By Ronan Doyle, Head of Communications and Public Engagement at Dóchas, member of Forus in Ireland

Having clear and concise communications channels is essential for any network organisation like Dóchas. This allows us to effectively communicate with and facilitate communication between our members, all of whom are committed to global change and equality. 

In order to achieve this, Dóchas applied for a FORUS support in 2018, with the key aims of making our website more accessible, developing a virtual map to showcase the breadth of the operations of our members, and strengthening our capacity to host live webinars and video content. But no- one could have foreseen the fundamental shift to online communications that we have had to adapt to in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

One key deliverable from the Forus project was to “strengthen our capacity to do live webinars and v-blogs”. As a novice in this area, I began researching how this could be achieved, eventually settling on a solution which ensured a balance between being budget conscious and having a realistic tech solution to what we needed. The answer, I believed, lay in a good microphone, an adapter which would allow a decent DSLR camera connect to a laptop, some free software and YouTube live. 

My research was taking place at the same time that news of the Coronavirus began spreading around the world. Little did I know at the time that our jump to the online space would occur sooner and more dramatically than I had anticipated and would not be as I planned. 

On 13 March, Dóchas hosted a seminar using a Zoom option for people who could not attend in person, the first time I had ever used Zoom, although others in the team had been using it occasionally.  Despite concerns whether online attendees could contribute effectively, it was a great success.  Little did I know that it was going to be the last event we held in person this year. 

Like all organisations we went through a very steep learning curve in the world of Zoom. We have organised hundreds of meetings and several large online events. From a starting position of almost zero, to organising 100% of our meetings and events online, we “pivoted” exceptionally smoothly. 

More than that, we took advantage of our new environment by bringing in more field voices than ever before and have consistently had much large attendances. Our online events have also included a variety of extra options from showing videos to voting during our AGM. 

But what does the future hold for all of our events? Will we remain more in the online space even when the world begins to return to normal, or will it be back to face to face? If it is the latter, and we return to the world of conference centres, hotels and meeting rooms, how much of what we have learned over the past eight months do we bring with us? For me, the answer is, a lot. 

I believe that the connectivity and agility that remote events have brought our organisation and our members outweighs many of the negatives and it is vital that when we return to the “old ways” we must always give as much importance to the online aspect of our events as to the offline aspects. So now as we look to the future of our online presence being enabled by FORUS' support, we look forward to a refreshing new website with easily accessible tools and resources and an online event solution which consists of a good microphone, an adapter which would allow a decent DSLR camera connect to a laptop, some free software, YouTube live and a newly acquired ability with Zoom.