The last few weeks have been a learning curve for us all. The ramifications of a pandemic and its impact on our daily lives has unfolded with every news headline.
As we try to adjust to a new and uncertain ‘normal’ here are some questions to ask ourselves.
Who is in greatest need? Where should we focus our efforts?
We are all being affected by the crisis but the impact is unequal across society and Buckinghamshire is a county of contrasts, so it is important to think about which groups and communities need your help most. For example:
- Those already struggling with poverty and without a financial safety net
- Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups are over-represented in the groups identified as being ‘at risk’ from COVID-19
- Continuing the education of children or working from home is harder with limited space and insufficient access to devices or a high-quality broadband
- The experience of those living in flats or poor-quality accommodation will be very different to those of us lucky enough to enjoy gardens and easy access to our stunning countryside
- For many, the lockdown and physical distancing measures will reduce access to essential support services and healthcare; families and carers may be struggling to manage on their own
- The strain on mental health and wellbeing is real for us all – worry about the future, isolation, loneliness and loss will all compound any vulnerabilities.
How can we adapt our service?
If the needs of your community have changed your services may need to adjust too. Are you listening to those you want to help? What support do they need most right now? How can you get feedback from the community and how will you share that across your network? Are there faith groups, social networks and communities that you can reach out to?
Who can we connect with?
The crisis we face has prompted a heartening wave of kindness and altruism with individuals and communities reaching out to help others.
People who have never volunteered before are stepping forward and new groups are emerging. Many will find the demand is more than they can manage, or that organising support is challenging.
Voluntary groups have knowledge and experience to share and these new volunteers could help you widen your own reach to new sections of society, bring fresh ideas and a new perspective – at a time when your own pool of volunteers may be unable to be active. Can you connect to offer advice, for example on safeguarding, or help them put processes in place? Could you partner with them or empower them?
Perhaps this crisis is an opportunity to build new relationships, to become more diverse and more inclusive?
Further advice and ideas:
- Safeguarding Services – Community Impact Bucks
- Voice4Change – How to work with the BME voluntary sector
- Inclusive Boards – Disability in Leadership Toolkit
- Charity Governance Awards – Diversity and Inclusion best practice examples
- NPC – Resources and commentary on diversity and inclusion
- Nicola Hannam is a consultant providing diversity, inclusion and governance support to charities. She has 20 years’ experience of the charitable sector and is Vice-Chair for nurtureuk, a charity dedicated to improving the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people and removing barriers to learning.