/ Chair's Opinion / Co-ordinating and adapting in the face of Covid-19

Co-ordinating and adapting in the face of Covid-19

Val Birchall

These past two weeks we have all been focused on how to address the immediate needs of our sector.  We have seen the national sector bodies, Arts Council England, Sport England and the National Heritage Lottery Fund announce schemes to support the arts, culture, heritage and sport, sitting alongside the generic support from central government and the specific support for the self-employed and for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses and a range of hardship funds.  As CLOA, we were able to work with Arts Council England, Local Government Association, Community Leisure UK and others to issue a statement of intent to work together and align our approaches where possible.  You can read that here.

We have all been working hard to co-ordinate our advice and adapt our own local approaches, doing our best to sustain as much of our vital ecology as we can.  We’ve been wondering what the priorities should be and how to have the greatest impact, how long the uncertainty will go on and how to make our limited resources last the course.   All across the country, our sectors are moving online, getting right into the front rooms of our residents and diversifying their business models in inventive ways.  Our communities are reflecting on their loss of outdoor leisure space and live cultural experiences while we are trying to figure out the longer term implications for changes in their behaviour.

In Coventry we have been rapidly re-jigging our existing agreements with funded organisations to enable us to release funds with a light touch, and developing new grant funding schemes to target rescue, stabilisation and preparation for the eventual recovery.  We have focused on getting as many businesses in our sector onto the Council’s CRM system for business support and using the opportunity to ensure our economic development colleagues understand as much as possible about our operating models, fragilities and interdependencies.  We’ve also taken the opportunity to pilot a match fund with CrowdfunderUK for businesses in the culture, sport and physical activity sphere, where they can demonstrate support from their local community and city stakeholders.  It feels a good time to try something new and focus more on how we might be a force for good, rather than worry about the risks.

If you are able to share your experience via the CLOA Members LinkedIn Forum, please do – we can all learn from each other’s experience of trying a different approach, from colleagues’ reflections on what works and doesn’t and from our shared intelligence on the impact on our key partners.  As we gather information from across our membership, we can use it to help shape policy, create ideas for new joint initiatives and lobby for what we need.  Although we have a lot of experience in common, every place is different and we do need a richness of stories to give a balanced view. 

Some days are exhausting and others feel like a breathing space for thinking about how we could change.  I hope you are all staying safe and that if you have personal challenges at this difficult time, you are finding the strength to rise to them. 

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