What is The Great Winter Get Together?
The Great Winter Get Together (12-15 January 2024) is a long weekend of community events around the country where people can make meaningful connections, inspired by Jo Cox’s passion for improving the UK’s response to loneliness.
I will not live in a country where thousands of people are living lonely lives forgotten by the rest of us.Jo Cox MP
The winter period is a difficult time for many and Great Winter Get Together events are positive spaces where people can connect with others in their community.
This toolkit is to support you to run your Great Winter Get Together event – from coming up with an idea, to the day of the event. You could plan a Great Winter Get Together event from scratch, or register your monthly games night or coffee morning. Now more than ever, we need to bring people together and you are playing an important role in doing just that.
Ideas for your event
Any event can be a Great Winter Get Together, so long as it supports people to make meaningful connections this January.
To give you ideas, some of the fantastic Great Winter Get Together events that took place last year included:
- Community cafes: a cafe-style event for people to connect at works great, or you could add a table that’s designated as a ‘chatty table’ within an existing cafe.
- Craft workshops: helping people connect around an activity – for example, stitching or art.
- Letter writing: Give a Few Words, a charity in Batley, ran a letter and poetry writing workshop, supporting people with writing positive letters/poems and sending them to those in local care homes.
- Board game evenings: Whether it be chess, Cluedo, or Warhammer 40k, board games are a great way to help people connect and to involve all ages.
- Community wassail: Wassailing, the practice of visiting fruit trees to welcome in the new year and ensure a good harvest for the year to come, is an ancient tradition that has been repurposed to provide community links and connection.
- Community soup-sharing: Soup is one of the foods that we share across cultures – and a traditional, warming winter dish. Why not take advantage of this and run a community soup-sharing event, inviting people to come along and share food from different cultures?
- Public Living Rooms: Setting up a public living room is a fantastic way of creating a long-term place to connect in your community and you can find support from Camerados to get up and running.
Keys for connection at your Great Winter Get Together
Here are some top tips for how to encourage people to connect at your events, based on the Unlocking Connection report from our Connection Coalition:
- Consider your space: The right event space is needed to ensure people can feel safe and relaxed. This doesn’t mean high-end buildings, but it does mean a space selected to be accessible and facilitate connection.
- Consider your activities: Including an activity helps people feel more at ease by giving them something to focus on. This creates space for conversations and connections to emerge naturally. How can you include those who may not be able to take part in physical activities? If you’re doing food based things can you include a range of different cuisines?
- Working with others to plan your event: As organisers we benefit from making connections and collaborating with others. Working with other organisations and your wider community helps to develop constructive feedback, opportunities and new ideas. It can particularly be useful when you’re trying to make your event more inclusive to a particular community or group – working with an organisation that works regularly with that group can provide valuable insights and make your event far more effective.
- Pay attention to small things: Connections aren’t automatically created when you bring people together. It requires intention and attention. Paying attention to details, such as bringing along name stickers and having some refreshments, can help give people reassurance and the tools they need to navigate new connections or experiences.
- Creating meaningful connections takes time: Building trust, relationships and creating meaningful connections takes time. Try to keep your event and activities flexible, allowing people to participate in their own way and not feel rushed. Offering refreshments before and after the main event, or having a quiet space for people to withdraw to, can help people to participate at their own pace and feel more comfortable, leading to more meaningful connections.
- Identify barriers to participation and how you might overcome them: Anyone can benefit from increasing the number and quality of their social connections – but we know that certain groups are at more risk of loneliness and disconnection. Doing what you can to identify and minimise obstacles to attending will help increase your positive impact and change lives. For example, is the venue easy to get to via public transport? Have you made it clear when promoting your event that people can attend alone, or bring a friend?
Download the Unlocking Connection report for more tips and examples to help you make your Great Winter Get Together a place for meaningful connections.
Making your Great Winter Get Together inclusive
Inclusion at a Great Winter Get Together means making everyone feel welcomed, comfortable and able to be themselves. This is a key part of making sure that your event is as successful as possible at encouraging meaningful connection.
- Are you including a range of people in the planning of the event? It’s great to co-produce your event with your wider community, so that you can share insights together and make it an event where everyone feels welcome.
- How are you publicising the event to reach people in your community? You might want to think about leaflets and doorknocking to reach people who aren’t active online, or having posters made in commonly-used languages in your local area.
- What activities are involved? Will the activities be easy for people to participate in? Are there any barriers to participation that you could resolve?
- Is the venue easy to get to? Does it have adequate parking or step-free access? Is it one that normally welcomes a diverse range of people? Knowing these accessibility details will help people to plan how they will attend.
- Will there be any cost to people attending? The cost of living crisis is impacting people’s budgets and as such the ‘hidden costs’ of attending events may become bigger barriers to attending than previously. Let people know in your promotion whether the event is free or includes any costs, so they can plan.
- Have you made it clear in your promotion who the event is for? If it’s for everyone in the community, let people know that everyone is welcome! If it involves an activity that anyone can participate in, let them know that no prior experience is needed. Try to anticipate the questions people might have, but also offer some contact details so that people can get in touch with you.
- How can you find out about your guests’ needs? You could use an RSVP process to find out dietary requirements and accessibility needs and have name stickers available at the event so people can share their names and pronouns.
You can find additional tips to make people feel included in the section above: Keys for connection at your Great Winter Get Together.
Advertising your Great Winter Get Together
- Consider who your target audience is and the best ways to reach out to them. If your event is in a local park, consider where you can put up posters nearby, or if the park has a ‘friends’ group who can help. If you want to reach those who are native speakers of another language, translating your materials into languages commonly spoken in your local area will help people to find out more.
- Promote your event online by sharing it on social media and in-person by distributing posters and flyers. We’ve developed a range of templates which you can customise.
- Promote your event locally by displaying posters in shops, leafleting at events or doorknocking to spread the word.
- Reach out to your local media to raise awareness of your Great Get Together. You could submit an article to a community newspaper, or chat to a local radio station. Not sure where to start? Simply customise our template press release for your event and send it to your local media.
How to run a connected online event
Online events are a great alternative to in-person events and can bring together people from different parts of the country, or your local area, to make connections – with very little additional organisation needed compared to in-person events.
Include an activity: One of our keys to connection is to have an activity to build your event around. Activities can help people more at ease and prompt discussions and connections and for online events, they help to keep the atmosphere interactive so that people don’t zone out.
- Quizzes: Rather than devoting your entire session to the quiz, you could use one as an initial icebreaker, to get people talking and sharing rather than as a competition.
- Creative sharing: You could get people to practice drawing a picture with their weaker hand and share the results, to find and share a special item from their house, or to share a skill.
- Games: Games are always a great way to get people talking and to provide a meeting with purpose. You could try something like collective storytelling, in which each person adds a line to a story, or find many more ideas online.
- Breakout and talk: Split out into smaller groups and providing some questions or prompts for people to start discussions.
- Have a theme or dress up: You could add a theme for your event to prompt discussions, such as everyone attending must wear a hat, or bring a object to show.
- Play music as people enter: This can help create a welcoming atmosphere and give people something to talk about to break the ice at the start.
Choose your platform: In general we would recommend using Zoom as this is the online platform which most people are familiar with and offers free options. Other platforms you could use include Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp calls (only for smaller groups), or GoTo Meeting.
Managing the sign up process: Access can be a challenge for people attending virtual meetings – particularly for those who are less technologically savvy or using a system which they aren’t used to. Use TinyURL to shrink the meeting URL to join to something easy-to-read and get people to sign up in advance so you can send them full joining instructions. Asking people to sign up in advance means you can understand potential attendance numbers, communicate with attendees in advance and support them with information on how to join. Free systems you can use to manage sign-ups include: Eventbrite, Zoom and Facebook Events.
Promote the event: Promotion is always key to an event’s success, but especially for online events where people need to sign up in advance and can’t just wander along. Try and think about which local forums you can share the event on, and which organisations you can partner with to help to develop your audience.
Short and sweet is best: Online events can be tiring and hard to focus on for extended periods – so keeping an event short and using your time as effectively as possible is best. Try to keep the event to less than a hour in length, with lots to engage and connect people during that period.
Don’t worry about drop-outs: Online events do have a higher drop-out rate than in-person events – it’s simply easier to forget or not log onto an online event! Don’t worry about this – it happens to everyone and isn’t a reflection on your event. Do anticipate that it will happen, however, and plan for slightly lower numbers than initially sign up.
Technical support: Technical issues are inevitable with online events and be prepared that you may need to support attendees with accessing the event or taking part during it. Give attendees options to contact you if needed (such as an email and phone number). If possible, have a dedicated person at the online event whose responsibility it is to provide technical support, let people into the event, and monitor the chat. This then makes the facilitator’s role much easier as there’s less to juggle.
On the day itself
- Have a brilliant time! Capture the event in the moment by taking photos and videos (ensuring that you have people’s consent to share them).
- Join the celebrations on social media by sharing what you’re up to and any photos by using the hashtag #GreatWinterGetTogether and tagging our accounts:
- Thank everyone who helped out and everyone who came along. Use this as an opportunity to let people know about anything else you’ve got planned coming up or ways they can stay in touch.
- Inspired by your event and want to do more? We run the More in Common Network – a network of groups and partnerships around the country that champion Jo Cox’s powerful ‘more in common’ message to bridge divides in their communities. Find out if there’s a group near you or start your own.
Register your event
Register your event
Register your event Help people find out about your Great Winter Get Together by completing this form. By registering, your event will be added to our UK-wide map!