Photo Credit: The Cares Family // Orla and Jean are friends through the work of North London Cares. Orla said: "I phoned Jean and she sounded cut off from the world, so I called over to give a friendly wave through the window and left a (sanitised) book."
Working together to build strong relationships and connected communities, both now and in the future
The Connection Coalition was formed in April 2020 as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Anticipating that the nation was at risk of a crisis of disconnection - and a worsening epidemic of loneliness and social isolation - we created a platform for organisations across the country to work collectively to ensure that communities and the country emerges from Covid-19 ready to build and strengthen social relationships.
What are the aims of the Connection Coalition?
Committed to strengthening human relationships and connections in communities during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond, we aim to:
- Support organisations who work to build and maintain relationships and connections in their communities, including creating spaces for them to share experiences, increase knowledge, skills, confidence and motivation, with the ultimate aim of improving practice.
- Encourage organisations to capture learning from the pandemic and work with communities to carry forward relationships and connectedness with them as we adjust to living with Covid-19, helping to tackle loneliness and social isolation, and to reduce the associated stigma.
- Influence organisations, funders and the Government to tackle the societal conditions which create and exacerbate loneliness, social isolation and disconnection, and invest financially and in policies which prioritise the power of relationships and connectedness.
- Ensure we continuously capture and act on our learning, and work with the sector to shape any future plans for the Coalition so long as there is a need.
Since the start of COVID-19, many people are supporting their neighbours and communities in creative and inspiring ways. For many people this is nothing new, but for some this is an unfamiliar, yet deep experience of community connectedness. More than ever we are seeing that reciprocal relationships build solidarity, belonging and prove that we have more in common than that which divides us. The UK will be a changed country as a result of COVID-19, but it will have changed for the better if people continue to build and strengthen the connections within society that bind us together.
“As the rep of a small organisation it is good to feel part of something bigger and more influential”
“It felt like a peer support group - useful whilst the pace of work remains relentless.”
Who are the members of the Connection Coalition?
Our 800+ Connection Coalition members are based across the UK, operating locally, regionally and nationally. The majority are small community based organisations, with over half of member organisations having fewer than 10 staff members and a turnover less than £250k. Around half of member organisations work specifically to tackle loneliness and social isolation, with many specifically working with older or younger members of the population. Members also work to address mental health, domestic violence, digital exclusion, dementia and heritage protection. For a snapshot of some of our members check out The Friendly Bench, the Rural Coffee Caravan, Grow Cardiff, Do it Now Now, Grandnanny, and Marmalade Trust.
What has the Connection Coalition done so far?
The first phase of the Connection Coalition was a period of rapid growth in response to the emergency presented by the Covid crisis throughout 2020. We delivered a series of webinars about subjects such as grief, bereavement and loneliness as well as sharing news, resources and opportunities through a fortnightly newsletter. We also amplified the voices of the members through responses to a number of government consultations.
After consulting members, the second phase of the Coalition started in May 2021, led by a new Connection Coalition Manager, and has focussed on taking a more collaborative approach with the membership, giving opportunities for members to connect and to learn from each other. Work focussed on building the following:
- Belonging: Ensuring members feel part of a community, a sense of shared culture and values, and that we're working towards a common goal.
- Networking: Ensuring members have the opportunity to interact with and learn from others who have similar interests, concerns and challenges.
- Advocacy: Ensuring members see actions that support or defend them, promote the value of their work and call for continued investment to decision-makers.
- Solutions: Ensuring members are kept informed of trends, challenges and opportunities which impact them or the sector.
These combine to ensure that through the Connection Coalition, the Jo Cox Foundation is contributing to strengthening the sector and networks of all those buildinging stronger, better connected and more compassionate communities.
Our Connection Coalition Manager has shared her learning from 2021 here.
“I personally really enjoyed being able to speak to other people working and supporting their communities and actually take some time out to smile about things as we connect. So thank you for that because I hear so many of us say we feel like we have lost ourselves a little at the moment.”
What is happening in 2022?
Based on this learning and member feedback, we have an offer of support for 2022 which includes:
- giving space for members to bring their ideas or challenges and connect with other members
- convening on specific topics (creating connections, relationship mapping and youth loneliness)
- members having their say on the future of the Connection Coalition.
Can I sign up? And how?
If you are an organisation, charity, group or company or any other organised entity and share our belief that our communities are strengthened by strong relationships and connections, we’d love you to join us. In signing up you’ll be part of a growing network of those who share your belief in the power of connection. We look forward to working with you to share, learn, act and connect together.