Toynbee Hall Launches new community-led research: Pandemic Stories

Toynbee Hall Launches new community-led research: Pandemic Stories

Pandemic Stories - A new participatory research project by Toynbee Hall and Thrive LDN

This Participatory Action Research project will aim to understand how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting low income and other disproportionately affected households

Toynbee Hall are launching a new action research project today to understand how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting low income and other disproportionately affected households in London, including renters, disabled people and people from specific BAME communities. Toynbee Hall is working in collaboration with Thrive LDN, who is coordinating the public mental health response to COVID-19 in London on behalf of Public Health England. 

Since 2017 Toynbee Hall have been building a network of community peer researchers and organisers by training local residents to conduct participatory action research with their neighbours, family, friends and workmates. For this project we have recruited 17 peer researchers with direct experience of the issues being investigated. With an age range spanning 20 to 70,  and with  13 languages between them, they are able to reach deep into the local communities they live in.  Over the next few months they will use their networks to invite households in London to take part in the research, and will support their peers to record their experiences of the pandemic through interviews, self-filming, and diary writing. The community researchers will work with us to develop and shape policy solutions informed by the community’s insights.

Together with the Toynbee Hall Research and Policy Team, the community researchers have chosen to focus on how the following factors have impacted their peers’ wellbeing during the pandemic:

  • Powerlessness over sources of income and expenditure
  • The help and support households receive
  • Digital access
  • Mental health

This research will give policy-makers the opportunity to hear directly from those most affected by the unequal impact of COVID-19 about their challenges before and during the pandemic, and their own suggested solutions for increasing their financial resilience and wellbeing for the future.  

Dan Barrett, Director, Thrive LDN:

“Thrive LDN is delighted to be working with Toynbee Hall on this project to gain in-depth insights and understanding of issues affecting vulnerable and marginalised communities during the current crisis. We know from data, intelligence and research available that some individuals and communities are being more adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic and we are working with a wide range of partners to help coordinate a collective response to the public mental health challenges which are developing in London.” 

Sian Williams, Director of Policy and Innovation, Toynbee Hall:

“The evidence is compelling that inequality costs lives and undermines well-being for us all, and COVID-19 has made this stark fact undeniable. We must work now to design out the systemic causes of inequality, so that the next pandemic doesn’t have the same disproportionate impact. At Toynbee Hall we believe that effective policy must include the perspective and participation of those people most affected; who knows better what will work effectively on the ground than the people living that reality? So we are excited that our peer research partnership with Thrive LDN offers the people directly affected by inequality the opportunity to help shape new policies aimed at designing a fairer and happier society.”

Meet some of our community research team:

Michael PicklesMichael Pickles

I am interested in the wellbeing of people in the future, how they will start to get better and how this will shape life. There will be a lot of people who have had different things going on and different problems from before. I think mental health, homeless people and young people’s problems will still be there, with extra things for them to deal with.
Anwar MiahAnwar Miah

It’s a great opportunity, Toynbee Hall does such great work! They bring out the community. And I want to do my bit for the community, and the borough.
Rothna BegumRothna Begum

Working with Toynbee Hall has allowed me to be part of how Covid has changed the lives of our community, our children, our families and the lives of millions around the world. A stronger community is a stronger future.
Laura BlairLaura Blair

Whilst the circumstances which have led to our project aren’t ideal, I’m really excited to be working with Toynbee and the other community researchers on our COVID project. The pandemic has made even more obvious the inequalities which already existed in society, and it’s clear that not everyone has been equally affected by our situation. I hope that our work together will enable people in our communities to share their ideas and experiences and begin to create positive change for everyone.
Primla BhambriPrimla Bhambri

I want to know what is happening in my community and what we can do for them. This will keep me busy and I am proud that I can do something for my community. If we help each other we can find out what kind of problems we each have and it will be easier to solve. I am looking forward to meeting different kinds of cultures and people in my community.
Jennifer Thomas

I volunteer in my community with the Hackney Caribbean Elders Organisation (HCEO) working with the elderly and with the residents of my estate. Earlier this year, I completed my Introduction to Community Organising Training at Toynbee Hall and I believe I have some of the additional skills needed to continue to do community work effectively. I am interested in learning new things and the processes employed to do research and development with solutions. 
Angela DietrichAngela Dietrich

I joined this project because I want to contribute to people’s efforts not to allow the COVID to negatively impact their lives. By exchanging and compiling information through the project, we can hopefully make a difference by influencing policy makers in their efforts to improve people’s futures.

Our community research team want to hear from a wide group of people who have been impacted by the crisis. We especially want to talk to Londoners including:

  • People living on a low income
  • Renters
  • Those considering themselves to be part of an ethnic minority group, particularly people from a Caribbean or Bangladeshi background
  • Parents with dependent children and lone parents
  • People with long term ill health or a disability
  • Those with no recourse to public funds (including Refugees & Asylum Seekers)
  • People who find it difficult to access the internet or don’t have computer skills
  • LGBTQ+
  • Carers (care workers and home carers)

Please contact us if you would like the opportunity to share your experiences. Please see here for full information and to register your interest. All contributions can be kept anonymous and all contributors receive ‘thank you’ incentives for taking part in the research. To find out more about the project, please contact

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