Susan, thank you for joining us on the Blog Spot, can you start by telling us what Gather My Crew is and its alignment with the Thriving Communities Partnership?
Gather My Crew is a free online rostering tool that has been clinically developed to build supportive communities around people going through a tough time (such as serious illness, accident, bushfire, stroke, stillbirth, sudden death).
Like the Thriving Communities Partnership, Gather My Crew’s focus is on building community resilience. This is done by increasing the support available (both practical and emotional) in the early stages of a personal crisis to improve both short and long term psychological outcomes for individuals and families.
The technology works by connecting people in need with their friends, family, neighbours and colleagues in an easy and coordinated way, so they can ask for, and receive, the practical help they need. Gather My Crew coordinates the help requests and offers in an interactive and easy to use calendar that can be accessed by all parties. Gather My Crew then facilitates the strengthening of these supportive communities by communicating regularly with daily updates and task reminders.
"With Gather My Crew, everyone experiencing a tough time can feel supported by their friends and family. They can access practical support to enable them and their family to move through the experience and allow normal life to go on."
By pre-emptively identifying current and future needs, actively asking for help and coordinating willing supporters to meet these needs, individuals can foster stronger coping and ameliorate the stress inherent in these situations. With Gather My Crew, everyone experiencing a tough time can feel supported by their friends and family. They can access practical support to enable them and their family to move through the experience and allow normal life to go on.
Many of our founding partners have also designed innovative programs addressing social issues, can you explain how you developed the Gather My Crew online tool and discuss any research/evidence used to identify the problem?
I have spent my career as a psychologist and researcher working with people going through challenging times (eg. cancer diagnosis and treatment; spinal injury). As a clinician, I routinely found that people did not activate their available support network in the most advantageous way. As a researcher, I decided to develop a way to help people to do this better.
Although it is widely recognised that (i) a breakdown often occurs between those able to help and those in need of help, and (ii) feeling unsupported or under-supported correlates with negative outcomes such as depression, anxiety, distress and family breakdown, there is little that clinical and community care agencies can do to facilitate change within an individual’s personal network. I wanted to find a way to empower the people experiencing tough times to coordinate their own support, to control who they invite into their support crew and to directly build a community of support around them.
The initial research phase involved identifying what digital tools existed and what was being used. Online searches revealed other rostering tools, but nothing that focused on the pre-emptive, evidence based aspects of Gather My Crew and discussions with health clinicians across Australia highlighted an absence of any routinely recommended technological solution to the human problem of gathering support crews.
It was following this initial research that a clinical working party (including social workers; psychologists; clinical nurse specialists) and a user working party (breast cancer patients) was formalised to ensure that each step of the process was both collaborate and evidence based. Thus, using evidence based research, clinical expertise and the personal experience of those who have ‘trodden the same path’, the steps that were highlighted as central to the Gather My Crew philosophy were (i) pre-emptively identify areas of unmet need that are linked to a poorer outcome (eg. depression, anxiety, stress, distress, coping, treatment adherence and family breakdown) and (ii) facilitate the process of ‘reaching out’ to potential support people to ask for help. An act which, in and of itself, is a protective factor against depression and anxiety.
Gather My Crew went through many rounds of development and user testing before launch in July 2017. We have recently deployed our first round of upgrades based on user feedback and are committed to continual improvement.
Is there a specific demographic targeted? Who and how do you market Gather My Crew to?
Gather My Crew has an extremely broad demographic. Who doesn’t know somebody that has gone through a health crisis, had a premature baby, experienced a sudden death, had an accident, been thrown into turmoil due to a natural disaster…the list goes on…These are sadly common life events that turn our lives upside down and require us to turn to our support network for help.
Currently, Gather My Crew is focussing on partnerships with organisations who are at the pointy end of dealing with people in health crisis situations. Organisations like Cancer Council Australia, Redkite, Stroke Foundation, Breast Cancer Network Australia, McGrath Foundation and many others. These organisations are actively promoting Gather My Crew to the many families they work with - through phone support lines, information packs, blogs and social media.
Through its partnership with Resilient Melbourne, Gather My Crew is also educating Victorian Councils about how this tool can strengthen community, improve resilience and enhance coping skills.
Gather My Crew is incredibly lucky to have a charity partner, dusk, who is donating proceeds of certain promotional items to fund additional marketing activities to increase Gather My Crew’s reach. These activities include social media, small scale advertising and direct mail - for the moment anyway…we have grand plans!
As an innovator of a social impact program, what are your thoughts on opportunities for corporate, government and community sectors to collaborate on similar projects?
True change comes about when everyone works together. The unique skills and expertise held within corporate, government and community sectors are invaluable to a social impact program succeeding. Ensuring that each industry can access and work with engaged people who have the skills and experience needed to make new initiative a success, both at the outset and throughout the journey, is one of the greatest challenges that we face. But when everyone comes together the outcomes are amazing.
"True change comes about when everyone works together. The unique skills and expertise held within corporate, government and community sectors are invaluable to a social impact program succeeding."
Gather My Crew exists because the I was able to gather a crew of advisors, supporters, Board members and pro-bono partners across these sectors. Together, this committed group of people used their unique skills, resources and perspectives, to create something amazing from nothing. And it is because of this shared commitment across sectors that we are able to provide our community building technology to users for free.
What is Gather My Crew’s vision for the future? What partnerships opportunities are there for organizations in other sectors to get involved?
We have grand visions. We believe that every person going through a tough time should be surrounded by an active and engaged community of support. We want to break down the barriers that prevent people in need from asking for help – and build the bridge between them and the wonderful people that surround them who are willing and able to help. To do this, we need to get the word out about Gather My Crew.
We are very keen to continue to build our own Crew and we would love to develop partnerships with organisations who can see value in what we are working to achieve. We would love to hear from anyone who has an idea about how we can achieve our greater vision.
More specifically, we welcome opportunities to partner with organisations that have direct contact with people going through tough times (the Gatherers), with organisations that can assist us spreading the word to the community at large (the Crew Members), with groups that can offer financial support as we continue to build and improve our technology, and those who may have new and interesting ways to use our technology.
We understand that we have not yet identified all of the wonderful ways that this technology can bring people together to support a common goal – and we could love to discuss new ideas with passionate people.