Nearly 18 months ago, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, SCoJeC successfully applied for funding for Jewish Scotland Connected, to explore how hybrid technology could overcome lockdown and bring together Jewish people across Scotland for a range of different events. The project was an exciting experiment. Would people want to participate? Could volunteers master the technology? Would the partner organisations grasp the opportunity to extend their reach beyond their traditional local populations?
What none of us could have anticipated was the continuing impact of the pandemic. An event can only be hybrid if there's a physical one for the remote audience to join, and for many partners, just getting back to their normal programme of in-person events remains challenging.
We had some great successes. As a result of the project, SCoJeC now owns two full sets of audio and video equipment that can be loaned to partners for their own hybrid events. Nearly 20 volunteers were trained to use the equipment, and we have produced a range of on-demand 'how-to' videos and quick reference guides. We delivered two large, technically complex events – the annual Glasgow Yom HaShoah and the First Minister’s Questions – and several smaller ones. Indeed, the first Minister commented that this was the first time she had addressed a meeting that was livestreamed in multiple venues and all virtual and live audience members were able to ask questions.
Looking to the future, we have learned that technical training and equipment are enablers, but do not on their own deliver hybrid events – the organisers also need explicitly to ‘think hybrid’ in planning their programme. That’s an additional effort when restarting after a two year pause. But hybrid is not going away – its time is here, and we now have a much clearer idea of how to use it effectively. In future we could try hosting events away from the central belt with virtual participants in the major communities, and find ways to put a ‘Scottish wrapper’ around events in London, Israel, or anywhere in the Jewish world, by having a local expert introduce it or lead a discussion after it.
So while for the time being the project has come to an end, its legacy lives on.