Managing a Crisis and Planning for a Sustainable Recovery

Reflections on the First Nine Months of the COVID 19 Pandemic

As Charity Leaders, we have a moral responsibility to look for the positives within our communities; to nurture and encourage them and, most of all, to ensure that the road to recovery reflects the lessons learned about the importance of people and place.

Written by Michael Ormerod, Executive Director, Groundwork GM
3 Minute Read

Corporate partnership work helps to build strong relationships between business and the community.

Fast forward nine months and the world is, in many ways, unrecognisable as we talk about “Pre-Covid times” in the same way we would describe the pre-digital or pre-Brexit age, but the social, economic and health impacts of the virus have happened almost overnight, rather than over years – to some degree where the biggest challenges arose.

Like many charities, Groundwork has historically worked with communities and individuals facing the most severe and multiple challenges and it is a truism that the poorest in society invariably pay the greatest price whenever there is a financial or health related crisis like Covid-19.

The demand for the work we do around youth mentoring; employment skills and training; the creation of quality urban green spaces and being an enabler for community groups has therefore never been higher than in 2020. At the same time the practical and financial pressures on us as a charity have equally never been more challenging.

A Groundwork UK commissioned report published last month, surveyed over 2,600 grassroots community groups and highlighted some striking results which suggested support in our communities will be needed more than ever before in 2021.

Almost two-thirds of community groups across the UK had decreased or closed services due to COVID

Throughout 2020 our employees have continued to generously give their time to Greater Manchester communities, ensuring individuals and groups feel supported and have access to support services available via our partners. From Delivering 1-2-1 youth mentoring remotely to providing fuel poverty support, delivering meals to vulnerable veterans and keeping communities connected to local green spaces.

As well as providing support in the community, we also found time during the pandemic to reflect on our core purpose as a charity and how we might contribute to Building Back Better in Greater Manchester. The outcome; three core themes all of which support individuals, communities and businesses to respond to the climate and nature emergency.

  1. Supporting young people to bounce back
  2. Supporting greener growth
  3. Facilitating the power of communities

It really helped us to rediscover who we are and what we stand for.

This lead us to review our strategic goals and aspirations, which may sound slightly counter intuitive in the midst of a pandemic, but the truth is it really helped us to rediscover who we are and what we stand for. More importantly it’s helped our communities and partners to “rediscover” us and signalled a renewed focus on our core strengths as an organisation that helps empower communities; knowing that genuine sustainability starts with supporting individuals to achieve their full potential.

67% of groups note an increased need in their community due to the virus outbreak

So what did we learn? 

Lots of things is the truth, but crucially we learnt that delivering quick and genuine change was only achieved through an engaged, resourceful and motivated staff team – and that culture can’t be created overnight.  Our historical investment in flexible working arrangements (including good quality IT kit for staff), digital platforms and a strong marketing and social media presence was vitally important and put us in good stead. The so called “boring” stuff was also important – i.e. having robust policies and procedures in place for things like Business Continuity and financial good governance. 

It’s very clear that in the Covid and post-Covid world, funders are looking much more closely at financial resilience and business plans. Finally the benefit of a strong “back office” team was also highlighted as we successfully managed complex issues like furlough payments; Covid Emergency grants and implementing physical H&S measures in our buildings.

What are we doing differently?

The big difference for Groundwork GM moving into 2021 is that we now have a very clear focus on three specific strands of activity, which all our diverse services and activities fall under and which were agreed in consultation with our Board of Trustees and key partners:

  • Supporting Young People to Bounce Back
  • Supporting Greener Growth
  • Facilitating the power of communities to respond to the climate & nature emergency

These themes will help deliver our vision of creating a Greener more resilient city region with stronger, healthier communities, responsible businesses and enhanced prospects for all local people.

Written by Michael Ormerod, Executive Director, Groundwork GM 

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