When the COVID-19 pandemic first started to affect Scotland in March 2020, organisations across the private and public sector had to find ways to adapt quickly to online working. This was a problem which also affected Scotland’s hundreds of Community Councils who, often without training or access to the proper equipment, had to find ways to continue holding meetings and engaging with their local communities.
While issues around training and access to IT equipment were resolved over time, many Community Councils struggled to get to grips with online meetings, while others really embraced the opportunities presented by new technology.
Within a few weeks of the first lockdown, Helensburgh Community Council had come up with the idea of holding online webinars via Zoom on various issues of interest to the local community, or even to those living further afield. These webinars have covered a wide variety of subjects, and have even managed to attract celebrity speakers, including the grandson of John Logie Baird, the inventor of the television who was born in Helensburgh in 1888 and Lord McFall, Speaker of the House of Lords.
Webinars have introduced local people to the work of the community council, the local authority and some of the community groups who play an important role in the Helensburgh area, as well as series on technology issues, climate change and enterprise opportunities in the aftermath of COVID.
Community Councillor Tariq Durrani took on the job of creating and managing these webinars, which have been held regularly throughout the pandemic and which attract around 60-70 attendees each week, with 150 people on the mailing list.
“The webinars attract many more people than would normally attend our Community Council meetings, whether they were being held in person or online. By addressing subjects that people find interesting, we have managed to engage many local residents who now know much more about the work of the Community Council than they would have done previously.
“While our Community Council is now returning to in-person meetings we still intend to keep the Zoom webinars going for as long as people are interested. Online webinars have allowed us to attract attendees and speakers from much further afield, such as John Logie Baird’s grandson and Professor Eleanor Shaw from Strathclyde University, who spoke at one of our enterprise and entrepreneurship webinars. If these events had been held in-person in Helensburgh, they would not have been as successful.”
Lord McFall, Speaker of the House of Lords attended one of Helensburgh Community Council's webinars from his office at Westminster.
Tariq has found that the webinars have improved communication with the wider Helensburgh community, as well as giving local people an opportunity to become more familiar with platforms like Zoom.
“When the webinars first started in May 2020, we had to spend time at the start of each webinar helping attendees to understand how to use Zoom, but most are now familiar with how it works, which can only have helped them in other areas of their lives during the pandemic.”
To find out more about the work of Helensburgh Community Council, including their past and future webinar series, visit their website: https://www.helensburghcommunitycouncil.co.uk/index.asp