Sharon Smallworth, Resonance Marketing & Communications Manager, takes a look at the work of communities during the COVID-19 crisis.
The claps, cheers and whistles echoed around my estate on Thursday evening, thanking the heroes in the NHS and all the other key workers. People were waving and smiling at each other; some neighbours I’ve never even met. But just for that few minutes we were united in a shared purpose during shared adversity.
It occurred to me that maybe this terrible crisis could be the spark that ignites a new community spirit, where people and communities interact with one another, offering support and companionship where it is needed and so much more. We are already seeing examples of this across the country in many communities.
I work in the communications team at Resonance, helping to tell the stories of our wonderful social enterprises, the work they do and how investment from Resonance helps them grow the work they do to support their communities. Being from a small community, I especially like hearing about community groups that have got together to address an issue or a need they have identified and decided to do something about. From affordable homes to community renewable schemes – these groups are spread across the UK, meeting a local need at a local level. I have had the pleasure of working with many of them that have received investment over the years from our Community Asset Fund.
There are countless examples of communities coming together and supporting one another across the UK, including some of the enterprises that we work with, from both our Community Asset and Enterprise growth Funds, as well as some great examples from all around the UK.
Mutual Aid groups are popping up all over the country, with volunteers dropping leaflets through letterboxes reassuring isolated folk that they are not alone and offering to get some shopping, or simply be at the end of a phone for a chat should they feel lonely.
And the call from the NHS for volunteers saw hundreds of thousands of people step up to see how they can help, far exceeding the numbers requested in the first 24 hours. Then local restaurants across the country started providing hot meals for NHS workers, too exhausted to cook after their long shifts.
Suddenly people are noticing who in their community lives on their own, has a disability or children with special needs, and they are thinking about how they might help.
Creative and fun ideas
From socially distant doorstep dancing and teddy bear hunts to one family’s coronavirus rendition of a “Les Mis” classic and dinosaurs delivering meals, we are seeing the very best of human nature.
What I’ve Seen
This crisis has seen new initiatives from communities working together. In my little village in Cornwall, we have a community shop – St Mabyn Community Shop - and they have taken their responsibilities for the village very seriously. For people like myself who are isolating, they have volunteers taking orders and doing deliveries on a daily basis. They’ll even go to a village several miles away to collect our prescriptions. And our local pub is delivering meals.
Thanks to some of my Resonance colleagues who I asked to share with me, any initiatives they’ve seen in their local areas during the crisis:
Mike Foxcroft, Bath - 3SG here in Bath are coordinating a community response whereby people can offer or request help – more info on their Compassionate Community Hub.
Kim Neville, Nr Pensilva - Our local farm shop Trevalicks, which usually runs a café /tea shop outside of Pensilva, Cornwall has had to close its doors. However, they are now taking orders for shopping, which they are delivering to anyone who needs it. They’ve been really great and are such lovely people.
Gina Hallums, Withington - We have a WhatsApp chat for our street in Withington, Manchester and have got groceries for neighbours and arranged to sing Happy Birthday at our doors when it’s people’s birthdays.
Amy Bailey, Grimscott, Nr Bude - My local post office in Bude lead the way with a fantastic community initiative to help vulnerable and elderly residents. Two weeks before the lockdown head postmaster Luke Francis announced that if anyone is worried about coming out to the post office or need anything at all, they should ring the post office and they would come out to customers, providing a home service, helping with whatever they could. Once the initiative became known (it was featured on the BBC radio and the One Show), other people came forward to volunteer.
Anne Woolhouse - Homebaked is a community bakery and café, set up as a community land trust and co-operative with a mission to regenerate their high street by providing secure housing, good food, whilst educating and employing people in the local area. Being close to Anfield football stadium, a significant element of revenue came from match days sales of pies. Showing how nimble social enterprises can react with community-minded businesses, Homebaked has obtained funding from the Steve Morgan Foundation, that supports social projects across Merseyside, North Wales and Cheshire to enable it to continue baking bread and delivering it to the local food bank. Their story has featured in the Financial Times.
Sharon Gorman, Okehampton - Okehampton has a volunteer group on Facebook. You can either ask for help or recommend someone else that is in need. Volunteers are then asked for help depending on the area and what is needed. There’s been positive feedback that this is working really well. Also local restaurants are offering delivery takeaway services and the garden centre is doing home delivery. We have a local farm driving to the villages once a week with fresh milk, bread etc…..Reminds me of the good old days!
Robin Short, London - The communal clapping last night (and now every Thursday) is awesome! Last Thursday evening’s street clap for the NHS workers was inspiring and quite emotional for my girlfriend and I. We really saw a quiet (normally very busy) South London street all come together, social distancing respected obviously! One recent example of communities coming together has been “Lamberts' daily bulletin for your home”. Lamberts are a property management company that has been sharing daily updates and some good community spirit stories, which have had a “feel good” effect when they arrive.
Paul Handford, Bristol – Our Head of Communications is also a Board Director of Bristol Credit Union and they are offering interest free loans to NHS staff In Bristol, to ease the financial burden on them, during the crisis.
Leila Sharland, Cornwall - Plymouth YMCA, an investee from our Health & Wellbeing Challenge Fund (South West) has offered their sports halls out to be used as emergency additional hospital space if needed.
How things have changed in a short time
This is all a long way from the cracks we have seen in society over the past couple of years, when people judged each other depending on their views on the “B” word. How long ago all that seems now.
Yes, it is far from perfect, we have seen greed and what seems like inconsiderate behaviour in our supermarkets, parks and on public transport, but let’s not judge – much of this may be down to fear or ignorance. Overall, I have seen so much more that makes me feel positive, even in these uncertain times. And it makes me think that the legacy of Coronavirus might be a more tolerant and collaborative society, where for example, our community asset funds might be in high demand!
We are keen to hear from you if you have an inspiring story of how your community is coming together that you’d like to share, please email our team email@example.com.
And if you’d like to know more about our Community Asset Funds and the impact they have achieved, please take a look at the most recent Social Impact Report.
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