Resetting the relationship between local and national government. Read our Local Government White Paper

Birmingham City Council: Community Champion Programme and Community Partners

Communication and Engagement Lead (Test and Trace) at Birmingham City Council (BCC), Kulvinder Naga, outlines the council’s Community Champion Programme and working with community partners.

At our most recent webinar on Covid-19 vaccine communications, Kulvinder Naga, Communication and Engagement Lead (Test and Trace) at Birmingham City Council (BCC) outlined the council’s approach to its Community Champion Programme and working with community partners.

The challenge

Birmingham is the most ethnically and culturally diverse city outside London. It has a large youth population, with 46 per cent of residents under 30 years of age. 42 per cent of the population are from Black and Minority Ethnic communities, and there are around 80 different languages spoken in the city. Data has shown that rates of infection were amongst the Black and Minority Ethnic communities, who are also most likely to be hesitant about getting vaccinated, so the council needed a comprehensive approach to engaging with these communities.

Community Champions Programme

BCC built on the model developed by Newham Council, adapting its resources and learning at pace, to launch its own Community Champions Programme in September 2020. Champions were invited to apply via the council website and provide demographic information, email and phone contact details. They were given a code of conduct and welcome back of information. The purpose was ensuring their networks, family and friends are receiving accurate, up to date information.

Champions are supported through weekly live Q&A Zoom calls with the Director or Assistant Director for Public Health, weekly data infographics and text messages to cascade. The council encourages two-way engagement, using Mentimeter and a dedicated inbox. The latest information is also made available on the council’s website.

The council currently 766 champions covering all 69 wards. Initial data collected on demographics indicates that there is good representation of English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, British and Indian. Analysis highlighted the need for more representative from the Bangladeshi community, Caribbean community, White other, under-30s and people who consider themselves to have a disability.

Targeted communication

The council has placed advertorial testimonials profiling its champions across local networks including the Eastern Eye, India Weekly, Pakistan Weekly, Bangladesh Weekly and the Asian Times, amongst others.

Translated ads were run on local community radio stations covering the Asian, Punjabi and Africa Caribbean communities. The council are running a campaign in partnership with Birmingham Updates for the next five weeks, explaining why misinformation on Covid-19 is such a problem for the city. It will advertise for new champions, run a series of videos of champions outlining their experiences, and share myth v truth posts to highlight a specific myth and explain the truth.

Improving engagement

To refine its approach and improve engagement, the council launched a champions survey in January. Open for four weeks, it asked how they shared information with their networks and communities. Facebook and WhatsApp were the most popular answers. 67 per cent said there were no barriers to sharing information. 33 per cent said the barriers were too much information causing stress or having too much information out there.

Next steps

The next steps for the programme include a mixture of digital and non-digital activity:

  • Paid advertising through digital and radio media targeting specific ethnic communities to address barriers and hesitancy
  • Identify key influencers to share messaging to support the uptake of the vaccination with their followers
  • Linking messaging to the road map to help drive down infection rates to enable us to move out of lockdown
  • Continue to share key updates with community champions and community partners to cascade through their own channels (including content in translated languages)

Partners will be appointed through a competitive procurement process to support work on:

  • Increasing the range of accessible information for hard to reach and vulnerable groups to include people with learning difficulties, poor literacy and vulnerable families.
  • Develop arts-based messaging, particularly through different cultural mediums to engage with different ethnic communities.

The team will work with the Youth Services Team to build on programme  and develop a community champion’s programme for children and young people that will foster peer to peer and family sharing of information, advice and guidance on Covid-19. The council will work with the Chamber of Commerce, Asian Chamber of Commerce and other key partners to develop a COVID-19 Business Community Champions approach to focus on engagement with the business community on a sectoral basis focused on hospitality, retail, manufacturing and entertainment.

The council are looking to continue this work for another 12 months to accelerate engagement to support understanding and uptake of the vaccine. It will set up a telephone befriending service to extend engagement with residents with limited digital access.

In July, the council will commission outreach services for vulnerable adults, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, and disabled adults.