COVID 19 – SVS Initial thoughts on moving from Crisis Response to Recovery and Renewal

As we move from our immediate crisis response and think about moving into the first stages of recovery/easing of lock down, this is a brief framework to help our thinking about the way forward and the ‘new normal.   

We can approach our learning and future projections broadly through asking ourselves the usual what, where, when , why , who , how questions and reflecting honestly on these 3 stages  

  1. Immediate crisis response to lock down 
  2. Current situation and coming months  
  3. Preparing for reboot and the new normal  

For each aspect of this it might be useful to think about the 5 Rs: 

  • Rescue – what can you salvage from what you were doing before COVID-19 hit; 
  • Reform – what needs to be fundamentally changed, but is still relevant; 
  • Resilience – where is are your organisational strengths and how can you make the best use of them. 
  • Recovery – how do you get back to where you were before (including the learning/changes brought in as a result of COVID-19 that you’ll continue to run with).
  • Reoccurrence– how do you capture the learning from COVID that will be useful if it happens again 

From this we can formulate our action plans and priorities in the short ( 3-6 months) , medium ( 1-2 yrs) and longer term ( 5yr+ legacy).   

Areas for consideration include –  


  • Purposes –  How well we deliver our purpose/ mission? What was put on hold and why? Who did we work collaboratively with on shared causes? How have needs changed to impact on our mission and purposes going forward? 
  • Values – How did we live our values through the crisis? Do they need to change for the future?  
  • Beneficiaries – How well did we serve our beneficiaries? Have these changed as a result of this situation?  
  • Community and Services Were our services relevant to our communities and their  needs?  Is our area of benefit still relevant?  
  • Trustees – How engaged were trustees? Did board meetings still happen and how were decisions taken at pace by whom?   
  • Risk – was the risk register relevant and reviewed ?  Was insurance adequate and amended as required if services changed ? Were we financially sound or at risk? 
  • AGM and Reporting – were we able to meet annual reporting and meeting requirements?  
  • Governing document – does this need updating for future contingencies ? 

Business Continuity  

  • Contingency plans – how well did emergency plans and contingency arrangements hold up? Did we have the right people, resources and equipment in place to change quickly, operate effectively and innovate as necessary?  What was missing or could have been better ?  
  • Staff – Were staff and volunteers able to get help and support they needed ? Were they able to adjust to new ways of working, access information, IT, PPE or other equipment and were they supported in their personal situations with work life balance for home working and the stresses of the situation ? Did we maintain morale across the team(s) where there was variable workload – eg some furloughed, some working but under-utilised and others working extra hard. Were existing volunteers supported and new ones inducted and involved properly?  
  • Community Needs and Services – How did needs change between Feb 2020 and now? How will they continue or evolve going forward ? What was prioritised when and why ? Does this need to change again going forward?  
  • Operational Delivery – Who are our priority clients/communities; how can we best meet their needs as restrictions are eased.?  Are some a higher priority than others for more contact?  How can we best deliver services –  which aspects may remain as they have been during restrictions, others go back to how they were, others evolve or change completely?  Should / could remote delivery remain? 
  • Operating from premises – Which staff come back to the office when taking account of balancing personal with organisational priority needs.  How will social distancing be maintained ( eg shifts, rotational attendance ) , how will we fairly and flexibly balance continued use of remote working alongside face to face across all staff whilst retaining a sense of identify and single organisation.  
  • Health and safety – How will we ensure cleanliness and hygiene requirements in the building and PPE where necessary? Risk assess arrangements and be mindful of H&S reporting requirements such as RIDDOR. 
  • Volunteers – Does our volunteer offer need to change –  are new volunteers going back to work; are previous volunteers who stopped because of COVID-19 (e.g. shielding) coming back in; how can we manage and support them? 
  • Leadership – were we effective in responding rapidly to changing times, keeping staff , trustees, members  and stakeholders informed and involved at what stages ? What else could we have done or done differently ?  
  • Technology –  How did our technology function and enable increased staff remote working/  facilitate meetings for teams, forums and trustees?  Were there any GDPR or cyber-security risks or compromises including maintaining back up and recovery options? Were we able to amend processes remotely and maintain record keeping ? Did our website fulfil changed requirements and was band width adequate? Were mobile phones contracts for SIM cards / data lines / cloud hosting/ service support  etc remain cost-effective in the light of the extra traffic across them? What were our IT vulnerabilities and weaknesses? 
  • Supply chain – did our supply chain work for us ? Any suppliers needing help from us, being particularly helpful to us or unhelpful / difficult ? Did we have sufficient stocks and supplies obtained when needed ? 


  • Income – what existing income has been lost or reduced – trading/commercial / income generation, contracts, grants, membership fees or charges, fundraising activities, CSR etc.  For how long/until when (might need different scenarios)? 
  • Expenditure – what savings could be made for how long, payments deferred ? What additional expenditure has been incurred for what ?  
  • Cashflow and short term measures  – What cashflow do we have, reserves available to use , interim financial support have we got – furloughing, short term grants, loan options? 
  • Budgeting – What from the pre COVID-19 budget and income pipeline remain relevant, needs adapting, isn’t relevant? 
  • Going Concern – What is the going concern position going forward – how close to insolvency are we at this point ? What contingency plans are there and what precautionary measures eg redundancy notices further service closures ,  do we need to take when?  
  • Contingency – What is plan C if plans A and B are worse than our projections?  
  • Bids and Partnerships – What other opportunities are there?  What assets and resources have we got, what is the need?

Collaboration and Challenge  

  • How can we build on collaborations fostered during the COVID-19 crisis? What new links have been made and how they support resilience and recovery? What learning and legacy can we take from the new links and upsurge in spontaneous voluntarism?  
  • What did we achieve during COVID-19?  How do we tell the story , especially of behind the scenes work to tell the story and capture the impact so communities see what we did; volunteers and staff to feel connected and contributing and stakeholders recognise our contribution.  
  • How can we exert influence on different levels and communities – street, neighbourhood and city / strategic. Communities of identity, association , life stage as well as place?  In the ‘new normal’, can we be bolder in our challenge to power bases and tackling inequalities, braver in our approach to community led control and asset based community development ? 
  • How did SVS show VCSE sector leadership leading up to, during and emerging from the Covid 19 crisis ? Did we do the right things at the right tie and enough of it with the resources we had? What more, else or different could/ should we do ?  


  • How well did we communicate – internally and externally? How was the external stakeholder experience (beneficiaries, local people / communities,  donors, funders, commissioners, supply chain, etc)?  What were the particular needs and barriers to communications for these particular audiences?  
  • Did the shift to digital delivery exclude key groups and how did we help overcome the digital divide? What else could / should we have done ? 
  • Did our website stand up to the test ? Was it easily navigated and did people find what they wanted ? How easily was it updated at what cost?  
  • Have we used social media effectively for 2 way communication and which modes worked best for whom? Are there new stakeholder engagement methods that we tried that should continue? 
  • Did our leadership team set the key messages, front the organisational response and delegate comms tasks clearly to others ? 

The New Normal  

  • There are many commentators and thought pieces which suggest there will be no return to life pre Covid 19 and that the new normal will look very different as this disease takes in course and we rebuild our lives, relationships, social structures and economy in the light of this experience.  
  • There is though the old normal which has taught us to reflect and learn from the past as well as project our thoughts forward so as to dream of a new and better future. 
  • Future forecasting – without a crystal ball the best tools for thinking through  forward projections and scenario planning are probably variations of the PEST – (political, economic, social and technological influences and changes ) or more comprehensively STEEPLE which adds in Environmental , Legal and Ethical factors to the previous 4 using a standard grid of strengths , weaknesses, opportunities and threats consideration. One of the most extensive is the recent NESTA piece There Will be No Back to Normal published on their website on 7.5.20 which is worth a view.  


  • Golden Nuggets – what are the 2 or 3 things that most surprised us / our teams during the lock down period ?   
  • 2020 vision – with hindsight what are the 2 or 3 things we most wish we had in place before this started and what could we have done to achieve that ?  
  • Current constraints – what are our key constraints now , how serious are they – critical / serious / manageable / not serious  – for how long? 
  • Reboot reflections 
  • Restarting – which are the 2 or 3 most important things to restart using our previous approach  – what , why , how, when? 
  • Retaining – of the things we have developed during the crisis what should we retain ?  What , why , how are changes embedded or what alters to do so?  
  • Rejecting – moving forward what should we stop doing, why and how did we determine it is no longer relevant or most required ?  
  • Refocusing – what if anything will we start doing that is completely new or different to our previous offer ?  What is new, why and how did we use evidence to make the decision?  
  • Resilience – what will we put in place to help equip us better to face re-occurrence or the next different crisis? 

Build Back Better  

  • What will we do to improve our operations for a better future?  
  • How do we reflect the Civil Society Futures principles ?  
  • How will we operate more equitably and tackle inequalities more? 
  • How will we be greener and more environmentally sustainable ?  
  • Who do we need to involve and engage to make this change ourselves , our sector and for our communities ?    

Action Plans and priorities  

  • Immediate – what are the top 5 actions/ priorities to take forward in the next 3 months?   Who is the key lead, what resources do we need, by when and how will we know we’ve succeeded?  
  • Medium term – what are we prioritising for action in the next 1-2 years as part of our forward plans and what are we changing in our current forward plan if anything? 
  • Longer term – What is the long term legacy we want to achieve from this experience? What is the one big idea that we hope this drives us to achieve in 5 years from now 

Review – when and how will we review this and stock take on whether the new normal is still new or normal ?   

JA  12.5.20  










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