Brighton tech companies up for UK award for COVID loneliness project that will help meet anticipated increase in demand this winter

Brighton tech companies up for UK award for COVID loneliness project that will help meet anticipated increase in demand this winter

Two Brighton-born digital companies are celebrating a joint nomination for a national award in recognition of their pioneering support for local loneliness charity, TogetherCo during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Selfie videos for the workplace specialists StoryTagger and corporate learning business Kineo are in the running for winning the ‘Best UK Public & Non-Profit Sector’ project award at the international Learning Technologies Awards in London early next year, alongside a prestigious shortlist that includes the Royal College of Anaesthetics and the UK’s College of Policing.

StoryTagger and Kineo came together during lockdown to help Together Co scale up its befriending service for vulnerable people in Brighton & Hove, by offering free access to their technology platforms and know-how.

Together Co works with a wide range of volunteers, aged 14-80, who spare an hour or more a week to support people struggling with social isolation and loneliness.

The COVID-19 pandemic had caused a surge in demand for the charity’s services, with a year’s worth of referrals received in the first four months of 2020, as well as a surge in volunteers. As the charity was restricted to telephone befriending and facing a high volume of doorstep deliveries, it needed to significantly change the way it delivered support to local people, while training up over 100 volunteers at speed on how to operate safely and effectively.

Getting new volunteers up-and-running via 1-2-1 web or phone calls was too time-consuming in a crisis, and attempts to deliver training via Zoom were unsuccessful – synchronising timings was difficult and many volunteers missed their slots.

Emily Daniel, Operations Lead at Together Co, explained:

“Our volunteers make a huge difference to people experiencing severe isolation in Brighton & Hove. With the pandemic heaping extra pressure on the most vulnerable, we needed to recruit and train a huge number of new volunteers fast. We not only had to change the way we trained our volunteers, but the way we provided support to isolated people. Before COVID-19, befriending was largely done face-to-face, but volunteers had to switch to providing social and emotional support and public health guidance via phone, as well as practical help with shopping. Kineo and StoryTagger helped us to make this urgent operational shift.”

Kineo introduced Together Co to StoryTagger, enabling the charity to plan and self-film a series of videos covering all essential aspects of support in less than 48 hours. The videos were set up as a playlist on YouTube, accessible not only to Together Co’s volunteers but also to loneliness charities across the UK. Kineo supported the videos with an interactive quiz and an e-learning platform to test that volunteers were support ready.

StoryTagger CEO, Cheryl Clemons said:

“Together Co were able to film important training content in a series of short, focused videos from the comfort of their homes without the need for a film crew, giving the charity a very personal and efficient way of inducting a huge portfolio of volunteers. The usual time spent on training was halved, while the number of trained volunteers tripled. Most importantly, volunteers were equipped to help isolated people faster and more safely. It would have taken trainers weeks to accomplish this face-to-face which wasn’t feasible in a crisis.”

User-generated videos are a relatively new training tool here in the UK but Covid-19 has meant organisations having to rethink how they operate and train their people.

IKEA, Bupa and Royal Mail are all now using StoryTagger’s selfie video platform, as are student unions running virtual Freshers’ weeks and elections at university campuses across the country.

Kineo, who count BP, McDonald’s and Rolls Royce among their clients, has also seen a surge in customer demand, as companies look for new platforms to help them continue business as usual and improve ways of working in the new normal.

Stuart Chadwick, Managing Director of Kineo EMEA said:

“Brighton is a very forward-thinking and creative city, so it’s no surprise that new technologies born here are helping people across the world to find new ways to learn from each other during the pandemic and to digitally transform the way they operate in the future. Being able to give something back to our community through our work with Together Co has been really rewarding.”

As concerns about the current rise in recorded Covid infections and future lockdowns increase across the UK, Emily Daniel is reassured that Together Co can now manage operational changes and volunteer inductions through the continued use of StoryTagger and Kineo’s digital tools. She said:

“We are incredibly grateful for the support given by our community during the Covid-19 crisis. As the situation changes, we are building on this kindness, working together to make sure no one is left behind this winter. Many people in the city are facing huge challenges, feeling alone, worried about money and other problems. Our digital transformation during lockdown means that we are now ready to respond more quickly and efficiently to an anticipated increase in demand for our services.”

If you are feeling alone, worried about money or other issues, or are interested in becoming a Together Co volunteer, visit