From Bristol to Brisbane via Buffalo: Connecting MSers across the globe

Shift.ms annual impact review
2019-2020

A message from CEO George & Chairman Fabrice

The 2019-2020 year marked the first year of Shift.ms’ second decade and another successful year for the charity.

  • We grew the impact of our work on MSers with over 70% of new members reporting a social or emotional benefit within six months of joining.
  • We continued improving and expanding peer support services beyond what’s already available online with rapidly growing personalised 1-1 peer support via the Buddy Network, with 92% of MSers who use the service feeling more informed about their MS.
  • We significantly increased our reach with over 35,000 members now using our digital peer support service.
  • Our health information resources library is steadily growing in its offering and popularity among MS communities worldwide.  

However the health and charitable sectors; the funding landscape; national and international priorities; and the digital and health industry have changed significantly in the last year. As we geared towards the end of the year, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated these changes at warp speed. Access to grant funding is more competitive than ever, and pressures on the economy have impacted what our corporate partners and other donors want and are able to support.

That’s why, now more than ever, we are grateful to our funders, corporate partners, and individual supporters, who continued their support, and in some instances increased it, to help us get through this difficult time.

With increased pressure on health care systems around the world, COVID-19 also emphasised the importance of Shift.ms’ role in the health care landscape for people with long-term conditions like MS. With sharp increase in traffic to our digital platforms and demand for online services during the pandemic, the crisis highlighted the need for innovative digital health solutions that underpins Shift.ms’ approach.

Our thanks go to the amazing staff team, dedicated volunteers and the committed trustees at Shift.ms, who every day show great passion and commitment to Shift.ms’ vital goal of transforming lives of thousands of MSers around the world.

Thank you,

George Pepper
CEO
Fabrice Allum
Chair of the Board of Trustees

What a year...

A digital peer support network

Over the past 11 years Shift.ms has grown from small beginnings to one of the largest digital peer support networks for people with MS in the world.

2019/2020 focus

The problem

MSers living in isolation following an MS diagnosis

Our solution

Connecting people remotely

Peer support involves people drawing on shared personal experience to provide knowledge, social interaction, emotional assistance or practical help to each other, often in a way that is mutually beneficial.

Shift.ms plays an important role in developing pathways for MSers to connect with each other and share personal experiences to help them come to terms with an MS diagnosis.

Autonomous Peer Support

We provide platforms and tools for MSers to connect digitally via www.Shift.ms and social media campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to create and share relevant information about MS and its management.

Through these platforms thousands of MSers meet, share personal experiences, knowledge, and support each other on a daily basis.

The Buddy Network connects someone newly diagnosed with MS with a Buddy, an ‘experienced’ MSer, to help them come to terms with their diagnosis and the isolation that this can bring.

The Buddy Network is international and allows MSers to connect in a way that works best for them, whether this be in-person, over the phone or over WhatsApp.

In the last year, Shift.ms has connected over 100 Buddies from all over the world: from Singapore to Sydney, Texas to Toronto and from Lisbon to London.

85%
of MSers who use the service have a better understanding of where they can go for support.
57%
of MSers who use the service feel less isolated.
71%
of MSers who use the service feel as though they have adapted to their diagnosis.
92%
of MSers who use the service feel more informed about their MS.

Vision for next year

🔹 Increase the number of newly diagnosed MSers who access the service.

🔹 Integrate the Buddy Network into our core service on Shift.ms.

🔹 Utilise the work and research done around personalisation to create more impactful matches.

🔹 Explore how we can have a local impact whilst providing an international service.

🔹 Consider how we can dedicate resource specifically to this area of our service.

In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic developed, Shift.ms saw an unprecedented demand for our services with:

  • 40% more visits to www.shift.ms
  • the number of peer-to-peer conversations doubling in two months

In reaction to this increased need in the community, Shift.ms launched Co-vid Companion building on our learnings from Shift.ms’ Buddy Network programme.

Co-vid Companion aims to reduce isolation during the pandemic by connecting MSers who are self-isolating or experiencing heightened levels of loneliness with each other via video calls. 

"The companionship was great for both of us. The feeling that each other knows what the other is going through. It’s been great and I've hopefully made a friend for life." - MSer

Co-vid Companion impact stats on the community

After being connected with a companion:

60%
of people felt less alone
71%
felt they’d created a meaningful connection with another MSer
64%
of people had increased their social network

Vision for next year

Co-vid Companion successes will be morphed into our growing Buddy Network. One of the key learnings from this project was that 70% of people found connecting by video useful. 

In response Shift.ms is looking to:

🔹 Embed a video call function on www.Shift.ms to allow all MSers to connect with others over video call using their Shift.ms profile;

🔹Embed group video calls into the video chat function. The group video call function will allow both groups who’ve met on Shift.ms to arrange digital meetups, while also providing a platform for local meet ups to connect online at a time when physical group meet ups is not possible.

🔹Build-in collaborative learning techniques to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of those in taking part in the call. These tools will be used as part of a guided conversation.

Volunteer update

'By MSers, for MSers': Our work wouldn't be possible without the efforts of Shift.ms volunteers, The Energy.
275
people make up The Energy (95% are MSers)
1,500
hours have been contributed in 2019/20
63
members of our community have taken over our social media channels
102
buddies are part of the Buddy Network

In 2019/20, we worked with over 275 volunteers, which means for every member of staff, we have 24 volunteers.

Our volunteers deliver some of our key services by sharing their skills and lived experience with the community. As experts in their field, our approach is light-touch, supporting volunteers to build their confidence and skills, whilst ensuring they lead and take ownership.

The demographic of our volunteers makes the programme unique across the volunteer-involving sector. 95% of our volunteers have MS and therefore directly benefit from the service they are supporting.

As a digital first organisation, we’re able to involve more people from across the world in our work as location isn’t a barrier. We provide a broad range of opportunities to get involved to allow all our beneficiaries to take advantage. Those newly diagnosed MSers who are only just starting to deal with their diagnosis are often looking for light touch, one-off involvement whereas more experienced MSers who are further along in their journey, want more regular/intensive involvement and to provide support, advice and guidance.

It's great to have another reason to get up in the morning. Shift.ms has given me my life back and every day I can see more of the former Gemma (before DX) returning and for that I owe Shift.ms an amazing gratitude.
- Gemma
I want to help others like me. I love getting to see people build friendships and support each other. It's amazing to watch conversations happen on a screen, across countries and continents!
- Sophie
I continue to volunteer as I remember how I felt when I was initially diagnosed. I love being involved in videos, blogs and other bits and bobs that would support even one person in some of these experiences.
- Zoe

Our films

A.M.
Relapses 24x24
Awake
My Sclerosis

Meet Stash

In 2019, Stash came to Shift.ms and told us he had a film to share with the community. ‘My Sclerosis’ is the first film we have shared that is fully written, produced and directed by an MSer.

Based in Toronto, Canada,  Stash was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2011 and had a few very rough years early on, but slowly, through trial and error, found his own way of managing his MS.

In those early years after his diagnosis none of Stash's friends and acquaintances had any idea of what he was dealing with, because he very rarely ever talked about it. He never joined any support groups and never talked about it on social media. In his own words “I always found pride in being able to handle challenging things on my own and with MS it was no exception.”

In 2019 however, his mindset shifted. He felt he was in a place in his life where he could open up about his experiences and maybe even connect to other people who are living with MS. So Stash made a film. It was his attempt to show how MS affects day to day life, in a bite-sized and compelling way, based on his own symptoms and experiences.  

The compelling film highlights the daily struggles people living with MS go through, and the impact this has on relationships and everyday routine - tasks that many people without MS take for granted. We’ve all told people we’re “fine” when we are not and know it’s sometimes difficult to share what’s really going on. Stash’s short film allows people an insight into everyday life with MS and to let people know that it’s OK not to be “fine”.

Where your money goes

When you donate to Shift.ms, you're investing in a charity whose purpose is to support and empower people affected by MS and improve the quality of life for those who live with the disease. We make every pound count at Shift.ms.

For every £1 we spend

Our finances

Please refer to the Charity Commission website to view the full Shift.ms accounts.

Funding Partners

Bay Foundation, Biogen, ECTRIMS congress, Merck, NHS England, Novartis, Roche, Sanofi Genzyme, The National Lottery Community Fund, Tony Bramall Charitable Trust, Wellcome Trust.

Individual donors and fundraisers

Thank you to the fundraisers who have done some weird and wonderful activities this year to raise money for Shift.ms, including:

Dominic Shadbolt, Mark Webb, Fiona Brown, Emily Thompson, Sheena Watts, Jonathan Sim, Emma Verge, Adam Boucher Wilson, Sarah Prior, Pippa Cox, Anna Konukh, Andrew Denney, Donna Brown, Neil Webb, Gavin Lehmann, Edward Peppitt, Alex Long.

Thank you for your support

Shift.ms is dedicated to impacting the lives of MSers when they need us most. To continue to support Shift.ms give a one-off donation or set up a monthly gift.