Safeguarding a Diabetes Charity Community and Knowing if You’ve Done the Right Thing

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

Big Quotes

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.

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