Hive Supporting people in social isolation

by Richard Dietrich in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

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To support everyone's mental wellbeing during the coronavirus isolation by creating virtual groups, called Hives.

by Richard Dietrich in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

I am Richard Dietrich, a retired business consultant with experience in disaster relief, and the charity and business sectors. 

World Helm was established a few years ago by a group of respected trustees as a “think tank” to influence social policy.

Hive was originally conceived to address isolation and loneliness where we would match people in the virtual environment and then help them meet up in the real world. With the onset of this terrible pandemic, we can turn the idea on its head. Now Hive will facilitate virtual meetings.

The fact that we had already been developing Hive means that we have many things in place.


Our vision is to create Hives all around the country to connect everyone. A Hive will not only enable people to keep connected but it will give them a reason to return to the virtual Hive time and again. 

To maintain positive lives and good mental health we need meaning, structure and community. Hive will connect people into communities, regular online meetings will contribute to structure, and the activities, linked to people’s interests, will provide the meaning.


Our decision to get Hive working now comes from Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell which tells the stories of how extraordinary communities have arisen in disasters. This time is our time to act.


Throwing a bunch of people together on the internet in a Skype or Google Duo chat room is not enough. To ensure a Hive succeeds, carefully designed content is essential. We will supply a list of activities for Hives to choose from. Each Hive will have formed around common interests and these Hives will find activities tailored to their interests ready for them on the site.

We will help break the ice between people and help them maintain their interest in keeping the Hive going. The activities will expand as we tap into everyone’s imagination about what can be achieved in online Hives. Already during our consultation period, new ideas for content have emerged.

List of Activities

1.Ice breakers

2 Life stories 

2.1 At this frightening time, people will have a natural tendency to want to reflect on their lives and the Hive will offer them a platform to tell their stories.

2.2 Stories can be recorded and posted on-site, with the best stories rising to the top of a ranking list by people voting for them.

3. Links to free online exercise classes, eg Youtube: Yoga With Adriene which can be done together virtually.

4.  Cultural discussion about books, films, videos, TV shows, poems and music.

4.1 Activities are ready in each of these areas which will enable people to introduce their favourites in each category and encourage a structure for the discussion. The conclusion can be a posting of the Hives favourites to the website for sharing and ranking.

5 Games

5.1 We can introduce online games. Initially, simple card games or links to online board games. 

6. The Change the World game.  Everyone has views and ideas about what a better world would look like. The activities here are designed to help people engage in informed discussions a single issue at a time. It is intended to be free from political allegiance.

6.1. The initial list of issues are those identified by the World Economic Forum, (WEF) as areas that put our world at risk. It’s only a starting point to which issues can be added.

6.2 Each issue will have a short initial article designed to stimulate discussion. There will be additional links to further information for people who wish to dig deeper.

6.3 The discussion may not go any further than the fun of shared learning. However, if a Hive comes up with an idea for a better way of dealing with the issue then they are encouraged to post their position back onto the Hive site and become part of something much bigger. Feeling you are part of society will become more important the longer this period of isolation persists.

6.4 On the site, the views will be visible to anyone and can be voted on by all Hive members to rank the views so the best ideas rise to the top.

6.5 The site will also enable communication between the Hives and even enable two Hives to meet up virtually.

6.6 An initial discussion might well be around the coronavirus but to maintain our mental health we must look beyond the virus and prepare ourselves to re-engage with society. This provides the essential “meaning” required for people's mental health.

6.7 The list of issues is not intended to be exclusive and Hive will respond to other people’s ideas and help build the content to facilitate discussion on any topics of interest that may arise in a Hive.

7. The site will also enable Hive members to post other items, personal stories and outcome of the cultural discussions and where appropriate these posts can be voted on and ranked. 

Style of discussions.

Around policy issues Hive will promote the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment, 1760-1850. 

First comes evidence (scientific evidence) to which logic or reason is applied, under the moral umbrella of humanism, through which we can propose a course for progress. Evidence will be at the foundation of everything in the quest for truth in a post-truth era. 

Postings that make claims that can’t be supported with evidence will be deleted. 

In culture matters views can be expressed without an evidence base.

The Team.

We have the leadership and will recruit the technical crew.

That’s why we need funds, to hire the right technical people to get the idea up and running on the Internet. We have experience in managing IT development but it’s the people who will design the site and write the code to deliver the functionality that we need. We will also appeal for volunteers to help keep the cost down.

How will we spend the money?

We will hire website designers, programmers, a content management and internet safety manager.There will be some IT expenses.

We are a registered Charity, and although the Hive idea could be taken up in the commercial sector we have a strong desire to keep it as a non-profit.

Technical Platform

  • The website would offer a simple registration and matching process
  • We would take advantage of existing platforms like Skype group video conference calls or Google Duo to make the connection between people.
  • The matching process would attempt to match people who live nearby.
  • The site will provide material for activities in a variety of ways.
  • The site will have a wiki-like function to enable the exchange of and ranking view between Hives.
  • The Hive would be virtual until the coronavirus has passed so during this time people who need physical assistance can be linked to other organisations eg:
  • The initial web site specifications have already been produced but we expect to improve them during the development process as professionals bring in better ideas.


We will hire someone to ensure we create a safe environment.They will need to look after data protection, privacy, and ensure that all postings to the site are not offensive and do not place any one at risk.

Hive Membership Recruitment

We are all isolated now. 

You might have a great network. 

People are already organising to help strangers in the locality with physical support.

Now is time to reach out to strangers to look after everyone’s mental health. So even if you are already well connected on the Internet, please help set up a local Hive to include anyone you know who may be isolated.

Here is a list of ways we have thought to recruit members:

    • Through people reading the crowdfunding post.
    • Through Twitter
    • Youtube
    • Facebook
    • Radio / TV / Press
    • Other 3rd sector organisations.

Barriers & Response 

Some people will not have access to the internet or a suitable device

  • People could start allowing neighbours to piggyback on their broadband connection
  • We will ask the government to step in and get local broadband hubs installed so everyone can be connected
  • People with extra devices might loan them to a neighbour
  • We will ask the government to supply basic devices to people that need them
  • No one should be left out.

This should form part of the Government’s infrastructure strategy to roll out the internet to everyone. We will ask them to act now.

This could help bring people onto the Internet for Telehealth services now and after the crisis, reducing NHS costs in the long term.

Long Term Benefits

While this proposal is intended to address the immediate coronavirus crisis, like all good emergency responses, establishing Hives during this pandemic will enable us to build long-term community capacity to mitigate the suffering and cost of caring for the 1.6 million chronically isolated lonely people living in the UK, a number that will skyrocket during this pandemic.

Proof of Concept and Expansion

The finance requested should be enough to get us up and running so we can prove that what appears logical on paper can actually deliver the desired results. We then intend to request government funding to maintain and expand the service.

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