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Covid-19, community and musings on the impact of strong foundations

14 April 2020 · Categories: Local Area Coordination Network, Opinions and responses

Strange times indeed but here at Community Catalysts we find ourselves surprisingly busy, advising small enterprises offering support to people in their community, supporting people setting up an enterprise for the first time, supporting  Local Area Coordinators as they play a key part in the local Covid-19 response, working on projects that started in one place and have shunted somewhere else entirely as Covid-19 holds sway.

It is one of the latter combined with team reflections that has me musing. Before chaos reigned, I was doing a piece of work with, and for, the Coalition for Collaborative Care. The work involved conversations with people in local government or health along with people from the wider public and third sectors leading strength and asset-based work in a locality.

A couple of weeks ago as the impact of Covid-19 began to hit, I found that many of the people I was due to interview were being pulled off into urgent work – making sure people had the food and support and services and information they needed. With great empathy and some embarrassment, I realised my work needed to go on the back burner. Then something strange began to happen – people in a couple of places began to make contact, saying they found they had time on their hands to talk. As the planned interviews took place, discussing matters unrelated to Covid-19 but linked to community development, I started to get a sense that something important might be happening.

People in social care, primary health, public health, housing, education, faith roles, community groups and the wider third sector, told me – in different ways and from very different perspectives – about the work in their area that had been going on for years. Work to develop real, multi-faceted, lasting partnerships with a focus on individual and community assets. Work to commission for strength not deficits. Work to respect all the different agencies and individuals who hold a piece of the community jigsaw. Creative leadership in spades. They all, in their own way, told me that while they knew their area faced huge and, likely horrendous, challenges linked to Covid-19, they also knew that together, in partnership and from a foundation of mutual respect, it would respond and respond well.

Then I spoke to my colleague Nick, who leads the Local Area Coordination Network. He told me about similar conversations and examples being shared through the Network. Local Area Coordinators seamlessly shifting role, using their local knowledge, community connections and creative flair to play a strong part or even lead elements of the Covid-19 response in their area. Local leads in government, health and public health using Local Area Coordinators, their knowledge and networks in plans for crisis hubs and other Covid-19 responses.

This all got me thinking. Whether these small examples could be indicators of something much more substantial. Whether investing in the kind of work detailed in Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) Asset Based Areas and implemented by many of the areas in which we work – from Thurrock to Leeds, Derby, through Somerset to York – might have much wider benefit than might be obvious at first.

Then I spotted a tweet from Bill Love at NDTi

and another from Pip Cannons at Somerset Council

which made me realise I was not alone in my musings and that others had spotted a similar potential trend.

Once these awful days are over only time will tell whether those areas that invested in community and individuals’ strengths fared better in their ability to mitigate the crisis in their area. For everyone’s sake I hope they do and that this lesson can prove of value to us all in what are hopefully less challenging times ahead.

#brightlightsinadarkworld #covid19uk #stayhomesavelives

by Angela Catley, Director of Development

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