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Embracing and thriving in the ‘new normal’

27 January 2021 · Categories: Communities Care, Events

As we approached the end of 2020 it was clear that the global pandemic would unfortunately be seeing in the new year with us, and that hopes of physically bringing together the community enterprise leaders working with Community Catalysts Rochdale along with stakeholders, wouldn’t be realised any time soon.

We needed some good alternatives so our first virtual market place event took place in September.  At this event several community enterprise leaders – offering help and care at home and in the community for older and disabled people – showcased their creative supports, services and activities as part of a Zoom session.  This worked well and we received really positive feedback from those who had attended. It wasn’t quite the same as face to face though and I wanted our next event to be even more interactive and closer to what it would be like if we were able to hold one at a physical venue.  With this in mind, I met with the community enterprise leaders over Zoom and together we coproduced a plan for our next virtual event.  A virtual ‘taster’ event!

The virtual taster event took place on 15th January on Zoom and had more than 40 attendees, including: people from the community such as a community podiatrist, representatives from third sector organisations and various staff members from Rochdale Borough Council such as social workers and those working in direct payments, communities and commissioning teams. Each community enterprise leader ran an interactive taster session in their own breakout room over six sessions. Attendees were able to experience a taster session with each of the community enterprises in small groups of 6-8.   This provided a great opportunity for stakeholders to see the activities and services on offer across the borough, as well as hearing from the community enterprise leaders…

Get up and Grow 

Hayley from Get up and Grow talked about the projects she has been working on during Covid and demonstrated how to make an air plant holder – air plants are really low effort and perfect to incorporate into activities as they don’t need soil or water, they quite literally survive in air!   Stakeholders were able to request an air plant pack following the event to try themselves at home.

One of the air plants used in the Get up and Grow taster session

Your Home Yoga

Debbie and Lou from Your Home Yoga demonstrated two short tasters of yoga and meditation which participants could join in with. All their sessions are suitable for older people, and those with a long-term health condition.

Really enjoyable and interesting session. It was great to have actual demonstrations of services e.g. yoga, making plants and discussions rather than lots of written information and PowerPoint presentations!

Creative Health and Wellbeing

Erica from Creative Health and Wellbeing ran her sessions on a simple art activity which participants completed as part of the session.  A great introduction to her online creative art sessions.


It was a really good format – very engaging and interactive.

Maverick Lab

There was an introduction to Personal Branding training aimed at adults with a learning disability from Daisy and Kathy from Maverick Lab who talked about their training offer around building confidence and using individual strengths.

Tracey’s Kitchen

Tracey from the wonderful Tracey’s Kitchen talked about how she prepares her tasty, nutritious meals using only fresh ingredients and in a variety of portion sizes to suit all appetites.


Rochdale Cycling without Age

And last but by no means least Dianne shared her progress for setting up Rochdale Cycling without Age which will see her and a group of volunteers inviting older people out for bike rides in specially adapted trishaws.

Fantastic feedback

The virtual taster event, like most virtual meetings, wasn’t without technical hitches but the feedback from the community enterprise leaders and the stakeholders who attended was overwhelmingly positive. Attendees enjoyed the breakout aspect of the event which provided a real opportunity to get to know the community enterprise leaders, ask questions and see what they offer.

The breakout rooms were great for experiencing and understanding these great services better

Everyone who attended has said that they would come to the next online event and would recommend similar future events to colleagues.

Absolutely wonderful, would definitely attend again.

Within 48hrs of the event all of the community enterprises who ran a taster session had received new enquiries either direct from customers, or from staff wanting more information. We had a great mix of stakeholders from both social care and health.

Thanks for an excellent session! Lots of lovely people doing lovely things – and very inspiring. Really appreciate these services being shared with us, so we can pass the information on to patients.

When it became apparent that this event would have to run as an online event, I’ll admit that I was disappointed.  As a Community Catalyst I am a people person and I thrive on meeting others and bringing people together face to face.  However, this event and the way the entrepreneurs have reinvented what they do and how they deliver their support and activities, has given me hope that the ‘new normal’ isn’t all bad and it is certainly possible to run a successful online taster event.  For some the fact that it was online made it more accessible.

The community enterprises leaders are all, of course, looking forward to a time when they can get back to face to face sessions but, in the meantime, virtual sessions are a great way of bringing people together and with a little bit of effort can be almost as good as getting together in the ‘real world’.

 I actually think it works really well online – it almost felt more personal.

By Karen Williams – Rochdale Community Catalyst



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