A thank you to HackIT

Less than two weeks ago I was handing out a much deserved award to Andrew at Hackney Stars, a world away from the challenges we all now face due to Covid-19 / Coronavirus.

The nature of this crisis is for all of us meaning late nights (it’s almost 1am as I finalise this), early mornings and unusual working environments often with new teams, crazy deadlines and the unexpected only just around the corner. For us at the Council, while we are all doing our jobs no one can fail to be moved by the backdrop against which we are working. It can include colleagues, family friends and neighbours self isolating, often fearful about what might happen next and the challenge of adjusting to new demands, working from home and now the ubiquitous team catch up on ‘hangouts’ with the associated magnolia walls, random cats and now children in the background. The hints and tips shared by the HackIT team have been especially useful as I hosted meetings of 30 plus councillors late into the evening on meet.

The latter remote or not so remote working for me, as I’m still hunkered down in the Town Hall, wouldn’t have been possible without Temple, Yulian and Ali helping set up my office so I had the latest hangouts meeting kit so that critical meetings can take place – all delivered to me when the Town Hall faced a fire alarm and I was on a conference call with the Secretary of State sat in the car park. Firmly the shape of things to come!

Meanwhile Cate, Colin, Anwar, Nigel, Indran, Manzeela, Yvonne and all the Service Support team and volunteers from across the HackIT team were getting people set up so that they could work from home, delivering over 400 laptops in next to no time for colleagues who said they didn’t have computers at home. Luckily anticipating the Prime Minister’s announcement that most of the country would now be working from home.

Both of these teams made us more resilient as an organisation, able to face the challenges of the past two weeks. That wasn’t always easy as the support team can attest, as they handled the hundreds of calls from colleagues who needed help to enable them to work from home.

In parallel, we had Liz and the Data & Insight team looking at a different type of resilience. Early on, several of us realised that the Council held a huge amount of often disparate information on our residents that could be useful if brought together. The mapping and thinking they have done, bringing together this data about the different types of vulnerability in Hackney is inspiring. That work is now proving invaluable as we develop our volunteer hubs, giving us crucial information ahead of the Government on who in Hackney is likely to need help and why, sometimes challenging common understandings of vulnerability.

This is sitting alongside and shaping the work led by Matthew and Samir on helping to scope out what ‘lockdown’, prolonged self isolation and isolation could mean for the borough, and what supporting those in Hackney facing this challenge is going to involve. Detailed thought on how we best reconfigure our services and structures to support them through this crisis. The work they, Rashmi, Selwyn and Emma (who worked over the weekend) to shape and create the volunteering hub will channel volunteering and mutual aid in Hackney and no doubt save lives in the weeks and months ahead.

This will also be much easier because of the work Meg, Susan, Emma, Lucy, Sandrine and the Spacebank team have put into the amazing (and much talked about) ‘Find Support Services Near You’ map (and let’s not forget the data behind it), which I have been regularly tweeting about and is now shared across the mutual aid groups in Hackney and beyond.

This is also changing how existing services are delivered with Zoe, Ian, Jasmeen (& others) supporting Matthew with the work to help our contact centres respond so amazingly well, and now staffed remotely.

So I hope you’ve seen that lots of our evolving work is being shared as best practice across the country, but that doesn’t mean we have turned our back on other ideas or what else is happening in London, with Joy, Richard and Winston, together with colleagues at Camden, helping to mobilise our residents’ efforts in support of the community response to Covid-19 – tapping into civic minded tech companies like Future Gov.

Bruno, Emma and Felix, who’ve paused their normal work to step in and help the Borough Emergency Control Centre team to response to an unprecedented crisis – are playing a crucial role in getting things in place so that the Council can respond effectively, creating a second Borough Emergency Control Centre and long term sustainability for the days, weeks and months ahead.

Finally, we’ve all been led, advised, challenged and yes, amused, by Rob as he influenced so much of what we have all delivered in the past two weeks. It’s all been marshalled from a room in south London to ever greater heights fuelled only by toast, Magnums and all manner of on screen snacks, now all too common to self isolation in this new world all of us are still adjusting to.

So from me thank you (sorry if I’ve overlooked or missed anyone). When this is all over not everyone will know the part you have played, but from the start I know you have been invaluable. So despite the hectic pace, let me remind you to rest, recuperate and think about your own energy and resilience as you help ensure all of us at the Council are equipped to face the challenges ahead.

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