Collaborating for community and societal wellbeing

April 21, 2020

Share this story


by Pippa Coutts, Policy and Development Manager, Carnegie UK Trust

COVID-19 and Wellbeing Blogs: The Carnegie UK Trust works to improve personal, community and societal wellbeing. Many of the issues that we work on, and the partners and groups who we work with, are deeply affected by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing a series of blogs with reflections and questions across these different aspects of wellbeing. We are interested in learning from others, so please get in touch to share your reflections on how communities, networks and organisations are responding.

Emergency responders are accustomed to planning for different phases of an emergency, starting with the rapid response and moving to the recovery phase. What you do in the first phase affects the recovery and what the ‘new world’ after recovery will look like. With this in mind, we want to reveal and nurture people and places who are collaborating for societal and community wellbeing now and in the future.

At the societal level, there is a growing recognition that we are all in this together. For the emergency response to be truly effective, state organisations like the NHS have formed collaborations with universities, with schools, with the private sector. As people work across sectors and across levels there is more talk of the need for holistic working in governments both now and in the future.  This is something that the Trust has been promoting for many years, arguing for societal wellbeing as the purpose of government. The COVID-19 crisis has turned up the dial on what’s important and therefore what the focus of governments should be in the future. Although, it’s too early to tell, the effect of this crisis may lead to policy makers turning their attention not just to the size of the economy, but to what the economy is for.

Already we are seeing elected representatives speak the language of love and kindness. Carnegie UK’s work on kindness talks about creating space and ‘permission’ to be kind. Although ‘social distancing’ means we are cut off from meeting physically, there are examples of kindness happening in other ways, as many people reach out and connect more than they would have before.

We are interested to hear about the potential of these developments to shape the future of local places across the UK, and are launching a series of conversations to find stories of community connectedness and kindness. We will be connecting with places and organisations we already know, such as Treorchy town in the Welsh valleys and The Stove in Dumfries. We will be highlighting good ideas, like the Stove’s new initiative, Homegrown that seeks to connect people through art and to document the emergency’s challenges. We are concerned, too, about the future of the High Street and continue to learn about approaches to diversification: today we published a short report of a discussion on community asset ownership’s potential.

We know that the effects of the emergency will be uneven. This is true for places, where the areas previously described as ‘left behind’ now face greater economic disadvantages because they have low-skill service-based economies, where fewer people can work from home.

It is true for individuals too.   In recent years the Trust has had a focus on digital inclusion, especially for digitally excluded young people, a group that is often incorrectly assumed to be ‘digital natives’.  We are concerned that these young people will face further disadvantage as education moves online.  To tackle this, we are working with the Scottish Government on the No One Left Behind emergency response, designed to find and support people who need to be brought on line.

Across the UK, our lives, our conversations, our speculations for the future are all about COVID-19, but communities and individuals face different problems and have varied capacities to respond. At the Trust, we want to listen and learn about where people have taken control of what they can and come together to help each other, and also where that’s not been possible.

We hope to feed that learning into recovery and mitigation decision-making, encouraging governments to hear from communities across the UK. If you have stories or reflections on how communities, networks and organisations are responding to the emergency, please do get in touch to share them, at [email protected]