Over the last ten years, Nesta has backed ideas and approaches that put people power back at the heart of how our communities, public services and democracies work.
Through evidence, leading innovations and partnerships, we support a movement to help people shape the issues affecting their lives, and create action to affect change, normalising people power as an organising principle for our public institutions and services, and communities.
To help champion and support the role of citizen engagement in shaping and developing community resilience in emergencies we have backed a number of initiatives. These demonstrate how resilience can be fostered and well-coordinated community responses to emergencies can complement statutory responses.
GoodSAM is an app and web-based platform that alerts potential responders who have registered to the app, such as off-duty doctors and qualified first aiders, to life-threatening emergencies close by. Cab drivers and private citizens who carry defibrillators can register and be alerted to emergencies where their equipment can help. With over 40,000 registered volunteers, it is clear that people want to share their skills. GoodSAM exemplifies how an interface can be created between statutory services and citizens, that facilitates immediate responses by local people.
StreetDoctors run workshops which are a safe space to learn lifesaving skills and also address attitudes to violence. They are delivered to young people at risk of violence and particularly addresses injuries from and knowledge about knife crime. Building up the knowledge and confidence to act in an emergency situation helps keep these young people and those around them safer and better informed. This initiative is an exemplifier in providing targeted knowledge to young people who might be harder to reach through formal public service channels.
St Johns Ambulance have developed a community programme, that creates new ways for people to improve life saving knowledge and skills outside of times of emergency. Community advocates and community champions are volunteers trained to raise awareness about, and pass on basic life saving knowledge and skills in first aid in their local community, reaching people who may not otherwise be exposed to this information. They deliver workshops and share information across their community, both with formal groups and more informally to their neighbours and friends. This contributes to building a network of informed actors and decreasing vulnerabilities; an approach that increases the resilience of the community.
VANEL’s Blue Lights Brigade (BLB) are retired blue lights personnel who are further trained to provide a community led response in times of crisis. BLB volunteers can provide backup support at the time of the incident and invest time preparing communities to be ready, reducing pressure on emergency services and improving the emergency response of their communities. They work alongside the wider voluntary sector to build community resilience by helping others to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies.
The North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) ‘Ready for Anything’ initiative recruits, trains and retains volunteers who will be contacted in the case of an emergency in their area. The tasks needed vary depending on the nature of the event, but examples include knocking on doors, signposting people in the community to the nearest information point or rest centre, helping to serve drinks or food in a rest centre, or help with clearing up afterwards. This initiative creates a pool of resources who can elect to involve themselves when requested.
Helping in Hospitals creates formalised volunteering roles in hospital trusts. These volunteer roles do not replace hospital jobs, but volunteers dedicate their time to simple contact and caring activities with patients, such as holding their hand to reassure them before surgery or playing reminiscence games for patients on dementia wards. In Kings College Hospital for example, the team have now incorporated these kinds of roles in to the Emergency department, providing a significant area of support in times of crisis. This model has shown that volunteers working alongside public services can lead to improved patient experience and has provided evidence of the value of soft skills and caring acts in times of stress.
Neighbourhood Watch have developed an initiative of community based support in crime prevention and victim care provided by trained volunteers within communities. Volunteers advise and encourage older people to better protect themselves from fraudsters. This builds community connections, increases openness to sharing worries and problems and creates a network of trusted connections.