Safeguarding is a term used in Ireland and the United Kingdom that covers efforts to protect the health, wellbeing, and human rights of people, especially children and those who are otherwise vulnerable.
At Diabetes UK, four people alternate by week as the safeguarding lead, helping to protect those that the charity comes in contact with. One of them is Josh Poncil, the online community and learning manager. Among his responsibilities is Diabetes UK’s online forum.
On this episode, we talk about safeguarding and knowing if you’ve done the right thing at the end of the day, plus:
- What is considered “too technical” for the average member to answer in a diabetes community?
- How Josh writes for a vulnerable audience
- Moderation decisions that could trigger a meltdown
When veteran members go bad (18:39): “[After 25 years in content moderation,] I really believe that the most stressful situation is when an experienced member takes a turn for the worst. … It’s painful because they are an example to other people in the community. Especially new members who see their posts and say, ‘That member has this number of contributions and has been in the community this long. If they [post] that and it’s up still, that’s probably how this community behaves.'” -Patrick O’Keefe
An example of safeguarding in an online community (23:43): “I had someone on the forum saying, ‘I’ve just been diagnosed a couple of weeks ago. I’ve barely eaten.’ That’s like an alarm ringing bells in my head. I’ll take the lead and private message them. … ‘Is everything okay? Could you please contact the helpline or tell us what’s going on?’
“Let’s say they got back to me saying, ‘Yes, I haven’t eaten anything. I don’t feel well. I feel dizzy.’ Then I’ll contact back, ‘Do you need me to call an ambulance?’ Sometimes they’ll go back to me, ‘Yes, here’s my address, my telephone number.’ I’ll ring [the emergency service] 999. I have to be careful what I say at the beginning because of my accent. I’m American, but I live in London. I have to make sure I’m not coming off as a scam. I’m calling from a charity. I have a safeguarding concern.” -Josh Poncil
With safeguarding, you regularly are questioning if you did the right thing (24:53): “I’ve had someone on the forum saying, ‘My mom is in quite a worrying state. She’s scared to go to the hospital. She’s dizzy, she’s not coherent. I’m scared she hasn’t been testing for blood sugars.’ On my end, I’ve contacted the daughter, ‘Please get your mom to [Accident and Emergency]. It sounds like she needs medical attention.’ They’ve got back to me, ‘Thank you for getting in touch, but my mom didn’t make it.’ This affected me, and it hit me quite hard not knowing if I did the right thing. I have to just take a moment of, ‘Did I make the right choice? Is there anything else I could do at this time?'” -Josh Poncil
About Josh Poncil
For the last 4 years, Josh Poncil has been the online community and learning manager for Diabetes UK, after a stint at Blood Cancer UK. He went to school for creative writing and journalism, before transitioning to community by way of social media management.
- Sponsor: Higher Logic, the community platform for community managers
- Josh on LinkedIn
- Diabetes UK, where Josh is online community and learning manager
- Diabetes UK’s online forum
[00:00] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
[00:00:18] Patrick O’Keefe: Hello and thank you for listening to Community Signal. Our guest this episode is Josh Poncil, online community and learning manager for Diabetes UK, a charity focused on the disease. We’ll be talking about writing for a vulnerable audience, moderation decisions that could cause a meltdown, and how Josh knows he has properly safeguarded the community at the end of each day. As a warning, Josh makes brief references to death and suicide in the final third of the episode.
As you may have noticed, or maybe not, my son has started to join me to record. He’s 11 months old now and so if you hear any baby noises, that’s him.
Thank you to Jenny Weigle, Maggie McGary, and Jules Standen, all of which have been long-term supporters of our show. If you’d like to join them, please visit communitysignal.com/innercircle for more info.
For the last four years, Josh Poncil has been the online community and learning manager for Diabetes UK after a stint at Blood Cancer UK. He went to school for creative writing and journalism before transitioning to community by way of social media management. Josh, welcome to the show.
[00:01:14] Josh Poncil: Thank you for having me, Patrick.
[00:01:15] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s my pleasure. You mentioned to me before the show that one of your responsibilities was to respond to members who haven’t received this by response or were a member’s post was “too technical”. In the context of diabetes charity, what does two technical mean?
[00:01:29] Josh Poncil: We occasionally get a few people that come to our online community that post very technical, I guess, posts as an example is so one has, I don’t know if you know what that is, but a high HBA1C. It’s like what the hospital measures in terms of their diabetes management. Let’s say it’s as high and they’re on like a specified medication and let’s say an account is having a certain side effect that’s not listed on the prescription box and none of the members can take an account they’ve had experience in.
What we would do is, usually the community will not respond. Sometimes they’ll hop on and say, “Welcome. We don’t know an answer to your post, but someone will hop on to share their thoughts.” Usually, that’s not the case. What I would do on my team, we’d reach out to our CCC, which is our Customer Care Center Information team, and then we’ll pose this question to them saying, hey, et cetera. We saw this on the for it hasn’t got a response. Do you have some information you can dig up?
We have like a clinician team to reach out to. Quite good. They’ll get a response in like an hour or two about let’s say the side effect and what you can do to mediate it. If they can’t mediate it, they’ll encourage them to speak to the healthcare team and then what they’ll do, they’ll send that information back to myself or a member of my online community coordinators and then I’ll post that live to the forum. Once I do post live, which is good about the forum, just in case anyone has a similar experience, that will pop up in Google if they type that in in terms of keyword words or if they type it in the search bar of our online community. It’s a record just in case something similar pops up.
[00:03:04] Patrick O’Keefe: That makes a lot of sense. You also pay special attention to posts that relate to COVID-19, including calculating stats for them. Why do you do that?
[00:03:12] Josh Poncil: Yes, let’s rewind to the beginning of the pandemic.
[00:03:15] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes.
[00:03:15] Josh Poncil: Essentially, no one knows what’s happening.
[00:03:18] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes.
[00:03:18] Josh Poncil: From what we got from the UK government’s rules about what you expected in terms of COVID and what you do in terms of self isolating or staying at home, et cetera.
[00:03:29] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes.
[[00:03:29] Josh Poncil: We took an initiative from our call center of just trying to track all those COVID-19 calls in terms of our online community, it was actually quite tough because I’m still doing it till this day. Essentially, my team or myself, we read all posts that come in for the day. Anything that mentions coronavirus in some way, shape or form, we calculate that theme into a spreadsheet. That’s an example of someone’s, it can be quite nuanced in a way.
[00:03:56] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes.
[00:03:56] Josh Poncil: Someone may hop on the forum and say, I’m struggling to get an appointment because of what’s been happening the last few years. That’s a hint. They’re struggling to get a healthcare appointment because of COVID. You have to take into account those nuance posts. We have to kettle up those because there’s no clear cut way to do it from our perspective of our technical background.
Then I’ve also take in account, we calculate if the word COVID has been used and not just COVID, it’s like, let’s say example COVID, COVID 19, COVID-19, Coronavirus, capital C, COVID 19, because our platforms we use inform, it doesn’t have the capabilities of just tracking on putting it in spreadsheet form. We have to mainly tick that down and make an account how many COVID posts has been posted for the week.
As of late it has been dying down because people hasn’t been using it. Occasionally, it does pop up, but we still need to read every single post essentially for the end of the day but there is a project I’ve been working on, it’s still in pipeline. I work with J.P. Morgan that’s called the Force for Good. They work with charities to, I guess, enhance their data. Essentially, I’m trying to get sentiment analysis and this ties into COVID because we would able to attract all those COVID posts we mentioned, but also track if the sentiment analysis is a positive or negative or neutral sentence, it’s still a pipeline. Hopefully we’ll have something by the end of the month, but we’ve been working on that the last couple years.
[00:05:29] Patrick O’Keefe: Just back up for a second. You mentioned the government and when the pandemic first started. The reason you started doing this, is there a legal duty to do it or is just a curiosity thing organizationally you’re trying to track it?
[00:05:40] Josh Poncil: Yes, it wasn’t legally for us to do it. It was mainly for the fact of we noticed people that are affected by Coronavirus and diabetes and that was a staggering amount in terms of let’s say fatalities or any the hospitals. It was not only to protect people affected by diabetes, but how we can support them along the way, but also make change in policy differences with the government here. It’s like a combination between the three.
[00:06:06] Patrick O’Keefe: Got it. When you are writing for members of the diabetes UK community. In your words, you are “writing online for a vulnerable audience” and that includes an increased risk for members taking posts the wrong way – again your terminology. How do you navigate writing for this community as opposed to say how you would communicate with friends and loved ones normally?
[00:06:29] Josh Poncil: Yes. I guess from my experience, I feel like I’m a late bloomer in the community sector and I was always part of Facebook Groups or other online fans. I think just being part of the care sector in the UK, you have to be careful of how you phrase words from my experience, especially in the care sector, writing can be quite subjective online. Just looking at members posts from like my previous role working at blood cancer in UK, we had some members on there who are very blunt with their posts and me looking at like that like, “Oh well that’s quite harsh.”
Speaking to the volunteers I managed and staff, they see it on the flip side, well, this person’s being upfront and honest, they’re not cutting any corners, they’re just telling you how it is and what you could do to mitigate your circumstances. Just taking that into account but also being soft. From my perspective, I want to make sure my writing is succinct as being quite personable, but also in line with company policy. We do have a structure on how we phrase sentences and words, but from my perspective, from our team, we want to make sure that everyone that comes to the forum has a genuine forum response and experience.
Let’s say an example, someone comes to the forum, usually have someone on there who they usually says, I’ve just been diagnosed, I’m in shock. The first thing I notice they say they don’t know what to eat and they’re scared. Let’s say from my perspective and I’ll see that it is quite upsetting because sometimes they say they’re very emotional, they’re crying and I’ll just say hello, let’s say Katie47, thanks so much for joining our online forum. I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis and I can only imagine how difficult this is for you and your family. Just to let you know, we’re open community and I’ve seen lots of posts and similar situations and I’m here to not only support you, but I’m here to help.
Then I’ll pose an open-ended question just to get the engagement going, just to open them up a bit better and how we can mitigate their situation. Let’s say they’re type 2 and on the cusp of just diagnosed pre-diabetic, there’s a chance they can bring it down as the pre-diabetic range.
We may pose the question like, “Hello Katie47, what’s your HPAC1 like?” They may get back to us and say, oh well it looks like you’re on the cusp. How about doing some light exercise? Not only doing that, recommended some changings of cutting carbs, but once we do mention in terms of carbs or exercise, we have a duty of care not only in our online forum, but we can’t recommend any medical or experience. We can’t suggest you need to take this or do this.
The only thing we can do is suggest something. If it’s worrying until they’re health, we encourage them to speak to our healthcare team in terms of promoting them on the right track. We’ll say it may be helpful to keep a food diary or maybe lower in terms of if they are eating less of bread or potatoes, try scaling that back more, adding more protein and more vegetables. Just making sure each person that comes to the forum, they get a genuine, warm experience that is beneficial. They’ve seem quite warm to it.
[00:09:36] Patrick O’Keefe: If I had to sum that up, I would say what I hear is like, instead of just answering the question, you practice empathy for their situation and then include the answer after you open in that empathetic way. I found apples to apples but like de-escalation or what is it called when parties get together to resolve a matter amicably?
[00:09:57] Josh Poncil: Mediation?
[00:09:57] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, mediation. There’s this problem but we need to talk about it and set up the right framework to really get the information in.
[00:10:06] Josh Poncil: Exactly.
[00:10:05] Patrick O’Keefe: Instead of just giving a cold, dry answer, you are providing that empathetic response.
[00:10:10] Josh Poncil: Yes and I think just from point of context with someone joining, we want to take our users essentially on a journey of doing the being shocked and taking a journey of understanding the situation, how to improve it and how to be in a better mindset. That’s our main goal from point to finish. We usually like our users to stay on the forum but most of our users, they come up and get what they need, even come out. They usually sometimes come back if they even make a slip with their diabetes or struggling with something else.
[00:10:40] Patrick O’Keefe: When I asked you for challenges that you were thinking about before the show, you told me that you have been thinking about moderation decisions that could trigger a meltdown in the community and how to mitigate that. Has that happened before?
[00:10:53] Josh Poncil: No, not too much.
[00:10:55] Patrick O’Keefe: You can say yes because it happens to all of us. It’s not a judgment. [laughs]
[00:10:58] Josh Poncil: I’ve gotten close but I guess when I was thinking in my mind writing that question, I was thinking as in terms of press, going to the press and that it has currently not happened to me. I’ve had experiences where members get riled up for moderation decisions. This could be in terms of staff just blocking a thread because it’s taken up too much time to moderate and it can be lots of misinformation.
I’ve had those experiences, but in terms of me having that experience of something going off, this is something I constantly worry about. As in, when I contact a member saying why I made a moderation decision as in deleting some key words or deleting a post, I’m worried how strongly they’re going to feel about this because you know as forum communities, you know who your members, they’re quite redheaded. They have the energy, they can rile up people just trying to be careful of I know who the people are on the forum and just trying to be mindful this may trigger a meltdown, they may rile up the committee.
It’s just I’ve always slightly concerned every time I do a moderation decision when they don’t agree and then we have to un-escalate our complaints process. I’ve had complaints processes where it escalates to stage two and my boss has had to respond but in agreement with my team as well. Nothing in terms of exploding to the press or anything.
[00:12:28] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s inevitable I think to some extent. I had drawn all sorts of stories. A simple one is I’ve run this martial arts community for 22 years in May. Once upon a time, I had a member that I banned and he went to the same martial arts school with maybe eight other members. They all got together and made up their mind that that member had been mistreated. They all left and it was annoying and it was stressful in some ways but the staff all knew what was going on and was completely on board. What I find usually when I do ban people, usually the staff of the community are like, “Finally. We’ve given them all these chances they’re not–, thank you.”
That person is now like – I don’t want to waste a moderator’s time either – but we go through a process of how we evaluate it. As long as someone’s trying, I try to give them the opportunity generally, at least on the communities that I manage that are outside of the corporate purview so to speak. It’s tough because the way I approach the work is that I don’t like to talk about private member communications if I can avoid it, and almost always, I’ve been able to avoid it to the point where I’m sure some people would be like, “You should just tell people. You should just tell people what they did because if they knew of course that implies they’ll believe you.”
That implies that so do you really want to dig into that? You violated the guidelines X number of times, you did the same thing over and over again. Ultimately, the consequences was this. That’s it. That’s life. We have to move on but it doesn’t make it fun. I had a situation at CNN, actually this wasn’t a situation, it was very early on because the product I worked on at CNN only lived for a few weeks but it was a live Q&A where people could submit questions and they would be approved by my team, uploaded by the community and asked to a member of the CNN team to a newsmaker, celebrity, et cetera. There was one member in particular who asked questions who had to be rejected.
The thing is, I feel he started putting in submissions that he was going to tell– I forget if it was Fox News or something about the rejections. I even had internal conversations with PR folks and it was yes, we expect that to eventually happen, that Fox News could write an article about the moderation that your team does. It’s so tough because it’s natural to worry about that and you should to some extent but I like to say it’s hard to moderate scared.
[00:14:47] Josh Poncil: I’m definitely with you. Just like from my perspective, just in terms of my community, there actually was one point where it almost got to the point of going to the press and possible sue but there was a guy on the forum, he was upset because his charity was being, I guess, questioned by the community and one of the members on our forum posted a few years ago saying, “Have you guys heard of this charity? They’re raising money in a local supermarket here.”
In this country, you need to have essentially a charity number that people can look up and people noticed it didn’t have a charity number on there. The community said, “Please be careful. be mindful of this.” From my perspective, we did get an email from inbox saying, “Hello whoever this is, I found this on the forum. I don’t appreciate the community talking bad about my charity.”
From my perspective, I was quite worried because he said he would take legal action. I had to speak to the PR team and the governance team. This guy post the forum, it’s a public community. The guy doesn’t have a charity number on there. What’s the best course of action? They highlighted if he was to sue us, it would be rejected, but in terms of protecting the wellbeing of the community, they told me take it down, which I did.
[00:16:05] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, sometimes there are choices that we make that are not necessarily by policy but just by like– Things out of our control or decisions about how much more effort you should put into this and where you should take your stands because sometimes you might decide to take a stand because it’s important enough and sometimes you don’t. If it hasn’t really happened, anonymous and all that a anonymizing it, but what’s the type of decision that makes you think it could happen? Is there a particular type of member or particular type of question that you think is more prone to leading to some meltdown or outrage that you’re concerned about?
[00:16:42] Josh Poncil: I think this highlights because I do have a big meeting with my team about possibly banning two members, but this would be a good example. I have two members who constantly try to one up each other and try to get essentially the last word and the last type on the forum. Essentially, they’re constantly breaking the user guidelines and we having to constantly moderate the forum, but also scaring new members away, having these bickers and new threads.
These members have been with the community for a very long time and I feel like from the mindset of what I’m getting from my perspective, from the post we’re going to implement a ban and this could take a wrong turn, but in terms of our ban system, we go week, month, and then permanent.
[00:17:31] Patrick O’Keefe: You’re going to start them off light.
[00:17:33] Josh Poncil: Yes. We should try to ease them in because we do try to factor in that they’ve been very beneficial to the community as in supporting people affected by the diabetes, but as in recent issues started making a turn. Another example I’ve had on the forum is that we’ve had a member who gave very detailed, very helpful advice in terms of people affected by diabetes. Then once Coronavirus hit, mainly posting misinformation and making a turn all of a sudden and that’s another conversation in its own possibly either moving their posts around or restricting their access, how many times they can post.
[00:18:14] Patrick O’Keefe: After you do this for a while – this is my 25th year in moderation – after you do this for a while, a lot of the stuff becomes very routine. Even some of the stuff that might have been nastier or hurtful at the start becomes routine. You expect a certain amount of negative response, you expect a certain amount of, I don’t know, name calling, threats, all sorts of nastiness.
I really believe that the most stressful situation that I encounter is when an experienced veteran member takes a turn for the worst because you have this member who maybe even you have a great relationship with or they’re on a volunteer team or they’re a pillar in the community at one point or another. Then for whatever reason, it really starts to go bad and it starts simply enough with a few violations or something surprising and it continues to happen.
Maybe in some cases you give them a little more leeway because they have this built up experience, but they take advantage of that and it’s painful because they are an example to other people to follow in the community especially new members who see their posts and say, “Okay, that member has this number of contributions and has been in the community this long. If they say that and it’s up still, that’s probably how this community behaves.”
You get to the painful point of having to ban them. I’ve banned the person who had the most posts in the history of a community before, I’ve banned people who won awards from the community, I’ve banned longtime staff members. You do it long enough, you do it all right. It’s not an enjoyable thing. It’s probably the worst part of the job.
[00:19:58] Josh Poncil: When you mention that, it’s just heartbreaking when you see someone who responded in such sweet and thoughtful ways to people and just takes a turn for the worst. Then you’ve probably messaged them, you said, “Give them the benefit of doubt.” Just encouraged them saying, “You’ve done miraculous on the forum.” From my perspective I’ll ask, is everything okay? Is anything bothering you? Are you struggling? Sometimes is not the case. It’s not the case.
[00:20:22] Patrick O’Keefe: You’ve mentioned that the two members together. It’s funny because I had a situation years ago with two people who neither of which I really wanted to ban, both of which were fine except when they talked to one another. What I ultimately did, and I could do this because it was my own community and I don’t have to justify myself to anyone really. I’m accountable to members in a sense, but also ultimately I don’t have a boss. I can devise a strategy that maybe everyone wouldn’t approve of in corporate circumstances.
I just told them, I said, “We are at the point where I would need to ban one or both of you.” I’m going to say like this, “Stay out of each other’s way. If one of you is on at the thread, the other shouldn’t be on that thread.”
[00:21:02] Josh Poncil: Exactly.
[00:21:03] Patrick O’Keefe: Just avoid each other. If I see you talking to each other again, then I’ll have to act on it. I think they knocked it off. It was years and years ago but it was such a weird circumstance because they were otherwise fine. They were otherwise okay. They didn’t have any other issues or violations. It was literally when they talked to each other. It was like, “You both want to stay here, that’s fine. Just don’t reply to each other. Don’t talk to each other, don’t thinly reference each other. Just stay away from each other and you’ll both be fine here.” I think it worked.
[00:21:34] Josh Poncil: I think that’s a brilliant idea just from my perspective, just taking that account because we have recommended people, if you do have those confrontations with people, there is an ignore function. You’ll not see this person if you use the function, but sometimes some people like to see the other person’s posts and have that, I guess, intense drama and dialogue.
[00:21:54] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, a 100%. I wanted to ask you finally, perhaps the most interesting challenge that you highlighted to me was about safeguarding. Safeguarding in your words, “knowing if you have done the right thing before finishing the day.” How do you know that you’ve done the right thing?
[00:22:10] Josh Poncil: When you contacted me about this, this was the first thing that popped up in my head. This is something I think about, especially when it’s my safeguarding week. Just to give the listeners a view, I’m a safeguarding lead throughout the organization. What that means if anything comes through the organization, I’m like the person at a point where we need to support them as much as they can and this counts as the forum as well.
[00:22:35] Patrick O’Keefe: Back it up a little bit. Safeguarding leads, supporting them, is there a specific way to support them? What’s the responsibility of safeguarding in that context?
[00:22:43] Josh Poncil: In terms of safeguarding, we have a duty of care to protect their wellbeing; emotional and physical. This may involve contacting healthcare providers, this may be contacting ambulances.
[00:22:56] Patrick O’Keefe: Now this is of the people contacting the charity or of your staff or both or all or anyone you come in contact with?
[00:23:04] Josh Poncil: In terms of anyone throughout the charity, but predominantly our supporters on our forum or callers.
[00:23:10] Patrick O’Keefe: People coming to you looking for help.
[00:23:14] Josh Poncil: Yes, and it’s not them coming to us for help. An example is, I had someone on the forum a couple of years ago just didn’t know they had mental health struggles throughout the years they’d been on the forum and working on there. They posted, “I’m planning on jumping off a bridge right now, someone please help.” This is me taking action where I have to private message the member, try to get as much details as possible from them. Then deescalate the situation as in, “How can I help?”
I’ve had experiences– The latest one I had, I had someone on the forum saying, “Hello, I’ve just been diagnosed a couple of weeks ago. I’ve barely eaten.” That’s like an alarm ringing bells in my head. What I’ll have to do is I’ll take the lead and private message them because the community does a good job of like flagging it to staff. And what I’ll do is private message them saying, “Hello,” Let’s say Katie47, “Is everything okay? Could you please contact the helpline or could you tell us what’s going on?”
Let’s say an example they got back to me saying, “Yes, I haven’t eaten anything. I don’t feel well. I feel dizzy.” Then I’ll contact back saying, “Do you need me to call an ambulance?” Sometimes they’ll go back to me saying, “Yes, here’s my address, my telephone number.” What I’ll do is I’ll ring, the service here is 999 and I have to be careful what I say at the beginning because my accent, I’m American, but I live in London. I have to make sure I’m not coming off as a scam or something. I’m calling from a charity I have a safeguarding concern.
I’ll be honest with you, I have people hang up on me as well. I’ll say, “Hey, this person needs medical attention, here is the address. They contacted the forum.” That is just one experience. I’ve had situations before, which like I said, you never know if you’re doing the right thing. I’ve had someone on the forum saying, “Hello, my mom is in quite a worrying state. She’s scared to go to the hospital. She’s dizzy, she’s not coherent. I’m scared she hasn’t been testing for blood sugars.”
Me on my end, I’ve contacted the daughter saying, “Please get your mom to A&E. It sounds like she needs medical attention.” They’ve got back to me the previous day telling me, “Thank you for getting in touch, but my mom didn’t make it.” This affected me and it hit me quite hard not knowing if I did the right thing. Then I have to just take a moment of, “Did I make the right choice? Is there anything else I could do at this time?”
From my perspective of our forum, we don’t have identifying information, we have an email address and live key address that doesn’t get you anywhere. The best thing I can do is private message the person. We discussed about knowing if you’ve done the right thing. To be honest, I don’t know if I did. What I had to do is I had to speak to the safeguarding organization, go through my notes and say if I made the right steps in protecting this person, but also having a one-to-one with my manager. They also reassured me that I did the right steps. There’s nothing that I could do in terms of what identifying information I had in online forum.
I think it sometimes depends on if you’ve done the right thing. If the person’s got back to you quite quickly. Will they give you address quickly? Will they give their number quickly? Will they respond quickly? Sometimes you’re in a bit of limbo if they don’t get back to you, if they don’t know how to use the private message service. I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s a bit stressful, but the one thing I do love about safeguarding is I’m helping people and I love the fact when they tell me thank you so much for helping me. That’s when I know I’ve done the right thing. Sometimes you can be in limbo, they don’t get back to you. You don’t feel like you’ve done the right thing at all.
[00:26:48] Patrick O’Keefe: I’m going to refer to my baby real quick. You were laughing at an inappropriate time, sir. He can’t hear you. He doesn’t necessarily know what you’re talking about, but giggling at the keys is not the right time. You mentioned safeguarding lead that you talked with. Does that mean that people alternate in that capacity?
[00:27:06] Josh Poncil: In my team, there is four of us that are safeguarding leads. We rotate weekly. Whoever it is, the designated lead will take up the cases. In terms of the forum, when they do come, I usually take the lead because it comes straight directly to me and I can private message the person quite quickly as well.
[00:27:28] Patrick O’Keefe: It sounds like knowing if you did the right thing at the end of the day, it sounds like a lot of days you don’t.
[00:27:33] Josh Poncil: Yes, because when the people get back to you quickly, you know you’ve done the right thing, but if they don’t get back to you, especially from a private message, and sometimes I should highlight this, when they don’t private message me back, but they continue in a thread, I’ll post publicly because they may not know how to contact me through a private message.
[00:27:54] Patrick O’Keefe: There’s no good answer for that one. I guess the good answer is that it sounds like you have a review process where you can get other perspectives on the course of action, where even if you don’t hear, because that’s true for call centers, it’s true for email, it’s true for forums, online communities, social media, whatever that you respond to someone and don’t hear from them.
In mundane circumstances, someone comes to a forum about the martial arts and is like, “Well I really am struggling with this technique. What can you give me?” Then 15 people will reply with advice and then that person never comes back again or they never applied. Maybe they read it and they didn’t say, “Oh, this would really helpful.” People don’t get that closure of that closing of the loop of like, “Oh, our advice really helped this person who had that question.” The person asked the question and either never came back or never said thank you or never acknowledged it. It’s that struggle to be at peace with your own actions and to be comfortable with what you did.
[00:27:49] Josh Poncil: Exactly. Then from my perspective, if that being for sure, especially if I don’t feel very confident, I will speak to my colleagues that are other safeguarding leads and just ask them, “Have I made the right choices and have I made the right decisions of this person getting the best help they can?”
[00:29:09] Patrick O’Keefe: Tough question here. Has there ever been a time when they were like “no”?
[00:29:11] Josh Poncil: You mean as in, no, as in if I made the right decision?
[00:29:14] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes. You asked the question and they say, no.
[00:29:15] Josh Poncil: No, definitely, definitely. An example is, I do handle safeguarding cases throughout our call center. I’ve had someone contact me. I remember it’s my very first case about someone’s son in prison. They were not getting the best care. The mother was liaising with me and she was very, very upset. What I did is, this may the best course of action is to contact the prison and raise your concern.
Speaking to my colleague, she said, she didn’t phrase as no, but, “Josh, maybe you can improve by also contacting the local council where the prison is.” Because some prisons have a different messaging system and the council is essentially where the prison’s located. The council can chase this up as well. Just also give me other ways to improve someone’s situation.
[00:30:02] Patrick O’Keefe: I love having people on the show from all different backgrounds and all different areas of community. We all have more in common than we do not in common. When you talk to people who work in charities, especially health focused or medical focused or disease focused charities, you get a sense for the unique burdens that they face. It’s been a pleasure to have you on to learn more about those today, Josh. Thank you for making time for us.
[00:30:26] Josh Poncil: Of course. Thank you for having me. I appreciate all you do.
[00:30:28] Patrick O’Keefe: We’ve been talking with Josh Poncil, online community and learning manager at Diabetes UK. For the transcript from this episode, plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal is produced by Karn Broad. Thanks for listening.
If you have any thoughts on this episode that you’d like to share, please leave me a comment or send me an email. If you enjoy the show, we would be so grateful if you spread the word and supported Community Signal on Patreon.