#WinchesterConnects makes a difference in the digital world

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Charities across Hampshire are adapting by necessity to the socially distanced world of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are turning to digital as a new way of delivering services and working together to face the challenges of the current crisis.

Local charity and council for voluntary sector services, Community First, is facilitating the sector’s move to the online and remote working through a series of virtual networking meetings and webinars. By harnessing digital opportunities, they are successfully continuing to support Winchester District charities as part of their #WinchesterConnects partnership project with Winchester City Council. The #WinchesterConnects Virtual Charity Leaders Network provides opportunities for charity CEOs and Directors to discuss collaborative working and the sector’s response to identified

Community First CEO Tim Houghton has hosted two meetings so far, with the third taking place on Friday 22nd May. Jool Heller-Dixon, CEO of the Carroll Centre in Stanmore, attended the first Virtual Charity Leaders Networking meeting. Jool said:

The Charity Leaders meeting on Friday 24th April was a really timely morale boosting event. The event provided a very welcome forum for me to check-in with my Winchester based colleagues and partners. It was great to hear some familiar voices, be inspired by the good work that is going on and to hear about funding opportunities.

The meetings also provide a forum for exploring solutions and forward-planning in a time when many charities are facing financial and operational challenges. Sue McKenna, CEO of Trinity Winchester, said that she found it an incredibly useful resource to be able to hear
from other charity leaders and talk about their experiences and plans to recover services.

At times like this, the power of working together and collaborating cannot be underestimated. It’s great to share skills and you don’t feel so alone.

Following the successful launch of the Virtual Charity Leaders Network,#WinchesterConnects is providing opportunities for charity staff members and volunteers working at all levels to get together. Community First hosted the first Virtual Charities Get Together on Friday 15th May. Melissa Fletcher, Town Centre and Community Manager at Winchester City Council, attended to take questions from local organisations. Delegates from charities, community centres, and parish councils explored potential online training topics and discussed recovery plans. The meeting also enabled organisations to access further advice, support, and solutions through collaborative working.

Betty Chadwick, a trustee of Winchester Go LD said:

The virtual Get Together that I attended last week was extremely interesting and helpful in terms of practical advice and idea sharing. Winchester Go LD supports adults with learning disabilities. Our members are particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. Of particular importance to Winchester Go LD is looking into how we can start putting together a recovery plan while keeping risk minimal. One practical idea we took from the meeting was offering a ‘walk and talk’ style of support. Another area where we are grateful for Winchester City Council and Community First’s support is in finding access to space to support our members while our office in the Discovery Centre remains shut. We are also extremely grateful for WCC and Community First’s advice and assistance in our fundraising through bids.

If you are a charity leader and you would like to attend the next online meeting on Friday 22nd May, please register via Eventbrite at http://cfirstevents.eventbrite.com/ and subscribe to find out about future events. For more information about #WinchesterConnects and virtual
networking opportunities, please contact Community Development Officer Bruce White at bruce.white@cfirst.org.uk. Community First also announces upcoming meetings and networking events on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/cfirstposts. Charities in need of support and advice can contact Community First directly at support@cfirst.org.uk.

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