Celebrating a year of togetherness with the Norwich Together Alliance
PUBLISHED: 09:30 08 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:39 08 August 2020
The Norwich Together Alliance has been tackling the issue of loneliness in our fine city for over a year now. Here we look back at what’s been achieved and how Covid-19 put the issue of loneliness even further into the spotlight.
When the Corporate Responsibility team at Aviva decided to bring together a group of local partners and organisations to try and tackle the issue of loneliness in Norwich, little did they know how poignant the topic would become as the country, indeed the whole world, went into isolation to try and stem the spread of Covid-19.
Back in June 2019, long before most people had even heard of coronavirus, Aviva undertook research to establish the social issues facing people in the city.
It discovered that 46pc of people in Norwich have either personally suffered from loneliness or know someone who has, 82pc of people thought loneliness was one of the biggest issues facing the local region, and only 19pc of people were aware of existing support.
It’s a big problem, and one that Aviva decided to face head on by forming the Norwich Together Alliance – a group of businesses and charities committed to tackling loneliness.
“We have been in Norwich for over 200 years and are proud of our heritage and history here,” says Helen Bridge, corporate responsibility manager at Aviva.
“As a major local employer, we have a role to play in ensuring that the places in which our employees, customers and partners live and work are happy, healthy and thriving communities.
“What was important for us right from the beginning, however, was that this was a collaborative journey.
“We knew we couldn’t solve the issue alone; we needed to recognise the work that was already being done by local charities and initiatives.”
Aviva and the Norwich Together Alliance came up the following aims:
Convene with other local organisations to share insights and knowledge.
Co-create ideas and solutions to tackle loneliness by working together.
Collaborate to deliver a programme that relies on collective resources, capabilities, influence and reach.
A year of bringing Norwich Together...
The Alliance came up with a programme of core activities to promote and deliver its key aims, kicking off with the Friendliest Friendlies.
Back in July 2019, as football fans were celebrating Norwich City’s promotion to the Premier League, the Alliance teamed up with the club to give away 750 pairs of tickets to the Canaries’ pre-season friendlies at Carrow Road over the summer.
The Friendliest Friendlies initiative invited fans to nominate someone who may be on their own or wouldn’t normally have the chance to attend a game.
Among those who received tickets was a 92-year-old grandmother who recently lost her husband and was feeling isolated and lonely, and a dad who stopped going to watch the football after developing an eye condition that left him unable to see the game properly. The team also worked with support workers to ensure vulnerable fans were not overwhelmed and had a safe space from which to enjoy the match.
Ex-Norwich City professional footballer Jeremy Goss, who is also marketing manager at Age UK Norwich – one of the alliance members – met the winners at a specially-created sharing pod outside Carrow Road. He was joined by organisations, charities and Aviva volunteers who were on-hand to speak to fans about the issue of loneliness in the region.
Jeremy said at the time: “What better way to bring everyone together than by watching our region’s favourite sport? Aviva has invited 500 people to bring someone along to these games – someone who might be feeling lonely.
“Preventing loneliness is a subject I’m passionate about, so this is a perfect fit. I’m proud to be part of what could be the Friendliest Friendlies ever!”
Next up was the Love Light Festival, which took place over three days and nights from 13-15 February, 2020 and included light artworks, interactive installations, live music, light and fire performances.
Valentine’s Day can be a time when people can feel isolated, and the theming of the festival was around love and belonging as an effort to bring everyone together. Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), supported by public funding from Arts Council England, worked with partners including Aviva to create a festival for everyone, with a diverse programme of new cultural experiences, and a celebration of the things that unite us all.
As part of the Norwich Together Alliance, Aviva supported the Love Light Labs, a free day-time symposium inviting people, businesses and communities to come together to drive social change. It shined a light on how Norwich and Norfolk organisations are contributing to help build solutions to tackle loneliness and other social challenges.
Aviva volunteers also attended the parade, handing out love hearts and striking up conversations, as well as inviting people to meet at KindaKafe to go on a group tour of the light festival if they didn’t want to go alone.
...through opening up
The Love Light Festival was closely followed by Open Up at Open, an all-day event focusing on mental health, covering everything from real life stories to where to find support.
Organised by the Eastern Daily Press, which is published by Alliance member Archant, the event took place at Open on Bank Plain and people were invited to simply drop in for a session or two, or stay for the whole day.
The sessions covered a range of mental health issues, including a talk about the Norwich Together Alliance and its work to tackle loneliness, plus there was the opportunity to unwind and have a go at a beginner’s yoga session, breathing or mindfulness workshops.
A number of mental health charities and organisations also attended the event, providing information about their work and specialisms.
...through a chat on the bus
Another key initiative supported by the Alliance was the launch of Konectbus’ Chatty Bus in March 2020, which saw volunteers from Konectbus, Age UK and Aviva give out ‘happy to chat’ badges and help strike up conversations on the bus. It was a great success, but was unfortunately cut short due to the coronavirus lockdown.
However, the idea has carried on through a virtual Chatty Bus, with Konectbus drivers and other employees who were on furlough volunteering for Age UK Norwich’s Telephone Befriending scheme.
...through a global pandemic
Chatty Bus wasn’t the only Norwich Together Alliance initiative to be impacted by Covid-19.
While these initiatives may not have been possible, they were replaced with a Covid-19 response that saw Alliance members reaching out to their communities during this time of need.
In May we published a supplement much like this one, containing stories about the fantastic work of the Alliance members and signposting where help was available. And this continues here, with the following pages full of more information and heart-warming stories about the people that have felt less lonely thanks to the tireless work of the Alliance.
The plan was always for the programme to be adaptable and develop, but no one could have anticipated that a global pandemic would crop up in the first year of the programme.
Despite this, there have been some great results so far:
The percentage of people who are aware of existing support has grown from 19pc to 28pc.
The programme set out to bring 10,000 people together in the first year, and it has surpassed that target with a final result of over 18,000.
“The last six months have seen our lives transformed,” says Lindsey Rix, CEO of UK savings and retirement at Aviva. “Some have welcomed the changes Covid-19 has brought, but for many, the sense of isolation and loneliness has increased.
“Feeling connected to others is critical for our health and wellbeing. The Alliance is a network of local businesses, charities and the council that have joined forces to help us all feel more connected and to bring the community together.
“We’ve been amazed by the everyday heroes who have stepped in to help neighbours, to volunteer, and to support the local community. Together we have raised awareness and given the people of this city ways to keep connected – and we’re just getting started.”
All stats taken from YouGov research undertaken by Aviva in 2019 and 2020.
For more information and stories on what the Norwich Together Alliance members are doing to bring Norwich Together, click here.
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