The coronavirus pandemic has impacted on every aspect of our lives, in a way that none of us has ever experienced. The speed and extremity of the impact is unprecedented, and the country was not prepared. The voluntary sector has seen a sudden, dramatic reduction in income. Normal sources of fundraising have disappeared, especially those that generate unrestricted income. Some parts of the sector cannot function at all, other parts face overwhelming demand.
Some organisations and groups have repurposed what they do to meet new and emerging need. Communities have mobilised in new ways, organically. People whose contribution to society through their work has been taken away are looking for an alternative and many have looked to volunteering to do that. The collective response has been strong. The state has had to act in ways that seemed impossible, or unlikely, in the UK.
Inevitably, there have also been some less helpful responses. Some have sought to use the crisis to shout louder about their long-held views, seeing the situation as both a vindication and an opportunity. Some have done what they think is right, but with unintended consequences.
The system has been caught off guard. Councils, government, funders, service providers, regulators have had to try to flex and act quickly. “That’s how it’s always been” just doesn’t cut it in a crisis. Remote working isn’t easy; we are experiencing heightened emotion, isolation, changing relationships and equipment. Inevitably, alongside much success, there have been mistakes.
We can’t wait until it’s over to capture the learning and the stories. We won’t go back to how things were before. If we wait and look back, we will retro-fit a rationale that is logical with hindsight but wasn’t actually the case at the time. And all those individual stories will be lost.
That’s why we are launching #NeverMoreNeeded alongside our sister organisations across the UK and Ireland. We’ll do this in our own ways, but together.
We will capture the stories and the learning as a piece of social history. And we will use those stories and learnings to stimulate debate on what next, where this takes us, what a “new normal” looks like. It will challenge traditional norms.
I’m delighted my colleague, Susan Smith, will lead this work for SCVO. You can get involved on our #NeverMoreNeeded campaign page.