COVID-19 has changed the way we deliver our programmes, and My Place Mentoring was no exception.
The project was originally designed as a primarily in-person service, with our Mentoring Officer supporting heritage projects by meeting with community groups on-site. But the onset of COVID-19 caused us to completely rethink the programme and pivot to digital delivery.
In this blog, our Mentoring Officer Sarah Kettles reflects on the pros and cons of digital delivery:
- Virtual meeting and event platforms like Zoom and Teams increased the geographic spread of the Mentoring programme. For example, the My Place Mentoring Officer identified 10 prospective groups by attending a community heritage webinar organised by Aberdeenshire Council in March 2021.
- Virtual meeting and event platforms enabled groups to stay connected during lockdown and across larger distances. Online meetings kept groups engaged and they continued to work on developing their ideas, fine tuning their business plans and researching funding.
- Many groups increased their confidence and skills in using digital channels, which enabled them to access additional heritage support via emails, webinars and online training.
- Virtual meetings decreased the time spent travelling by the Mentoring Officer, which meant that they had more time to support groups.
- Building strong relationships with groups was more difficult, as it can be hard to read body language and have a free flowing conversation during online meetings. This was particularly apparent when discussing sensitive or difficult topics.
- Projects that involved buildings proved challenging without site visits. It is often critical for the My Place Mentoring Officer to see buildings in-person to give built heritage expertise.
- Some rural and remote groups struggled with wifi connectivity, which could decrease the efficacy of online meetings.
Although going digital increased the geographic reach of the My Place Mentoring programme and the time available for the Mentoring Officer to support groups, it is clear that in-person meetings and site visits are critical for building relationships and giving built heritage expertise.
As restrictions have eased, the My Place Mentoring programme has moved to a blended delivery, mixing in-person and digital meetings and capitalising on the strengths of both approaches.