Fatima Uygun, Manager Govanhill Baths Community Trust 

Phase 1 story (Spring / Summer 2020)

How have you been able to keep a focus on what matters to people during COVID? 

Our organisation has responded effectively to the pandemic. We have been able to reorganise our programmes and activities to deal directly with the needs of our community at this time. This includes new activities, adapting previous work and developing new partnerships based on discussions with our service users, wider community and service delivery partners. 

What have you had to do differently and what made this possible? 

We are a grassroots organisation, based locally, with little bureaucracy and with a bottom  up approach to service delivery. Because many of our staff live locally, we could quickly  identify what the community needed and how to deliver. Our flexibility meant staff could  support one another on key projects and collaborate on new ideas. 

There is a significant Somali community in the South Side. We reached out to see what  they needed and found members of their community needed support to access food.  They needed reliable halal food but didn’t know where to turn. We have responded and  our staff have developed new relationships with that community too.  

In terms of supporting staff, we introduced new ways to do this and to value their work.  We now meet weekly, have a buddy system, support staff with resources to help them  work at home, offer flexible hours, additional pay/vouchers and counselling services. 

We are now working more strategically with our partners. Previous partnership work with  NHS/Social work, schools, housing association tended to be project based and short term. 

Our role in Health, Women’s and Integration Networks has changed from mainly listening  and observing and instigating small projects (monthly because funding was limited). We  are working more effectively, with smaller themed groups emerging, with funding, to  tackle specific issues around food poverty, racism etc.

What have you noticed that has been better? 

  • Less bureaucracy within social care, statutory organisations, large anchor  organisations has freed up staff to work quickly and more efficiently with  community groups like ours. We have enjoyed working more closely with the  health improvement team.  
  • Quick decision-making processes from funders has helped address issues more  efficiently and positively. Our staff are able to pilot, try out and be creative in  responding to need. 
  • Additional funds have helped us as well as other organisations respond more  creativity to people’s needs. We can deliver higher quality activities. Ie buy data for  service users, buy phones for volunteers. 
  • Supporting service users and community partners with funding, resources and  dedicated staff has built capacity and confidence in people to deliver projects  themselves. We’ve seen a blossoming of skills and confidence in service users to  help, contribute and run things for themselves. 
  • Partnerships been the public and voluntary sector has been positive, a less, ‘me  first’ attitude and more around unity and joined up delivery. 

How did this make you feel? 

We feel like our own views have been confirmed. Community groups and service users  have been saying for a long time that grassroots organisations can make a real difference  to service delivery and have the ability to respond to seismic problems at a local level. It’s  good that the evidence is there to show this.  

What have you learned through this? 

We have learnt that we play a highly important role within the community. An  organisation that people can trust and will offer support. 

We have learnt that we can be flexible and adapt very quickly in a crisis. We have also learnt that we were unprepared for the amount of pressure on our staff and  organisation to deliver for the community. 

We have learnt that funders, statutory organisations can move quickly and have the  resources to commit if they wanted to. 

Anything else you want to tell us? 

On the negative side- 

  • staff are exhausted, often feel isolated, miss social contact with each other and  with service users/wider community. 
  • Staff are working longer hours 

I would like to be more optimistic about what funders, statutory organisations, local and  national governments have learnt from this. I think we have demonstrated now more than  ever that we can be trusted to use resources effectively and with good outcomes for  people. Where are the avenues for us to inform future policy? 

Phase 2 story (Autumn 2020)

Alexandra Krause, Community Engagement Officer Covid-19 / Capacity Building Govanhill Baths Community Trust

What has continued to help keep a focus on what matters for people during the  pandemic? 

  • Ongoing communication with the community groups we supported, listening to  changing needs and aspirations. 
  • Ongoing participation in a number of networks (food relief, mental health,  communication) in Southside Glasgow and beyond. 
  • Ongoing internal monitoring and evaluation of our delivery and targets, adjusting  to demands and carrying capacity.

Are there changes that seem to be lasting longer term and are there things that have  slid back to old ways of doing things?  

Lasting longer: 

  • New methods of working and ways of communicating internally, and ongoing  support to staff as they navigated engaging with the community and their own  personal issues during a pandemic, in a fast-changing environment.  
  • A new perception of the need for modelling practices that include alternative  ways of engaging the community, including those digitally disengaged.
  • A drive to create financially sustainable practices. 

Old ways: 

Not particularly.

What difference has this made to people? 

  • Our ways of engaging with smaller community organisations have been  acknowledged as a mentorship and we have been approached more often for this  kind of relationship. 
  • Feedback from participants in our activities has been overwhelmingly positive,  expressing the importance of maintaining connectivity and engendering  opportunities for communication and wellbeing practices in the community. 
  • Our staff felt supported and able to pace themselves, and understood when it was  just too much.

How did this make you feel?  

Rather proud of working for Govanhill Baths Community Trust. I felt my work ethos was  validated and recognised, and that what we have achieved as a team was really significant  in the community. I felt we were working as a proper team, which is a rare thing.

Reflecting on your experiences, what have you learned?

  • Staff support is absolutely imperative.
  •  Community groups know exactly what they need – the best way of supporting  them is by listening to what they say and supporting them in strengthening their  delivery. 
  • Inequalities are deeply entrenched in our society. Covid-19 has brought to the  surface what is worst and what is best in our community.  
  • All successes were deemed to grassroots community response, and unfortunately  it seems that the Government has heavily relied on this. 
  • There is a desperate need for engaging individuals digitally. 
  • The worst is to come, when fuel poverty will combine with food insecurity and  mental health issues. 
  • We can’t hide our heads in the sand. We need to learn how to work in partnership  with other larger organisations for the delivery of better targets to the various  sectors of the community. This has proven to be difficult, as the silo mentality is  still very much entrenched, and maintained by the ongoing competition for  resources/funding. Funding streams need to acknowledge their role in creating this division in the community and address this attitude. People need to learn to  work together if anything is to change. 

On a personal level, self-awareness and self-care is super important, otherwise  you just get sucked into a black hole of burnout.