SuperValu and AsIAm: Bridge Back to School Educational Resource
SuperValu believes that communities are happier when everyone is included. As part of this commitment SuperValu partnered with AsIAm to introduce measures in stores to make them more Autism-Friendly, create more autism-friendly communities and support the autism community with ongoing supports.
In 2020 SuperValu and AsIAm worked with Mary Immaculate College to develop the Bridge Back to School educational resource, an inclusive, cross sectoral, evidence-based tool to support children with autism while their school options were limited and to prepare them to return to school after an extended break.
AsIAm and SuperValu have a strong working relationship which allowed for open and engaging conversations as how best SuperValu could support the autism community during the COVID-19 crisis. Once the challenge was identified SuperValu and AsIAm worked closely to develop the resource in collaboration with Mary Immaculate College and then to deliver directly to the community through SuperValu stores.
The aim of the project was to support families within the autism community and demonstrate SuperValu’s commitment to making communities around Ireland more inclusive. These goals were agreed as they met the needs of the autism community and SuperValu’s goal to create inclusive communities.
In each local area, staff in individual stores are part of the town’s autism-friendly committees and take part in an e-learning module on autism awareness. Upon completing this training, they set about making changes in-store. For the Bridge Back to School resource staff are tasked with ensuring the resource is available in store for those that need it, encouraging parents and children to pick up a copy or to check out the resource online.
SuperValu and AsIAm had weekly meetings throughout 2020 to manage the monthly community support webinars and to identify ways in which SuperValu can support the autism community throughout the year such as a Christmas social story to help with the challenges of Christmas during the COVID-19 crisis. This ongoing communication allowed SuperValu and AsIAm to identify the opportunity to bring back the Bridge Back to School resource in February 2021 as the same issues had arisen again for the autism community.
Having originally been developed for just circulation in Ireland, the success of this innovative project, has led the resource to be translated into several European languages and been used internationally through partner organisations.
How have you communicated this activity to the public?
1. Community: SuperValu and AsIAm engaged with autism and education groups to ensure they had access to and an understanding of the resource. A webinar was held to allow families to hear how best they could use the resource and ask any questions of the team behind it. A resource was also sent to every primary school.
2. External Stakeholders: National and local public relation campaigns were launched to ensure widespread coverage in print, online and broadcast media at a national and regional level. Social media was used extensively to communicate with customers and social influencers in the autism community were used to speak directly to parents that would find the resource helpful.
3. Staff: SuperValu have an ongoing awareness campaign for staff which highlights the challenges for autistic people in the community and how SuperValu is supporting the community with initiatives such as the ‘Bridge Back to School’ resource. The campaign includes staff webinars, information posters, a dedicated eLearning module and intranet communications.
An extensive PR campaign was in place to ensure awareness of the resource and it achieved widespread coverage.
Which of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals apply to your CSR activity?
The ‘Bridge back to School’ initiative touches on two of the UNs Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Firstly, the initiative saw an opportunity to deliver a blueprint to support the autism community in Ireland, which was needed now, more than ever. Therefore, SuperValu saw an opportunity to provide a resource, that was more inclusive, directly relating to the UN’s SDG of Reducing Inequalities (SDG 10)
SuperValu continues to deliver a vision of building a more informed and understanding society. This point is intrinsically linked to the second SDG which relates to this project, which is Quality Education (SDG 4).
Four dimensions of CSR – Environment, Community, Workplace and Marketplace
SuperValu has a longstanding commitment to creating inclusive communities through the Autism Friendly Towns initiative with AsIAm. Through this partnership AsIAm and SuperValu identified the need families had for educational supports as they struggled with the loss of routine, no school access and isolation during the COVID-19 crisis. This issue affected families in communities around Ireland, it was an area SuperValu knew they could support through collaboration with AsIAm and Mary Immaculate College and then reach families directly through their store network.
The initiative directly helped the autism community with 20,000 copies of the resources made available for free in SuperValu stores around the country and for those that couldn’t make it to a store the resource was available to download online. All copies of the resource were picked up within the first five days resulting in an additional print run.
The reaction within the autism community and on social media was hugely positive with a surge of requests to AsIAm asking for additional copies and the resource to be included on Irish support services sites.
The success of the project was such that when schools closed again after Christmas it was relaunched to coincide with children with special educational needs return to school. The resource was sent to all primary schools and 10,000 copies were available in SuperValu stores nationwide.
The initiative directly supported the autism community with challenges they faced and raised awareness with the general public of these challenges. In turn this helped SuperValu achieve their goal of supporting the autism community and mission to make Ireland more inclusive.
The success of the campaign meant that the positive impact of the project was felt beyond Ireland. The International Step by Step organisation is an early child network and learning community that promotes quality, equitable and integrated services for children, families and practitioners. They shared the resource on their social channels.
The resource has also now been translated into several European languages and been used internationally through partner organisations.
The resource is part of SuperValu’s ongoing partnership with AsIAm and commitment to the autism community. Along with this initiative SuperValu have a number of other on-going initiatives such as autism friendly shopping and community support seminars and will continue to work with AsIAm to identify challenges the autism community meet and how SuperValu can support with evidence-based supports.
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Published November 2021