Bonny Downs has operated from Newham since 1998, working to make a real and lasting difference. The area was particularly hard hit by the pandemic, with 34,955 infections as of March 2020 which amounted to a rate of almost 1 in 10. This was significantly greater than elsewhere: 55% more cases per 100,000 than the UK and 26% greater than the London figure. At the point of writing in March 2021, there have been 762 deaths in the borough. The lockdowns were particularly hard for a community already facing the hardship of low income and precarious employment, poor housing and poor health including high levels of long term health conditions. Many found themselves in desperate situations with sudden loss of income, and denied access to many critical support systems like faith groups and schools, some faced destitution.
Bonny Downs Community Association with its deep relationships in the local community, immediately set about adapting to meet changing needs, providing emergency response to many desperate people as well as creating new services and redesigning delivery for existing activities.
With funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, BDCA set out to implement a community based participatory research programme, shaping the organisation’s 5 year strategic plan, informing the priorities and key objectives for the organisation as it seeks to serve and empower local people, working with them to build a healthier and resilient community, adapting to the changing needs arising out of the pandemic and into recovery.
Method + Guiding Questions
In order to hear people’s views we used a Community Based Participatory Research approach, using peer researchers (called Conversation Facilitators) to reach out to local people through light touch ‘forums’ and one-to-one interviews; we also developed a range of online tools including a digital questionnaire allowing people to tell their stories using as little or as much text as they wished.
Over a 5 month period the online and face-to-face engagement uncovered deep insights into the issues facing our community and surfaced some emerging ideas of how BDCA can, alongside the local community, meet a number of the challenges of the future. We wanted to go beyond the statistics of what are the main challenges, to gain an insight into what has been worth celebrating over the past year and then ask the question, How do we capture and enhance these in the better times?
We used a range of tools, using face-to-face and digital platforms. The analysis was conducted by the community researchers, ensuring that the themes, findings and all aspects of the project were designed and delivered by local residents. The initial plan was to organise a series of community events including sports and fitness activities to engage local people in the research. However, the government restrictions introduced as part of the winter lockdown led to a comprehensive redesign of the engagement plan. We worked through the food-bank to reach people who might prefer traditional paper-based methods. The team also devised a range of creative online approaches including poetry and music workshops, which provided rich material with nuanced insights.
Over the course of the programme, we employed five peer researchers, plus one volunteer, who spoke to over 42 residents through in-depth conversations, plus 322 completed online questionnaires and 29 hard copies. We recognised the need to hear from some of BDCA’s most vulnerable users, those using the Food Bank, those who often have no settled immigration status and have no recourse to public funds. We worked with the Food Bank and Fuel Bank team to drop a pre addressed envelope in each food parcel containing information of the programme, an invitation to use the online questionnaire plus a paper version of the questionnaire which could be posted back to BDCA. Twenty one hard copies were returned, plus an additional 18 online responses which mention food as a key concern.
Bonny Downs Community Association
The Well Community Centre, 49 Vicarage Lane, London E6 6DQ
Tel: 0208 586 7070 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Charity Reg No: 1071625 | Company Limited by Guarantee No: 3625785