Making Connections between People in Need and People who can Help

This is the heart of the project. Here we describe the ways in which we are building this new system for bringing people together in Dorset.

What we know

From recent reports published by the Dorset Community Foundation we know that there are as many as 7,000 groups and organisations that provide support and help to Dorset residents. These include statutory, charitable, independent and informal groups of all kinds. Some of these groups only work in a small geographical area. Some of these groups are "unknown" outside of their locality. Their work is immeasurably important and is the bedrock of our society.

Over the years, and in different settings, various attempts have been made to centralise the information about these groups. Some of the lists of larger organisations have been kept up to date, or at least their details haven't changed, but in most cases it has been difficult or impossible to keep pace with the changes that happen in this sector of our community. New services and groups spring up weekly, and others quietly wane over time as their services are no longer needed, or they struggle to sustain themselves.

There have also been various attempts at signposting people in need to the groups that can help. In reality this has often been rather fragmentary, with "silos" of information being managed by different organisations, often with little overlap or relation between them. Hence information for dementia support may not be found in the same place as information about benefits or childcare and housing support, even though there may be complex related issues that need to be addressed.

One of the key restrictions on keeping the data up to date is the fact that most of it is managed by a third party. The groups and service providers have no direct control over their data. This means that changes and updates often get "lost in translation".

Keeping it Live

These challenges are addressed directly through this project.

We want people to be able to refer one another to be part of the project. "Invite your friends" is key to us discovering and highlighting groups and organisations and the services they provide. We want "Help and Kindness" to become really plugged in to these networks, especially if they're only known about by word of mouth.

We also want people to "own" their data. The groups and organisations will be able to manage their own listings, update their service information and manage their presence on the site. We'll be keeping them notified and reminded to ensure their data is accurate and up to date and encouraging the organisations to manage the updates themselves.

Joining Together and Making Connections

The result of the growth of this network on the website will mean it should be far easier to find answers to the two key questions that people are asking:

  1. What activities are happening in my area?
  2. What support is there for my particular needs?

It will also be possible to learn about the opportunities and needs of the groups providing help too. They'll be able to post requests for help and support that will be presented to the public in answer to the following questions:

  1. How can I help with a particular issue?
  2. Who needs help with providing support locally?

As none of us are entirely in one state or the other, the site should embody the holistic experience of giving and receiving help that is experienced by most people every day. We hope that it will feel familiar and intuitive to use, and be an easy service to use, whether you're looking for help or offering it.

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Further Reading

Partners, Clients and Friends

Through our work at Alacrify and our wider involvement in the community we've been helping and listening to the experiences of many different people, organisations and agencies in Dorset and further afield.