Restarting community activities: the new normal
After a disrupted last two years due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many Australians are trying to continue life under the 'new normal'.
From social distancing to constant hand-sanitisation – it seems that our new normal is now very different and hard to navigate.
Support your community
We know 2021 has been difficult for local teams and activity providers, and for the communities they support. Whilst some community activities have adapted to suit the online world, others have been forced to postpone activities and cancel events.
With all this uncertainty, stress, and hardship – your community needs you now more than ever. If you’ve been out of action for a while, are some tips to get your team ready to re-start activities and support your community.
- Stay up to date with safety advice. Though it may be hard to keep up, it’s important to be aware of what restrictions are in place and the current health advice, especially when engaging face to face with your community. Check reliable government updates and information in relation to COVID-19.
- Safety first. It is recommended to have an available supply of hand sanitiser on hand for face to face meetings or activities involving the wider community. Make sure to follow the state/territory’s government advice as to what level of protection is appropriate (masks/gloves etc). See also, Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources.
- Be flexible and adaptable. Things have changed and will continue to change for quite some time. If your initial activities are no longer possible, think about how you can achieve the same goals through a different method. Develop backup activities and list the risks involved should the restrictions increase again, so that you can be prepared. See how some Local Drug Action Teams have changed the course of their activities.
- Consider working online more often. Whilst many organisations were forced to move online temporarily as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, some have realised the benefits and are considering making the switch permanent. Working online can be more efficient and can help with cost savings, less paper waste and in many cases increase productivity and professionalism. Holding team meetings online may be beneficial, especially if members need to travel large distances to get together. Platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams are free to use and give participants the opportunity to join from anywhere with an internet connection. See the creative ways some of our Drug Action Teams have run activities in an online environment.
- The advantages of virtual community activities. Though virtual events may not be applicable for all situations, there are some advantages of holding events and activities online. Many community groups may be feeling hesitant to run face-to-face events, even when infection rates are low. Virtual events give the possibility of more participants (for those unable to travel), have a very low cost to manage (compared to hiring out a venue, insurance, catering, etc). With platforms such as Eventbrite you can easily manage the event, the guest list and even get fast and valuable data. See the creative ways some of our Drug Action Teams have run activities in an online environment.
- Be aware of community changes. Whilst many of us may be entering the ‘new normal’, others have been impacted more drastically. Before jumping back into your activities as run previously, consider if the impact of COVID-19 could affect your target audience and the activity itself. Conducting a survey or poll within your target audience might help to decide if this activity needs to be adapted further to suit the community. Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey) is a free tool that could be used to get actionable insights and a fresh perspective.
- Mental health is key. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic plus physical distancing and isolation can make us feel anxious, stressed and worried. Make sure to look after your mental wellbeing and those around you. Remember to look after your physical health, stay connected, take breaks, limit your news, reach out to others and seek support if you need it. Beyond Blue has launched a dedicated coronavirus online and phone support service.
- Check the new data. New data from the National Drug Strategy House Survey has been released, offering an update on the state of alcohol and other drug use in Australia. This information will be of interest to many community organisers, and may offer insights that can help you develop your next steps. Read the ADF Insight for an overview of the data and full report.
If you are still under strict lockdown restrictions or simply don’t feel comfortable or safe moving out of isolation just yet, there are ways to continue moving forward with community activities from home!