A pilot podcast was created to support the voluntary and business sectors in the Sevenoaks District in their response to and recovery from Covid-19.
In a series of 9 episodes, the podcasts account journeys that members from these sectors were on and paths they hoped to take. Hosted by a local professional speaking mentor, a member from each sector were recorded having an informal but informative chat. The result is a series of conversations that anyone can listen to when and where they want to, sharing experiences, knowledge, collaborations, ideas and hope so that the District can continue to recover2gether.
During Covid-19 Sevenoaks District Council relaunched the facilitation of a District-wide ‘virtual’ Voluntary Sector Forum (VS Forum). This is chaired by a voluntary sector member. SDC facilitates the Forum and provides administrative and organisational support. The Forum meets regularly and the aim is to be bring together all groups and organisations (whatever their role and size) in the voluntary and community sector to collaborate, share knowledge, best practice and solutions to challenges. The VS Forum was reported as hugely beneficial but there was a growing need to maintain momentum with engagement as the impacts of the pandemic emerged. Other communication channels were needed.
Using an incredibly small budget of £150 and some officer time, to pilot a podcast series that capitalizes on sharing information and generating new connections about the journeys and future hopes of members of the voluntary and business sectors. The link between the voluntary and business sector formed part of the solution as it was apparent that both sectors were forging new ways of working in response to the challenges of Covid-19. The podcast was selected as it enables the sharing of information via a medium that can be accessed when and where an individual wishes offering greater scope for it to reach, connect and benefit more people.
This pilot podcast series has delivered positive impacts on the Sevenoaks District as a whole. It has forged stronger links between the voluntary and business sectors and enabled continued conversations and collaborations. Mary Perrett from Bridges Centre in Edenbridge says, ‘The podcast was brilliant and upbeat! It gave me an opportunity to chat informally about real issues and challenges facing us during COVID. I came away uplifted, recognizing we are not alone and we will come out the other side.’ It has advertised the VS Forum to new groups and organisations in the voluntary sector resulting in increased membership. The benefits of this are that more of the voluntary sector is supported resulting in positive impact on their clients, the Sevenoaks District residents.
It has also showcased the fantastic links that exist and could exist between local businesses and the voluntary sector with obvious resultant community benefits. Julie Phillips, CEO of the Sevenoaks & District Chamber of Commerce says, “It is always valuable to share business experiences with the voluntary sector. There are so many synergies and much to learn from each other. It was great to be involved in the Podcast Series, and to promote more collaboration between Business and the Voluntary Sector. It was great to promote collaboration between businesses and the voluntary sector, it is definitely a win-win relationship.”
It has also enabled the creative space to begin developing further ideas for the use of digitally available communications.
How is the new approach being sustained?
We are in the process of seeking additional funding to support the development of this podcast series and have plans for other digitally available communications.
The key lessons learnt cover three aspects:
The first is in relation to the practicalities of getting the most from guests and the importance of having a host. This helped put guests at ease and gave the podcast more of a friendly ‘chat’ type feel, rather than a formal interview. Guests were more willing to engage and offer their thoughts and experiences which added to the richness of the conversation. This also helped develop depth in the conversation by reflecting back experiences of one guest to the other and hearing their perspective and additional experience. In some episodes links and potential future conversations and collaborations were forged.
The second key area of learning was the depth of understanding gained by some guests with respect to the other guest / organisation. In earlier episodes surprise was expressed along with a mutual respect for the services that were being offer ongoing, despite the restrictions and hardship. In later episodes, existing collaborations had a chance to publicise the other partners and business that had contributed to the success of programmes and the resultant community benefits.
Finally, for Chris Murphy as the host, the problems being shared and power of collaboration were insightful. So many of the problems being experienced by guests were similar to others and the realisation that no one is an island and collaboration is a powerful tool to help navigate these choppy waters. Chris says, ‘It was a pleasure to be part of this project. I valued the experience of setting up a podcast and experiencing the stories of the guest that emphasised the humanity behind the local pandemic efforts to help and support those that needed it most . As a result I am looking to engage with more podcasts and perhaps start my own. My thanks go to Sevenoaks District Council and Jenny Godfrey for the opportunity.’