Stories behind the statistics: archive of life during a pandemic launched

Date: 9 July 2020


  • The Young Foundation launches digital archive documenting how UK communities responded to the crisis 
  • Week by week stories from across the UK provide deep insight into how the mood of the nation changed in line with “key moments” in the pandemic 
  • Digital diary keepers and citizen scientists contribute over 600 stories to research project
  • Interactive digital booklet provides insight into social impact of coronavirus on UK communities
  • As lockdown eases, key recommendations for change are presented to policymakers and influencers

The Young Foundation has today unveiled the findings from its programme of work Covid-19 & You; research projects carried out over 100 days to understand the social impact of the pandemic on communities across the UK. More than 600 adults (18+) participated: 75% female, 25% male; 21% of whom identified as ‘key workers.’ 

The first-person stories, captured from April to June, paint a fascinating picture of real-life during lockdown; revealing tales of hope and community solidarity, family struggle and boredom, anxiety and resilience, and more, as the pandemic unfolded. Organised week by week and according to significant dates in the public news cycle — like the introduction of new government guidelines, the Queen’s speech or Capt. Tom Moore’s fundraiser for the NHS — the new interactive booklet creates an important digital archive of how UK society responded to the crisis in real-time.

How Covid-19 changed community life in the UK also presents a suite of recommendations which are aimed at policymakers, government influencers and future researchers. These include: 

  1. Recognise that people do not necessarily want things to return to how they were before. 
  2. Take a systems-approach to old and emerging challenges in work, housing and technology inequality. 
  3. Take the unexpected insights forward to inform other global challenges. 
  4. Explore ways to sustain community strength and deepen engagement with communities outside of times of crisis. 
  5. Put well-being and mental health at the heart of all decision-making. 
  6. Take steps to build trust now and respond to the need for positive stories about the future. 
  7. Make space for social innovation. 

Helen Goulden, CEO at The Young Foundation said: “To better understand the short- and long-term impact of the pandemic on UK communities, we knew that we had to hear directly from people all over the country to understand what has been really happening. Listening to communities is essential to understanding what really works and what doesn’t in times of crisis.  It is our hope that the recommendations included open the door to more engaged dialogue between decision-makers and communities, especially in this economically uncertain recovery period.”

With a focus on ethnographic research, the research engagement was carried out digitally: composed of an open-source “citizen science” project, delivered in partnership with The Open University, and via weekly diary entries, asking participants to complete specific tasks on a regular basis via the digital platform Recollective

The booklet is available to view here


Notes to editors:

  • The booklet PDF is available to download here. 
  • Participant breakdown: 75% female, 25% male; 21% of respondents are ‘key workers’; 28% report having a ‘physical or mental health condition or illness’; and 15% report that someone living in their home does; 20% report that they or someone living in their home has experienced Covid symptoms; only 1% report that they or someone living in their home has been tested positive for Covid
  • About nQuire: Developed by The Open University in partnership with the BBC, nQuire is a platform to explore big questions about yourself and the world
  • About Recollective: Recollective is an online qualitative research platform, which allows researchers to conduct studies remotely with participants anywhere in the world. 
  • Spokespeople for interviews or written comment: 
    • Helen Goulden, CEO of The Young Foundation — communities expert and former Executive Director of Nesta, the innovation foundation. 
    • Professor Anne Adams, Professor of Engaged Practice at The Open University / Dr. Christothea Herodotou, Senior Lecturer (Assoc. Professor) and Academic Lead of nQuire.

About The Young Foundation: The Young Foundation is a charity based in London, focussed on developing better connected and stronger communities across the UK. We are a UKRI accredited research institute. We work nationally, regionally and locally in alliance with our many partners and funders. Since 1954, we have developed and created over 80 organisations to target unmet social needs, including: Which?, The Open University, Language Line, Social Innovation Exchange, School for Social Entrepreneurs, Uprising and Action for Happiness.