To say that these times are unprecedented would be an understatement. Within the span of one week, our entire country, and nearly a quarter of the globe, has immediately needed to adapt to new ways of working, new ways of operating and new ways of communicating with colleagues, friends and families. The last few days have been an emotional roller coaster with news and information changing on a daily basis, forcing us all to embrace uncertainty and transition. The situation has brought both challenges and opportunities, giving a truly new definition to the idea of ‘community’.
At The Young Foundation, we are committed to supporting the communities and social ventures that we work with in the best ways that we can. We have been phoning and messaging our volunteers on a daily basis to understand how they and their communities are experiencing the situation and how we can best support them during this time, whether it is to help them mobilise around the challenge they have identified or simply to check-in with how they are feeling. We are also closely listening to our social ventures to understand how best to support them by convening partnerships across civil society, business and government for them to pivot and respond to the current climate and deliver their services to those who most need it. Additionally, we are creating a signposting and referrals list to support the communities we work with in London and are calling on our funders to share information which we can then disseminate.
We are also working closely with our ventures who are a part of The Young Foundation social investment fund, which aims to reduce educational inequality. We have given all our ventures a six month repayment and interest accrual holiday as they transition to the new circumstances Our ventures all work very closely with schools, colleges and universities, so giving them some space to adjust (while their customers are also adjusting to remote educating their students) without having to worry about the impact on their cash and reserves, was an important way for us to support them.
While we strive to support the communities and ventures that we work with, we are also working together to support each other internally as a team. This has, without a doubt, been a moment of adjustment for all of us working at The Young Foundation. Most of our work involves direct face to face working in communities and we’ve had to find ways of shifting our working practices, expectations and modes of thinking. Like people across the nation, we have embraced digital and are turning to platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype to conduct our day to day business, while also using these platforms to communicate more frequently and less formally. Some of our colleagues have a 15-minute check in with one another every day to plan for the day ahead while others use a daily catch up call to share things to make people laugh and smile during these difficult times. Virtual tea and coffee breaks have also become the norm and our weekly virtual lunches are pretty good at keeping us connected in less formal ways. We’ve very quickly realised that while our tight knit team are no longer able to be in the same physical space together, there are ways in which we can remain closely connected.
Outside work, many of us at The Young Foundation are involved with our local communities. Many of us have initiated or joined local groups (via WhatsApp and Facebook) to build and encourage check-ins amongst neighbours to make sure people feel supported and help each other out with daily necessities. Others have joined their local COVID19 Mutual Aid group (here is a London wide list) and local phone helplines to help out with grocery shopping and phone calls to people who are feeling vulnerable and are in isolation.
This situation has brought much uncertainty and precarity. And our working lives, home lives and community lives have become ever more porous and interconnected. As a team, we remain resolute and committed to understanding and listening to communities we work with, to embracing new and innovative ways of social connectedness and are steadfast in our belief that genuine, positive social change will always come from the grassroots.
Eve Avdoulos and Tatevik Sargsyan