Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, public and third sector organisations supporting community wellbeing have relied on a mixture of remote and face-to-face methods for delivering services and engaging with the people they support. While surrounding debate can sometimes focus on the strengths and weaknesses of digital ‘versus’ face-to-face provision in a binary way, emergent in the wider discussion about pandemic recovery and transition is a growing attention to ‘hybrid’ or ‘blended’ approaches: the ways in which digital and face-to-face delivery might interact; and the implications of this for public and third sector services and the people and communities they serve.
As we move beyond the emergency response phase of the pandemic, public and third sector organisations supporting community wellbeing are faced with determining what role digital provision could and should continue to play in their work, and how this should interact with face-to-face delivery. Such questions have far-reaching implications for social justice, equalities and inclusion – because emerging evidence suggests that the ways in which online and offline provision are ‘blended’ can determine how services work and for whom. It is therefore critical to better understand the different ways in which online and offline provision have been ‘blended’ in community wellbeing services, and the associated opportunities, benefits, and risks.
To address this, this project aims to explore the diverse evidence from practice that has developed during the pandemic. Our conversations with policy and practice experts with a range of different specialisms and perspectives have highlighted both the breadth of this evidence, and the need to capture and analyse it to better understand ‘what works’ in blended service provision, for whom, for what, and in what ways. This project therefore seeks to establish promising practices in blending online and offline provision in community wellbeing services by addressing the following questions: