Digital Ways of Women Centred Working – WomenCentre’s new report focuses on the ways Connecting Opportunities, tried to meet the challenges for women and organisations at a time when measures in the UK meant that face-to-face service provision is not always possible. The report is part of WomenCentre’s regional work with Connecting Opportunities and women migrants and it is based on lived experiences and contributions from women who were working, studying, volunteering and learning on Connecting Opportunities during the pandemic.
When the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic in March 2020, WomenCentre knew the stakes would be high for women migrants. Throughout the pandemic, in the UK, there have been ongoing changes in policy and conditions of lockdowns, quarantine and partial/tiered restrictions of varying severity across different geographical areas. Vast numbers of women migrants have not been allowed to move freely, meet family and friends or engage in social, cultural and face-to-face activities. These conditions have had a profound effect on the lives of women migrants as well as on organisations that offer women support.
Policy responses to the pandemic required whole sectors of society to plan quickly, make changes and review them responsively in an ever-changing situation. In the case of Connecting Opportunities, this shift involved moving online and into digital spaces across almost every aspect of the project. Digital adaptations were necessary to sustain engagement with women migrants, local communities and our project partners.
Based on WomenCentre’s evidence-based women centred working framework, we reflect on the ways Connecting Opportunities adapted and developed women centred working for digital spaces. We highlight how online creative methods, underpinned by women centred principles, can enhance organisations that support women migrants as well as improve the lives of women. We outline practical, achievable steps to women centred ways of working online and in digital spaces.
Our work is not simply about technology and gadgets – while these are necessary, women centred ways of working goes beyond the usefulness of technology to explore how online spaces can be set up, facilitated and adapted by and for women. Using good practice examples, we showcase new ways of digital working that Connecting Opportunities developed to ensure ongoing support and engagement with women migrants amidst the changing conditions of the pandemic. Drawing on a mix of stories, photography, poetry and artwork by women, we place the lived experiences of women migrants at the heart of our work and explore the positive impact of digital transformation.
This report serves to remind the reader of the adversity many women migrants face during the pandemic, as well as women’s strengths, creativity and capacities.
It is likely that some elements of remote working and digital service delivery are here to stay, so we consider digital adaptation a vital way forward for women centred working for lockdowns and beyond. Above all, women centred approaches are vital to address the disproportionate negative impacts of the pandemic on women and girls.
Get inspired by learning from women migrants about the transition and adaptation of support services and consider the steps you can take to make your work more women centred. Start with learning more about the six principles of Digital Ways of Women Centred Working that are summarised below, watch a brief video summarising the report, explore the resources available on WomenCentre’s website and read and share our full report.
Six principles of digital ways of women centred working
- Provide services informed by women’s voices
Create spaces for women to engage with and influence design, delivery, feedback and evaluation of services whilst moving services online and facilitating services in digital spaces.
- Know your local specialist support for women
Ensure women know about available specialist support whilst services are provided remotely and online. Share up-to-date information about the referral pathways you can offer and consider temporary emergency provision so women receive essential support in critical situations.
- Provide learning opportunities about gender
Develop different opportunities to discuss and learn more about gendered aspects of the pandemic and policy responses, such as lockdowns, restrictions and quarantine. Facilitate awareness-raising about intersecting inequalities that impact on women’s lives in a global crisis. Creative and inclusive facilitation can support safer online spaces and help open up discussion in digital environments.
- Support staff learning around gender specific issues
Facilitate spaces for digitally adapted learning so staff can take up opportunities which support flexible working patterns. Encourage and enable staff to contribute to building and developing shared learning, co-facilitating and refreshing knowledge, as well as learning about new specialist topics.
- Creatively resolve childcare support
Work with women to design, deliver and promote flexible and welcoming digital online spaces that enable women to participate both on their own and with their children if they need or wish to. Keep women updated about available and accessible childcare options.
- Enable access to wider services
Consider equity of access to digitally-based service provision. Aim to address digital exclusion through budget reallocation or additional funding. Review your service delivery formats regularly and keep exploring blended and offline ways of working to ensure better equity of service access.
Connecting Opportunities work with new migrants to develop their skills and opportunities to find work and be part of the local community. Ten organisations that specialise in working with migrants are offering tailored support, cultural orientation, English language classes and other training across West Yorkshire and part of North Yorkshire (Craven, Harrogate, Selby and York). The project is also creating new local connections, with opportunities for local people to be volunteer mentors and befrienders, and for employers to provide work placements to help people get a foothold in the job market.
We would like to send special thanks to the women migrants of Connecting Opportunities who have taught us a great deal about digital ways of women centred working. Our thanks also extend to Connecting Opportunities participants, peers and mentors, befrienders and volunteers, champions, staff and project partners who were involved in this project; as well as to the funders – the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund, as well as Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership; and Andrassy Media for the design of this report.