With the mad scramble to adapt all of our social connections for online access we have had some serious rethinking to do…
Feedback from our gender-diverse community (via our Community Reference Group, or 'CRG') has suggested that, while many aspects of our future is unknown, it is helpful for us to provide some structure and frameworks around how supported SPARK activities might proceed.
While SPARK was previously a small aspect of the TGV/DPC peer-support initiative it has become, in some ways, the ‘dog’ rather than its ‘wagging tail’. For the short term, COVID-19 means that we need to focus training on developing skill sets that will support our trans and gender diverse communities to connect meaningfully using digital platforms and tools.
TGV has made the decision to offer free access and training on G Suite - Google’s family of products that includes video calls, chat, shared access to documents and spreadsheets, calendars, and email groups. This allows us to offer all CRG members and all SPARK peer-support groups access to autonomous use of whatever components of the suite you find most useful.
In coming weeks the Community Reference Group (12 members representing community ‘nodes’ across the state) and SPARK participants (37 separate proposals, ranging from writing groups to virtual cinema clubs, to yoga and naming circles) will be offered a customised ‘peer-support’ email address that provides access to G-suite. This is the key that opens the door into space where you can not only run your own peer-support activities but network with other facilitators and groups. You can help by sharing tips with one another on what you have found works well… and how to overcome obstacles.
There will no doubt be a little confusion as we all get up to speed. We understand that many of us are experiencing platform overload and feel quite overwhelmed when we’re hopping in and out of meetings and chats ranging across Slack, Discord, Zoom and email. I’m currently juggling an inbox with 8 active email addresses and several others that I often forget to check! Here’s an article you might find interesting: ‘The reason Zoom calls drain your energy’
If we’re to endure ongoing social distancing we’ll need to be a bit patient with one another as we all work out what kinds of communications work for each of us… and when it’s time to withdraw, rest and recuperate. The peer-support project officers are here to help with that…
After you receive your customised email address (towards the end of this week) we will invite you to explore the desktop space offered by G-suite. Here are some useful intro tutorials focusing on the 'Meet' function that will help you start connecting with your group: 'Google Hangouts Meet'
Meanwhile, our peer-support project officers, Son and Oliver, are working hard behind the scenes to resolve individual queries, and to help adapt the content of your proposals for digital delivery. For those that need some more hands-on tech support, our Executive Director at TGV, Margot Fink, will be offering 1:1 troubleshooting.
In terms of deadlines and expectations for SPARK…
We are anticipating that all applicants will have submitted their third stage google form (here) by Monday 4th May. At this point the first payment of $1000 will be released and you can officially get started!
The first ‘milestone’ for SPARK will be 4th September when all of us will have been engaging in peer-support activities for around 4 months. At this point, we’d like a brief 1-page summary on your project and 3-5 images that represent activities so far. We’ll share these with the community at large and celebrate our wins, potentially in a large-scale virtual meet-up. Participation in this milestone will trigger the second release of funds and your final $500.
Depending on how things are going towards the end of the year, we are considering offering further funds for a transition of activities back to face-to-face groups. We’d love to stage an in-the-flesh TransGathering early in 2021, perhaps to coincide with Midsumma or Pride 2021 (the 40th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality in Victoria, which seems to be growing into a larger LGBTIQ celebration).
Throughout the next 9-10 months, we’ll also be offering virtual training on facilitating peer-support digitally and eventually ‘offline’. This may take the form of webinars, or video events, or walk-through how-to guides.
This is where we need some help…
What are the biggest obstacles that you and your community are facing in supporting one another? What kind of skills development would help you most?
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