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How Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale communicate with Textlocal

Debs Drew talks about how Textlocal has helped with communications when working with Community Champions.

Debs Drew is the Community Hubs Project Coordinator for Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale working in partnership with Rochdale MBC Community Champions team & Rochdale Libraries. I would say that my technical ability has greatly improved since being involved with the UK online centres Community Hubs projects. I now have the courage to ‘play’ around with online tools and have the confidence to try new digital technologies.

Why did you look for this tool in the first place? What did you need help with?
It was evident that there was a need for a more efficient two way communication method to let the central co-ordinating team talk to community volunteers. It needed to be something that would encourage autonomy amongst volunteer Champions, support a clear shared purpose and enable the staff team to promote opportunities and training. Previously a combination of emails, telephone calls, manual texts and letters were used to disseminate information to all Champions. The trouble was, a Champion is out and about in the community – not sat at a desk receiving information. Getting urgent or important information to everyone at the same time was almost impossible.

How did you find out about the tool?
I had used it briefly on a previous project where we would send group texts out to clients.

What is this tool mainly used for?
This tool enables you to communicate with contact groups and individuals by text message, and allows authorised users to respond to you for free. Staff can send SMS messages directly from their email account. It also allows you to measure the impact over specific periods, so you can see the effect of improved communication.

What do you use it for?
The Community Champions staff team use it to communicate with Community Champions regarding training, development and volunteering opportunities, sharing job apprenticeships, meetings, client matching etc. We have also set up sub accounts for partner projects and organisations to trial for free – we transfer credits to their sub account from our master account.

Why has this tool been useful to you?
The Textlocal provision has enabled the team as a whole to communicate more effectively, and more efficiently. Rather than sending information out in a variety of ways it now can be communicated simultaneously to all Champions at once. It provides Champions with a consistent source of information, and they can contact us instantly – one the move – for free. Champions have even started using the service themselves – for instance setting up a ‘brew and chat’ session for Champions by Champions, all organised and advertised on the text service.

Is there any cost attached to using this tool?
Yes, however there is a free trial period that allows you to test it out! The free trial provides you with 10 credits. There are a variety of packages and ‘bundles’ you can purchase. As a Charity we qualified for Charity status and purchased a bundle of 25,000 text credits (2.8p per text). There are additional costs to set up the free text service and other functionalities. Credit bundles range from 100 credits at £4.90 per bundle and upwards – the more credits you purchase the cheaper the text credits. We’ve found it to be great value for money, but you can see the price package details online here:

Are there any online tutorials available?
There are a variety of online tutorials that you can access and the txtlocal support team are always on hand to provide support and guidance.

Did this application need much of your time to set it up at the beginning?
Very easy and quick to set up – it took around an hour if that. You can even cut and paste or upload contacts so you don’t have to enter them all manually.

Are there any limitations to using this tool?
All depends on the package you chose. We opted to go for a package that would fit the requirements and duration of our Community Hubs Project. I did sign up for the trial period to test the functionality and suitability before we bought.

Do you have any top tips for using this tool?
Play around with the functionalities as there are lots of useful things that you can do – you can even schedule messages to go out at certain times. It’s useful to introduce users to the system so everyone’s clear on how to reply and send texts directly. We created a ‘how to’ steps to give to Champions and ran short training sessions.

Do you have any other recommendations of tools that could help you do something similar?

Are there any other online tools that you use that you would recommend and why?
I use SurveyMonkey to create surveys for Community Champions, partner projects and other organisations - I have also used it to track an individual learner’s progress through a learning programme. Wordpress has also been trialled by the Community Champions and is proving to be a useful tool for them to communicate information and share best practice – for free! Finally, we use Mi Fi a great deal, to deliver presentations in the community and even to support one to one learning sessions.