Impact story: Keep your ear to the ground!

Harrow Association of Somali Voluntary Organisations, based in Harrow, Middlesex, has been serving the Somali community for 16 years. HASVO has a mix of members and service users, four staff and 20 volunteers.

HASVO’s aim is to strengthen links between all community groups in Harrow, and to build group and individual capacity to live more effectively in the wider community. Over the last decade, it has provided direct services to young people and families, including holiday clubs, supplementary schools, advice giving, a mentoring programme and promoting health and wellbeing. Funding comes from Trust for London, The Henry Smith Charity, the local CCG (clinical commissioning group), Greater London Authority, London Community Respond Fund and a small amount from Harrow Council.

Here are some examples of the ways in which HASVO has been collecting and using the information since March 2020:

  • Phone calls were critical to enable staff to keep in touch and assess needs. We actively rang clients/service users to find out how are doing – people used to drop in.
  • They set up WhatsApp groups to give out information. This proved a key way to deliver a service, and to hear about needs that people might be reluctant to express in person, for example, needing food delivered.
  • All cases are logged in a database linked to HASVO’s CRM. This tracks the client work done and whether claims have been resolved, providing a proxy measure for outcomes achieved.
  • There was a notable shift during the pandemic in the volume of work being done. This was particularly so as they were one of the few services remaining open after others had closed. HASVO is now serving people outside the Somali community in Harrow, and is receiving feedback on it, with more use of its website outside the borough.

We now cater for people from Iraq, Syria and Kuwait; because we have Arabic speakers and we have built up trust within those communities. We have had more positive feedback now than before. We have been able to share our knowledge and produce videos and audio clips to share with the wider community – we have received positive feedback as far as Croydon/Leicester.

In particular, HASVO has had to ‘dismantle misinformation’ (#StopThink campaign) going out to and being received by people in different communities. These increasing needs across more communities needed to be responded to rapidly. So, although data collection was less formal, staff have had regular meetings online to keep one another updated, and information collected has been used in real time. HASVO staff and volunteers have a culture of listening to needs, doing a quick analysis and then responding to the best of their ability.

HASVO’s key challenge lies in analysing fully the wealth of data they have on community needs and using it to influence policy. We wish we had researchers and … we need to be supported more so we can feed into policy makers.

If you are thinking of doing something similar we suggest you:

  1. Plan how you are going to involve users in your impact practice. Use our quick exercise for deciding how to involve users.
  2. Think about creative methods for allowing users to collect data within the communities you work in. Read more about creative methods here.
  3. Speak to others who are doing similar to share ideas. Inspiring Impact and CheW host lots of free events to connect with likeminded individuals.

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