By Lily O’Flynn, Renaisi and Bonnie Hewson, Power to Change.
Empowering Places funds six local community focused organisations to nurture and grow community businesses in their local area, creating more prosperous places which benefit local people through better jobs, amenities and connections.
Empowering Places calls these organisations ‘catalysts’. Operating across six different urban centres in areas of high deprivation, the catalysts face unique challenges to creating and incubating new community businesses, things like limited social capital and bad health deter local people from being able to take the necessary finical risks associated with starting new businesses.
Like organisations up and down the country, during the pandemic, the catalysts and the community businesses they support had to rapidly adapt to changing realties – we asked them to keep Covid diaries to help us understand their experiences. The videos below, produced by our evaluative partners Renaisi and Close Up research, give us a window in to how these diverse organisations and their communities coped and responded to the crisis.
Smooth adaptation during crisis appears to be down to incredible individuals at the catalyst organisations and within the community, that drove change and supported others to get on board.
A positive take-away is that the pandemic has forced people to think really creatively about how they can run businesses and use spaces to generate an income. Asset development has been particularly critical to sustainability.
Adapting to doing more things online has also presented challenges, as well as opportunities. Those that were able to adapt have found new ways of connecting to different parts of their communities and new volunteers.
Maintaining relationships has been challenging but the existing work and connections of catalysts, coupled with the speed and agility they were able to move at has built their reputations locally and has seen more influential local partners wanting to work with them to support their communities.
People’s mental wellbeing and financial status have been hugely impacted. Loss of jobs, loss of income, reduced hours of work and increased isolation is having a drastic economic and wellbeing impact on the resilience of places where it is already low.
Although, much of the work of the community anchors has been positive, in many ways their biggest challenges are just beginning – “the stuff that’s going to roll on is going to be the economic impact, huge unemployment and the impact that’s going to have on the most vulnerable”.
Watch the full community business Covid-19 diaries here: