Harnessing the power of the community
by Anj Popat
26/03/20Back to insights
Whether it’s opening the BBC News app on my phone, Instagram or even my WhatsApp messages, everywhere I look there is talk of the unprecedented times and uncertain world that we are currently living in. In the UK, we are extremely lucky to have the NHS, Social Workers, Local Government and all the other incredible key workers who are continuing to provide services.
And whilst these are incredibly difficult times, what has come to light is the community spirit and support that still remains and quickly comes together in these times of need. Just in my local area, within hours of the announcement of social distancing and the need for the vulnerable to self-isolate, we had WhatsApp groups set up within each ward to help individuals who were unable to leave home. Whether it was just to put up posters and raise awareness, or a quick telephone call to give an elderly person or someone that lives alone some company; from picking up essentials from the supermarket to walking the dog, communities came together quickly and efficiently to help their most vulnerable.
I must confess that having lived in my neighbourhood for the last 4 years, I don’t actually know any of my neighbours so I was genuinely surprised at how easy it was to galvanise the community and get involved. And of the those in the vulnerable category that I have so far interacted with, there is a sense of positivity that we will see this through along with a number of entertaining stories from their pasts (regardless of the frustrations with people who are stockpiling toilet roll!!). The other day, as I was dropping off some groceries to lady with limited mobility, I was asked whether this was something that I was paid to do. When I explained that the services provided through our local community group were voluntary there was an inherent sense of appreciation. This is true across the country and a great demonstration of the level of resilience already built into society.
Whilst it is heart-warming to see the number of individuals who have joined these groups that are willing to help and the visible positive impact their actions have, I wonder why this sense of helping the vulnerable and creating a community spirit only seems to arise in times of need? Community resilience is a concept that our local government clients have been advocating for a number of years. In light of dwindling budgets and higher, more complex levels of need, how can we harness the momentum that has been developed and continue to support our local communities going forward? Why does it only come out when our backs are against the wall? This is definitely something to think about and discuss over the next couple of weeks and especially whilst we are in lockdown!
So please do stay home, be safe and let’s keep this community spirit going now and in the future.
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