On the 12th of March 2020 Oxford Hub set up Oxford Together, a volunteering programme designed to help Oxford residents affected by COVID-19. This mobilised a city-wide response, bringing together community organisations, local groups, Oxford City Council and a network of over 5,000 volunteers.

Over the past few months we have been focusing on creating more connections among neighbours in the city, keeping people safe and well during lockdown, but also building friendships between people who wouldn’t otherwise have met. We have seen neighbours swapping recipes over the phone, buying lettuces for tortoises, or even digging a grave for someone’s cat

At the heart of this work is our core belief about connection – we thrive when we come together. It’s been amazing seeing people across Oxfordshire doing just that. How can we build on that togetherness and connectivity?

We would like to invite more organisations to reflect on that question as we come out of Lockdown 2, ensuring we continue to build back better beyond COVID-19. It shouldn’t take a pandemic for organisations to come together and collaborate for the benefit of those who we are all trying to support!

The 32 stories collected as part of the Oxford Together storytelling report by Arts at the Old Fire Station provide a starting point to think about what we could do next. The report sets out six key priorities for sustaining the changes and improved ways of working that developed during the Oxford Together community response to COVID-19:

  • We need to invest in relationships
  • The small things matter
  • Collaboration is key
  • We need to support less-hierarchical decision making
  • We need to be creative and take risks
  • We need to empower local groups, communities and volunteers.

We would like to hear from organisations across all sectors who may want to take these recommendations forward, and join in our mission to create more relationship-based approaches.

Over the last few months at Oxford Hub we have been thinking about how digital and data can support collaboration, how to build meaningful relationships with local authorities to support each other, and how to move away from transactional approaches to what we are calling a ‘bespoke by default’ model when supporting people who need help. We are able to do this with the generous support of Oxfordshire Community Foundation, who have enabled us to continue to provide the support people need in their day-to-day lives, and also have the capacity to invite others in this journey.

Please get in touch if you are interested in working together, and stay tuned for different collaboration opportunities through the Oxfordshire Community Foundation blog, Oxfordshire All In and the Oxford Hub newsletters.