When the COVID-19 lockdown began, Oxford Hub knew it had to act. Within days, Oxford Together had sprung up: the city’s community response to the pandemic, bringing people together to help each other. Oxford City Council collaborated with them to deliver services across the city to help those in need.
Now, the impact of the Oxford Together initiative is becoming clear. Oxford Hub have teamed up with Arts at the Old Fire Station to collect stories from people involved – as volunteers, those in need, community organisers, Oxford City Council employees and Oxford Hub staff.
The stories paint a vivid picture of a city coming together under lockdown. What’s it like to be the only student left in your college? To be at the front-line of a service helping society’s most vulnerable people? To take an exam when you have COVID-19? To bring your neighbours together in support of someone bereaved?
Why did we collect these stories?
We recognised the need to capture the learning happening. Not only to ensure that the emergency response was as effective as possible, but also, crucially, so that improved ways of operating could be carried forward into the future.
We used Storytelling – a creative evaluation methodology based on the Most Significant Change technique (MSC). Unlike more conventional evaluation methodologies, MSC does not employ quantitative indicators developed in advance, but instead asks people to decide what change looks like for them. It is good for measuring change that is intangible, personalised and diverse, and understanding how change happens.
How it works
We collected the stories of people involved in Oxford Together - volunteers, Oxford Hub staff, council employees, community organisers and people receiving support.
AOFS’s team of story collectors met individually with storytellers to discuss their experience of Oxford Together, and what had changed for them as a result of their involvement. This conversation was recorded and transcribed, and then edited down into a shorter story which aimed to faithfully reflect the storyteller’s insights, while keeping their ‘voice’ – telling it in their own words.
The initial 12 (of approx. 30) stories were then analysed together by a group of Oxford Hub, OFS and council staff, volunteers, community organisations, and partners at a Discussion Session. The discussions aimed to pull out the significance and learning in the stories, locating them within the context of Oxford Together and the city more broadly.