how diverse we are in how we are managing with our new routines. With the prevalence of social media being at the front of how we are staying connected, we are able to see the importance of needing to include everyone’s voice and experience within our collective healing efforts.
  6. Communications, social support and co-ordination: Much like the above points, the importance of clear communication and co-ordination cannot be under-emphasised. We have seen how different countries and communities have responded to this crisis and the impact of sharing accurate information appropriately in order to co-ordinate logistical processes and support communities. Communities need to be able to trust communication they receive, but also need to be trusted to form themselves and establish communication, support and processes that are specific to their own needs.
  7. Training and identifying local needs: This experience is calling on a variety of skills and training in order to be recognised and nurtured. It is essential that communities are able to act on their own strengths and weaknesses in order to support their action in an emergency situation.

With the prevalence of social media being at the front of how we are staying connected, we are able to see the importance of needing to include everyone’s voice and experience within our collective healing efforts.

We have seen extraordinary community responses to managing this unprecedented time that we find ourselves in. From orchestras performing live from their own houses, to neighbours finally getting to know each other by supporting those that cannot leave their home to get the basic necessities, to coming together and clapping for those in the health and social care services that are working overtime to get us all through this. These acts are essential to building resilience so that our communities can come through this stronger than before.

Dr Sandra Engstrom
Bio: Dr Sandra Engstrom is a lecturer in social work at the University of Stirling. Her research tends to focus on the socio-emotional impact of climate change and community resilience to extreme events.

Thank you to the University of Stirling’s Extremes in Science and Society research programme for helping shape the development of Communities Prepared’s public health module. Click here for more information and to download for free.

Responding to Coronavirus: Communities Prepared launches Public Health Volunteer training

With the world battling the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and increasing levels of fear and uncertainty, harnessing the power of community action has never been more important. Across the world communities are adapting in the face of adversity. Many existing flood and emergency volunteer groups have extended their services to offer support to people self-isolating and new groups have formed to assist the most vulnerable with accessing food and medical supplies and reducing isolation.  In response to this, Communities Prepared has developed training resources to help Community Emergency Volunteers and spontaneous local groups better understand public health emergencies and their potential role in supporting community resilience at this time.

To ensure we provide the most up to date information that
is reflective of latest government guidance on Covid-19 and responds to the
needs of community volunteer groups, we will make periodical updates to our
public health training module and cue card.

Our latest update was made on 30/03/2020 to reflect latest government guidance, the launch of the NHS volunteering programme and to incorporate feedback from key partner organisations. You can see the marked changes to the presentation and the cue card or simply download via the buttons above.

These resources have been designed to be used by anyone
keen to volunteer and support vulnerable members of their community during a
public health emergency such as the current Covid-19 pandemic. The information
provided is reflective of the wider context, but can be adapted and tailored by
volunteers and groups for use in their own community.

For any questions on these updates, please get in touch at communitiesprepared@groundwork.org.uk

Course objectives

  • What is a public health emergency
  • Types of public health emergency
    • Pandemics
    • Temperature extremes
    • Hazardous chemical or bacteria release
    • Local communicable disease
  • Who does what in a public health emergency
  • Your role before a public health emergency
  • Your role during a public health emergency
  • Your role after a public health emergency
  • Safety during a public health emergency
  • Triggering a call out
  • Coronavirus pre-briefing

These materials are a clear, concise and informative way that community resilience and knowledge is developed, both for an event such as COVID-19 that we are currently facing, but also future events we will encounter with, for example, changing climates and the knock-on effects on communities, large and small.

Dr Tony Robertson, Lecturer in Social Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Stirling

Thank you to the University of Stirling’s Extremes in Science and Society research programme for helping shape the development of this public health module

The module has been invaluable in our community response to the ongoing public health emergency – it’s helped to inform both Councillors and volunteers, to make sure that people are acting safely and are getting the information they need to support each other.

Councillor Dom Newton, Leader of Bradford on Avon Town Council

Contact us to find out about online training sessions with one of our training officers or call our non-emergency advice line on 0117 910 3930 if you have any questions. You can download the training pack for your own use and adapt it accordingly.

Hear Senior Project Officer for the programme, Paul Robertson, delivering the training as a webinar to volunteers in Wiltshire. Listen here.

SSEN funding and assistance helps keep ‘Communities Prepared’ across Dorset and Wiltshire

Through SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund (RCF), over £30,000 has been awarded to Groundwork South to deliver Communities Prepared to communities within a two-year period, working with volunteer groups to build community resilience to floods and other severe weather emergencies; a priority in the context of climate emergency. In-person training, a first-of-its-kind online resilience hub and an advice line are all features of the support package on offer to communities, with resources designed to be adaptable across multiple emergencies, including snow, fire and utilities failure.

Groundwork South is a not-for-profit organisation supporting
communities and working with a range of partners to create social, economic and
environmental improvements by enabling both communities and individuals across
the south of England to make positive changes to their lives and
neighbourhoods. Communities
Prepared
is one of its flagship projects, providing people around the
country with the knowledge and tools to effectively prepare for, respond to and
recover from, severe weather emergencies, while strengthening working
relationships with the emergency services and other key local stakeholders.

Across Dorset and Wiltshire, the programme has identified
fifteen communities with a combined population of over 81,000, who will be
invited to take part in locally held workshops; there they will be introduced
to the project, given an outline of the training on offer and the opportunity
to network and share experiences. Presentations from key agencies and
discussions on community resilience to floods and severe weather emergencies,
volunteering opportunities and the support on offer from Communities Prepared
will be part of the workshops, with coordinators and members of existing local
flood warden, community emergency volunteer groups, community representatives
from the surrounding parishes and emergency professionals in attendance.

Based on interest from coordinators, Communities Prepared
will then run training sessions for individual groups, tailored to their needs
and priorities. These will offer a choice of modules, covering a range of
issues including flooding, snow, fire and utility failure, delivered with
support from the Environment Agency and local Cat 1 and 2 responders.  The
programme will also support groups in developing and testing their community
emergency plans, and offer guidance on other issues such as fundraising,
communications, risk assessments and insurance as required; this will be
complemented by an online community resilience hub, offering free resources and
advice.

The first workshop has already been delivered in Marlborough Town Hall, where SSEN’s Customer and Community Advisor, Helen Vass spoke to the attendees about SSEN’s ongoing work with local parish councils and community groups. She said:

“We were delighted to take part in this first workshop of many that aims to improve the resilience of local communities. SSEN has well established links with local organisations and parish councils, so to be able to bring those relationships and knowledge to other groups and locals residents helps us all to build stronger communities.”

Imogen Smith, a Senior Project Officer for Communities Prepared, helped organise the Marlborough workshop. She said:

“It was great to see so many community representatives and partners at our first SSEN funded event and such enthusiasm for community resilience. We look forward to rolling out our training and support to community volunteer groups across Wiltshire and Dorset over the next two years and thank SSEN for making this possible.”

In its latest round of annual grants – distributed in autumn 2019 – SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund (RCF) has awarded over £185,000 to the successful applicants across its south network area. 

This most recent round of funding is the first where support has been extended to projects which achieve one of the following criteria:    

  • Vulnerability – to protect the welfare of vulnerable community members through enhancing their resilience and improving community participation and effectiveness.
  • Resilience for Emergency Events – to enhance community facilities, services and communication specifically to support the local response in the event of a significant emergency event.

In addition to the Resilient Communities Fund, SSEN has been working closely with local communities in the south east of England, helping them create resilience plans for emergencies, such as adverse weather and possible power disruption during winter storms. SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund will re-open for applications in the spring of 2020. Guidelines and applications forms are available on SSEN’s website: www.ssen.co.uk/RCF/England/ with a full report on the fund available here – https://www.ssen.co.uk/RCF/.

Set up in 2014 as a two-year pilot scheme, SSEN has pledged to extend the fund to 2023 using a proportion of the income it receives from the industry regulator Ofgem in relation to its stakeholder engagement performance.

Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks

Communities Prepared provides training and support for volunteer groups on fundraising, which includes guidance on writing and submitting funding applications. For more information, please contact us. To download our introduction to community fundraising, please register here.

Building community resilience to climate change: insights from the social psychology of groups

In our work we apply principles from the social psychological theory of groups to identify the elements that can make communities respond and recover more effectively from disasters. The key term here is ‘shared social identity’, which refers to people’s sense of belonging in the same social group. Social groups play a key role in disasters. During disasters people spontaneously form groups and provide each other practical and emotional support. In social psychological terms, it appears that residents come to share a social identity, which is the basis of what has been termed as ‘collective psychosocial resilience’. This refers to ‘the way that a shared identity allows groups of survivors to express and expect solidarity and cohesion, and thereby to coordinate and draw upon collective sources of support’ (Drury et al., 2019, p.1). This approach is aligned with what is now termed the ‘social cure’ – the notion that groups can positively affect wellbeing by providing their members with a sense of belonging and social support. Since groups that spontaneously appear in disasters can play a key role in mobilising social support and enhancing community resilience, two key questions emerge – how do such groups emerge and how do they evolve in the post-disaster period?

In relation to their emergence, we conducted interviews with residents of York, UK, shortly after the 2015 flooding. We found that residents came to experience a shared social identity due to experiencing common fate. For some, this sense of common fate came from experiencing the same distressing incident. For others, it was the experience of community-wide problems following the floods such as looting or organising to tackle the perceived inefficiency of the local authorities. Nevertheless, shared social identity became the psychological basis for the mobilisation of practical, emotional, and collective support, as well as increased expectations of support from others perceived as fellow group members. Similar findings come from a range of disasters and mass emergencies such as the 2010 Chile earthquake and the 2005 London bombings.

We were also interested in how emergent groups endure or decline in the aftermath of the disaster. We interviewed York residents 15 months after the floods, finding that shared social identity had declined for some participants due to the absence of common fate. Importantly, some participants from minority groups reported inequality and discrimination in relation to the social support they received, which eroded the initial sense of togetherness. However, for others shared social identity persisted. For some, the bonds formed during the disaster persisted long after the aftermath. Also, receiving social support was positive in maintaining residents’ sense of belonging, whereas a third group actively maintained the identity associated with the community spirit through commemorations to celebrate the community’s recovery.

Overall, we argue that community resilience theory, policy, and practice should incorporate current understandings of group psychology. Further attention should be paid to emergent groups, and their operation should be considered in planning guidance. Also, a key task is to consider how community groups can be maintained. The provision of shared spaces that facilitate interaction and strengthen bonds between residents, as well as allowing the expression of community identity through commemoration can assist in strengthening residents’ bonds as well as increase trust towards the authorities. After all, community resilience isn’t only a matter of infrastructure but also of appropriate social relationships.

By Dr Evangelos Ntontis

Biography: Dr Ntontis is a lecturer in social psychology at the School of Psychology, Politics, and Sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University. He completed his PhD at the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex in 2018 and was a member of John Drury’s ‘Crowds and Identities’ research group. His interests lie in collective behaviour and the ways it can be shaped by our group identities.

Dr Evangelos Ntontis

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