The Co-op’s membership and British Red Cross volunteers have separately raised the issue of loneliness in communities across the UK as a major issue. But by partnering together, the organisations hope to tackle the problem and to develop insight that informs and helps to shape solutions.
The first step involved the partners commissioning independent research to better understand loneliness. This revealed that loneliness was not the preserve of the elderly. Instead, it identified six triggers that demonstrate loneliness can hit anybody at any time. These triggers ranged from becoming a new mum, empty nest syndrome, retirement to long-term health issues, mobility limitations, bereavement, divorce or separation.
Trapped in a bubble was launched in December 2016 at Whitehall. The organisations invited 180 guests from local government, non-governmental organisations and the NHS to a debate on the subject. The event was livestreamed on Facebook. More than 3,400 people watched it live.
The report found that nine million people were lonely at any time and identified 39 hotspots where loneliness is a major issue. The findings were shared across multiple platforms, and were accompanied by real life stories that attempted to put faces to the issue.
The Co-op also told the story to its members via its website and emails. It also launched a volunteer programme for people to work with the British Red Cross to tackle the epidemic. On Twitter, #tacklingloneliness trended. In the run up to the report’s launch, the Co-op worked with Channel 4 News to develop a three day package of programmes featuring people from each of the trigger groups.
On the day of launch, Channel 4 hosted a panel discussion featuring experts, including Co-op director Lord Victor Adebowale. This generated interest in the other broadcasters, leading to 22 items of coverage. All told, the report generated 80 items of coverage.
The Co-op and British Red Cross were also both invited to join the Jo Cox Commission on loneliness, demonstrating their positions as thought leaders in this field. The Co-op is the only business to sit on the commission. When the British Red Cross launched a community connector service in the loneliness hotspots more than 500 volunteers applied.
‘A genuinely original piece of research with a well-planned and executed media strategy,’ said the judges. ‘It achieved huge publicity for an issue that is not well understood.’