Societal Resilience Initiatives During Covid-19

In March 2020, Covid-19 plunged us all into a new reality that tested the resilience of each of us.  In a study funded by the JRSST Charitable Trust, Dr Judy Scully, and Professor Duncan Shaw (Alliance Manchester Business School, and National Consortium for Societal Resilience [UK+]) explore 15 initiatives that highlight resilience at societal level. Each case study is an inspiring story of local resilience and the extraordinary efforts of ‘ordinary’ people in a time of great need.

There are many lessons to be drawn for anyone involved in local resilience and preparedness. Most of the initiatives draw heavily on local knowledge, resources, and volunteers and demonstrate agility to work differently or with new partners to achieve outcomes that mattered to the local community. These lessons are broadly grouped into six key factors that influenced success:

  • Leadership and strategy was important, building on a common purpose to support the delivery of community resilience throughout Covid-19.
  • Working in partnerships to co-produce local initiatives actively drew on existing levels of trust in project partners and embraced principles of democracy and participation.
  • Strong co-ordination and communication supported recruitment, training, motivation and retention of mutual aid groups and spontaneous volunteers, with co-ordination models varying according to context.
  • The initiatives developed strategies to rapidly gain local intelligence and apply it to meet local needs.
  • Management systems were innovative in their inclusive design, including agility in managing safety, and consistency in enabling a rapid response to the changing landscape of Covid-19.
  • Co-production in design of the delivery of initiatives helped to reach some of the most vulnerable in society, including hard-to-reach groups and families in poverty.

The report is rich in valuable insight into how communities respond to crises. Collaborating with other organisations to identify and monitor needs was a common theme that underlines the importance of local knowledge and trust in existing groups. By contrast, the ability to handle and benefit from volunteer resource at scale and at speed presented a set of challenges that were not always easy to meet. The case studies offer different perspectives on volunteer engagement which will be of great interest to others.

Significantly, the case studies tell a story of the human side of societal resilience, with agencies or local groups building on their existing trusted relationships. Some of these relationships started out as simply transactional in nature and developed to form a deeper understanding of the evolving needs of vulnerable individuals and families, and to initiate broader holistic support in response. Many of the initiatives described in the case studies are now using the lessons they have learned to build resilience capability in their local area, by embedding new practices and addressing gaps in organisation or approach.

The full report comprises a summary of findings followed by the case studies.

Alternatively, this report contains the case studies alone.