Compass Advocacy Network: Tune in to CAN TV

Compass Advocacy Network

While most of us are barely surviving the lockdown, members of CAN are positively thriving, thanks to the predictable rhythm of life and CAN TV that packs a punch in terms of positive programming.

Compass Advocacy Network (CAN) is an advocacy charity that works throughout the Causeway area, as well as Ballymena, Coleraine and Ballycastle, with their headquarters based in Ballymoney. Members range from young people aged 12 and upwards, as well as adults with learning disabilities. CAN's core values are to bolster advocacy and empowerment using the slogan 'I Can, you Can, WE CAN !' which underpins how togetherness matters and how 'together' everyone can make the world a better place.

CAN TV kick started its TV life shortly after lockdown, beginning a programme schedule at 1.30pm every day and streaming live through Facebook for around thirty minutes. However, as demand for content increased and member confidence grew, CAN TV took a broader approach and handed some of its programming delivery to its members. Now, there are around two hundred members that actively engage in these online TV shows.

We asked CAN's CEO, Janet Schofield, to tell us a little more about their version of 'Goggle Box' and the difference it has made to members.

"Many of our members struggle with the unpredictability of things - they take comfort from being around familiar people they trust and have solid relations with, so we had to find a way of bringing those people to them, given the restrictions of physical distancing. We also had to be sensitive to the fun or physical tasks we set for our TV programmes. For example, on our Scavenger Hunt theme, we couldn't assume that everyone had access to a garden or outdoor space. So we tried to choose things that our members could hunt for that were likely to be found indoors. It's all about inclusion."

So what's on the box?

Janet went on to explain about how, on just one of their many TV shows, they brought in Casey's Creatures - an organisation they would normally engage with and someone whom their members have a strong affiliation with. John Casey, biologist and teacher, went on CAN TV to talk about his animals, their habits and habitats, before opening up the floor to CAN members and engaging in a quick fire Q&A round.

"Every Friday night we run a Zoom disco, too. Tonight is called 'Friday Night Disco Takeover' because it's been hijacked by one of our adult members who is in charge of the music! Members simply place their requests online, then everyone has the joy of sharing music and dance and general interaction with one another. It's just one of the really positive things that has come out of this lockdown, as is the deluge of creativity that Covid-19 has released."

Like everyone else, CAN has been impacted financially as one of their primary funding avenues – a waste management social enterprise that collects and processes plastic, cardboard and textiles - has been pretty much shut down. In addition, they've seen the closure of their retail outlets, resulting in a further loss of income.

Key learnings: what are they?

But one of the key messages they'll take from being under lockdown is just how positively many of their members have responded to the 'new norm'. While some of us view lockdown as living a life that's stuck on repeat - a bit like Groundhog Day! - others see it as something where the predictable rhythm of each day can be relied on, and where the challenge of change and newness no longer exists or poses a threat.

"What we've learnt is that we don’t need to go back to the old ways - not all of them, anyway. There have been so many positive impact stories from within CAN that we know we need to re-shape and continue with some of these lockdown methods going forward. We need to take a flexible approach and if it means that safety behind closed door works for some, then we’ll continue with that. It's definitely made us think about the way we will deliver our services going forward." 

If you would like to learn more about Compass Advocacy Network, visit their website for more information. Or to watch CAN TV, visit CAN's Facebook page.


The opinions, views or comments in this article do not necessarily reflect any views or policies of NICVA.

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