Mutual Aid: Helping volunteers support people who were self-isolating during the pandemic, for free.  

As the world struggled to cope with the recent Coronavirus pandemic, our Claris FileMaker developers wanted to help. There was a growing need to find a way to help people in self-isolation who couldn't leave their homes. Our team worked with Hollingdean Group in Brighton to create a free piece of software to manage volunteers and requests for help.

Delivery

Desktop, Mobile, SMS, Tablet, Web Portal

Technology

What was the opportunity to help?

Mutual Aid organisations had been springing up all over the country to help those self-isolating. Thousands of people had volunteered to help, and these new mutual aid organisations suddenly needed to oversee many requests. At first organisers used colour-coded spreadsheets to manage requests and volunteers. This system quickly became complicated to maintain. We met with the Mutual Aid Group to see how a database could help them better manage the requests that they were receiving.

What was the solution?

Following a meeting with the group, we proposed building a database with Claris FileMaker that would help ease the process. 

  • The system gave users of differing technical skills the ability to access help. They can make requests by Text, Email, or Web form.
  • It provides personal security. People have reassurance that they know in advance who is helping them.
  • People isolating received updates throughout the process. It helped administrators and volunteers:
  • The system provides administrators with one place to manage all requests and volunteers.

Key features

1. Contact Management:
They were able store information about both volunteers and individuals. Along with standard contact details, it also allowed us to store information that could make productivity better, such as whether someone was high-risk, volunteers who have CRB checks, or access to a vehicle. We also recorded whether they have had covid previously in case this could create less risk to someone isolating.

2. Users:
We proposed a user hierarchy for the system. Admin, Super User, and Data Entry. This meant that people could quickly access only the information that was relevant to them.

3. Managing priorities:
Urgent actions were flagged as being needed first, such as a family running out of nappies or an urgent prescription.

4. Dashboard:
We had a process for managing services volunteers would provide, tasks that needed carrying out, and areas for notes and documents. Alerts were shown on a dashboard and they related to people and not just tasks. For example, if a resident is flagged as potentially vulnerable and their database records have not been modified, a task can be created for a volunteer to check on them.

5. Text messages:
We added the ability to send triggered text messages. For example, sending a text message to someone who is isolating to check whether they are satisfied that the task is complete and to ask if there is anything else they need.

6. Accessibility:
One of the biggest challenges when creating a database for such a broad range of people is how they can access it. This is particularly important as many elderly users do not have access to a computer or may not be confident using technology. To facilitate this, we built a system to allow service users (the self-isolated residents) to send a text message to a designated phone number, stating their postcode and what they require. The dashboard was Web-Based meaning volunteers could access it on smartphones and laptops.

How did our work make a difference?

The headline success story here was giving people with limited tech skills access to the capabilities of advanced software. The functionality used the latest technologies, but end users, many of whom were elderly, were sent text messages and email updates. They didn't need to use an app.

Key facts and figures.

Percentage of adults in England who volunteered their time. (20/21 Community life survey).

62%

Approx number of local groups formed during the pandemic (Public Health England Research)

4000

Estimated number of people shielding during the pandemic.

2.2m

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