Creating Supportive Communities Around People Doing it Tough
3 April 2018 at 8:44 am
How Gather My Crew, a new online rostering tool, is encouraging a digital community revolution.
At some point in our lives, we will all face an overwhelming challenge that will test our capacity to cope. No matter what the specific trigger – a serious illness, natural disaster, permanent disability, accident or sudden death – the impact on our lives and the lives of our families is universally disruptive.
In a society where we are often told that we have control over our destiny, it can be both confusing and disappointing when we are confronted with tragic or unplanned events. They act as an unwelcome reminder that life can be fleeting, fragile and does not always go according to plan.
Paradoxically, during these times when we are most in need of support from our community, we often put up psychological or environmental barriers which prevent us from harnessing the help that is available. Despite there being friends, family, neighbours, colleagues who are ready, willing and able to “lend a hand”, people in need of support can feel unsupported or under-supported.
Dr Susan Palmer, Gather My Crew founder and CEO, regularly came across this dynamic when working with people after a sudden health crisis. She saw families in dire need of support, who had offers of help flooding in, but found it difficult to accept and coordinate these offers.
In a bid to address this challenge of harnessing latent support, Dr Palmer founded Gather My Crew, an Australian charity dedicated to building supportive communities around those in need through a free, online rostering tool.
Gather My Crew empowers people going through a difficult time to reach out, connect to their “Crew” and coordinate the support they need. The online tool assists people in emotionally and physically challenging situations to organise themselves and their families and keep “normal life” moving along.
The need for this kind of technology-focused community building intervention is a reflection of the lives that we now lead.
Community is increasingly experienced online, families and friends are geographically dispersed, out of home activities for children have increased and dual-working parents are commonplace. The “over the fence” support that was a cornerstone of community during the last century is now a rare find.
The Crew Member
Despite all these cultural and community changes, our innate need to reach out and help others through a tough time remains. Our humanity lies in our capacity to express the values of love, kindness and compassion. The challenge we now face is to find a way to fulfil our desire to help others while still keeping our own busy lives under control.
We think the solution lies in providing flexibility and choice. Gather My Crew’s online rostering tool enables people to choose how and when they want to help. With Gather My Crew, friends and family do not have to ask “how can we help?” – they simply log on to the online calendar and accept the tasks listed that fit within their own lives. Life continues on but with the added benefit of an opportunity to feel helpful and useful.
In a society largely based on helping yourself, asking for help is surrounded by feelings of embarrassment, shame and inadequacy. Gather My Crew helps to overcome these feelings by the use of an online or SMS invitation system, removing the awkward face-to-face conversation of asking someone for help. Having a website dedicated to providing and receiving support also normalises the process of asking for help.
Gather My Crew is challenging the traditional mediums through which we coordinate offers of help and finding a more efficient solution to excel spreadsheets, text messages and ring arounds.
“Gatherers” can select from pre-populated needs lists – including tasks such as “walk the dog”, “make school lunches”, “accompany me to a medical appointment”. They can then invite their “Crew” to lend a hand. “Crew Members” may be friends, neighbours, school groups, sporting teams, church groups, community organisations or work colleagues. Then Gather My Crew’s multi-task, multi-day rostering tool will do the rest.
Reliance on paid support services to support families in need is not sustainable, particularly with an ageing population. We need the power to shift back to community. This is possible, we just need to do it differently.
People want to help – they just need to know how they can and we need to make it easy for them.
Every small act of helping creates a ripple effect. Since launch, Gather My Crew has had over 3,500 users, who have created over 11,400 tasks that are being done by those in our own communities, not by paid workers. With Gather My Crew, communities come together to support those in need – altering the reliance on already stretched government organisations or local community agencies.
Gather My Crew’s rostering tool offers a new way to enhance community connection.
Join our community building revolution. Visit gathermycrew.org for further information.