Planning for a post-Covid future
It’s a well worn phrase, but we are in extraordinary times. We do not yet know quite what the future will mean for all of us. What we do know is that the communities in east London are in greater need than ever. ELBA business members and partners have really stepped up and we have been able to recreate our employee volunteering and help from business on a remote basis. We have been focussed on meeting immediate needs – food; social contact for the lonely and isolated; help for those who have lost their jobs; professional support for hard pressed community organisations and small businesses; and help for schools, students and families. It has been a busy period and we have been so pleased with the many messages of support and practical help we have had from our business members. We also have been happy to support fundraising for the East End Emergency Appeal, and we are looking for ways to support fundraising for local groups via Hackney Giving and Barking& Dagenham Giving.
But now we are starting to think about what will be needed after the immediate lockdown period starts to ease (whenever that will be) – and we would welcome your thoughts. From our recent experience, talking to community and business partners, we think the following will be needed:
- Business and professional expertise to get community organisations back on their feet. They will need the full range of skills – from legal, HR, ICT, digital, financial strategies etc. We also want to start looking at how we can build a better eco-structure for the community sector – from support and development for their leaders to improving digital capability and data expertise.
- Help make up for lost time for school and college students. We hear from schools that disadvantaged pupils are really the ones who are being most impacted – with very low completion rates of the remote work being set. We will need to help schools and colleges rekindle motivation and confidence for those pupils who have fallen behind. What role will business mentoring, work on employability and careers work play?
- Particular help will be needed for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are leaving education to enter the jobs market, which will be fiercely competitive. All the factors which placed them at a disadvantage in getting good jobs and careers before will be amplified post-COVID. With the help of our business partners we will need to find ways to help level the playing field.
- Help for people who have lost their jobs or faced reduced income. We will continue to support people in low paid employment and precarious employment, we will also have to re-invent our employment support for a period of high unemployment.
- Upskilling essential workers with the skills needed to progress in their careers, improve their communication skills and adjust to the impact of AI and automation (which will surely accelerate post-COVID). This period of lockdown has shown just how much we depend on people in essential services – often in low income jobs. How can we give them the support that they deserve so they can get on and progress in their lives?
- There are some longer term inequality issues which have been highlighted by the COVID crisis – such as the digital divide, and we will be looking at ways to help spread digital skills and capability to everyone. And looking for innovative ideas to solve the problem of device scarcity and access to broadband connections.
- Our open spaces are proving so important to families during the lockdown, and which have previously relied heavily on business volunteers for maintenance and improvement, are going to need a big sprucing up and renewal as we move into Autumn.
- Helping build community wellbeing and resilience. There has rightly been a focus on promoting positive mental health during the lockdown, and there have been some outstanding examples of communities coming together to support each other and those in most need. How do we keep that positive wellbeing movement going, making sure that there is less isolation and loneliness, that people and families are more resilient; and have greater financial skills and capability?
We will be launching new initiatives to help tackle serious youth violence and knife crime and support for BAME groups – these are issues which have been masked during the COVID period, but which remain deeply entrenched – and we will need the sustained input of our business partners to shift the trajectory in the right direction.
All in all, it is a big and important programme. But what is your view – how will the east London community change and in what ways will the business community be well placed to help? Do let us know your ideas.
Contact: Ian Parkes – email@example.com