Connect Hackney

Time to Zoom: Physically isolated but digitally connected?

The one thing that can be guaranteed at the moment is change – needs are changing constantly, guidelines are changing constantly, and Apps are also constantly adapting!

But as of right now, here is our summary of the key learning captured from our delivery partners based on their on the ground experience in the first three months of lockdown.

We have had to recognise that projects have needed time to adjust, and people have needed time to adjust. In the immediacy of lockdown, delivery partners were doing their utmost to support the community with humanitarian issues, as well as having to reconfigure their offerings into online content, and support participants to get online if they could and were keen to.

Some reported that use of clear, simplified, extensive, instruction handouts for getting on and using certain Apps was super useful, but needed to be combined with a walk through step-by-step – usually one to one on the phone. At least the first time!

One of our Connect Hackney projects reported to us that 70-80% of their participants were unable or did not want to go online. We recognise that a borough-wide approach is needed – this is a complex issue and we are working in partnership with Hackney Council to develop multi-layered long term solutions to bridge the digital divide. If you have ideas for solutions to bridge the gap and make online more accessible, particularly for older Hackney residents – then we want to hear from you.

Our delivery partners have reported that the key to success is to keep sessions as accessible and as simple as possible by providing equipment (e.g. phones or tablets) pre-loaded with the simplest software e.g. WhatsApp, FaceTime.

However, it is also recognised that for many providers this is outside budget. Applying for additional funds where possible, as well as working together with other providers and possibly sharing resources, are some of the suggestions highlighted as possible ways to attempt to navigate the digital divide. 

In the near future it may be possible to do a mixture of in person and online delivery, if it is safe to do so. But in the meantime, here is a little breakdown of the pros and cons of some of the most commonly used software and platforms our delivery partners have tried out.

Application/ device




More accessible; easier to see; many participants are already familiar with it

Limits number of people that can access it (8); limited to phones; Not possible to share screens e.g. for presentation slides


As above.
Can have up to 32 people on a call, can use any Apple device (not limited to phones)


Only available on Apple devices; Not possible to share screens

(other group conferencing Apps are available!)

Can create something resembling interactive group classroom atmosphere; Can screen share and do demos, share notes, music/ clips; Big skills increase – once on, means opens up a world of options to participants to get involved with online community.


Mixed success –
a lot more challenging and complex to use!; Some delivery staff found it harder to gently nudge reserved participants to get involved.

Microsoft Teams 
and Google Meet

In addition to Zoom – both packages have caption function – subtitling the audio as people talk (can be a great benefit for those with hearing or learning difficulties, and can increase engagement)


As above (for Zoom)

-a simple smart video call 

Does one thing and does it well. Nice and simple. Easy to use

Limited functions

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