COVID-19: voices from the sector

London Plus have been speaking to charities to tell the story of London’s civil society in this unprecedented time

The unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon London’s civil society

Lucy provides us with an analysis of the data London Plus has captured regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. She extracts “voices” from our survey database to tell the story of London’s civil society.

We have suddenly found ourselves living in extraordinary times.

From nurses crying in their cars to celebrities crooning John Lennon’s “imagine” from the comfort of their luxury estates; Social media is ablaze with talk the chaos and calamities caused by #COVID19. To ensure that the causes of non-profits are not overshadowed, we at London Plus felt a need to cut through the noise and draw upon our database to showcase exactly what’s happening in London as civil society muddles through the crisis.

What people say, and how they say it, can tell us just as much about anxiety levels as an statistical data can. Amidst the chaos, let us not forget that, listening to one another is fundamentally important. 

The illusive toilet roll is hitting our headlines on a daily basis. But what are people really thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic beyond the state of the supermarkets?

The London Plus Survey

We would like to say THANK YOU to those of you who have filled out our survey. Please do, continue to participate in our research and fill in our second survey. Thanks to your collaboration, we have already been able to actively shape the mitigation strategy around COVID-19.

Without further ado, let me “pass the mic” to those of you who have taken the time to speak to us about the impact COVID-19 is having on your organisations.

The words on your lips, the words on our minds:

The cloud combines textual data from both of our COVID19 impact surveys (1&2)

The cloud combines textual data from both of our COVID19 impact surveys (1&2).

The general rule for reading the word clouds is the larger the word, the greater the amount of times it was mentioned by participants. Please click on them to see them more clearly.

“Staff”. “Volunteers”. “People”. “Impact”. “Vulnerable”.

These were just a few of the words used by participants to describe the impact COVID-19 was having upon the charitable organisations they work for. What is particularly striking about these word clouds is how great the impact upon society’s most vulnerable has been. So many of the organisations we support and collaborate with have been going over-and-above in their attempt to firefight the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And the human cost of this chaos is really quite visible, especially when we look closely at what you’ve told us about the increased demand upon services over the course of the past few weeks.

Your commentary tells us, very clearly, that London’s civil society is amidst a supply and demand crisis. Simply because many of its organisations do not have the capacity to meet their service user’s rapidly evolving needs.

The cloud combines textual data from both of our COVID19 impact surveys (1&2) looking at the increased demand of charities and their capacity to cope with this

Many charities are struggling to meet the increased demand

Reduced capacity is a direct result of more staff and volunteers opting to practice social distancing. As such, the very thing that keeps our civil society afloat- human contact– has ground rapidly to a holt. No wonder, then, that “cancelled” was quite literally the word on your lips, with an occurrence of 127 across both of our surveys. But as the cloud above also demonstrates, cancellations go hand in hand with concern about financial impact- in particular, how catastrophic the pandemic is proving itself for fundraising;

“Our Charity is really affected as we have to close down all activities for our trainees, volunteers and staff for now. All our fundraising has been put on hold. We do not receive funding from the councils as such as we are funded by various donors. We fear we will not be meet our targets and this will affect our income.”

“It [Covid-19 Pandemic] has made planning service delivery very difficult and made fundraising much harder.”

“Less people have been around to get important tasks done [and so] fundraising has gone down. People have been sick with no idea when they will return. There has been anxiety around the office.”

How will charities keep afloat financially?

For civil society, fundraising is quite literally a means of survival. Without donations or tenders, the communal impact of retracted funding would be incomprehensible; namely, because voluntary work is vital to the wellbeing and safety of so many vulnerable groups. The word cloud below tells us exactly how it is: your financial concern about COVID-19 was largely communal with “vulnerable people”, “community groups”, and “concern” as phrases which reoccurred significantly as the pandemic progressed this week;

The cloud combines textual data from of our COVID19 impact survey number 2

The data above is from our second survey, which is currently open.

 Volunteering through the pandemic- London, you never cease to amaze us.

If there is anything that the COVID19 Pandemic has proved, it’s how resilient London’s civil society can be in its response to a tsunami of unanticipated challenges. Already, we have heard from so many of you about how you have innovated amidst the chaos and have found new ways to meet demand without compromising the wellbeing of your volunteers and service users;

“We have enrolled existing volunteers to make welfare calls and support older people with shopping.”

“Redeployment of staff to supporting older self-isolating adults & food collections as well as setting up IT systems so older people can stay connected”

“Taken on extra or longer shifts on helpline and webchats or moderating online community space. Also increased support with admin duties helping respond to high volume of emails we’re receiving”

Technology is bringing us together

Digital is currently playing a big role in these innovative delivery strategies. Many of you have been in touch telling us about the additional effort you’ve put it in providing guidance and troubleshooting services as staff and volunteers are operating online;

A few of us worked on a crowd-sourced document on holding virtual meetings  Do feel free to share!

Similarly, if you are looking for additional guidance around digital during this period, but aren’t sure about where to find out please get in touch with our colleagues at Superhighways. They can help signpost you to relevant information pieces and services.

And finally, the extract that made a seasoned sociologist a bit tearful… : ‘- )

“We are growing seedlings for local residents as well as local groups”

How utterly lovely. 🌱 🌻 Many thanks to all of you who have contributed to our database. If possible and where applicable, please keep engaged with our research series as the pandemic progresses.

Team London Plus also want you all to know that you’re nothing short of amazingly brilliant (or in stat speak, 10/10, 110%!). Keep up the amazing work and stay safe.

Hang in there, London! We <3 you!