This is an emerging picture from the front-line summarised from our enquiries and weekly Tuesday Zoom calls, and organised by theme.

Over time it is intended to:

  • Build a picture of the key challenges and solutions community businesses are adopting to the rapidly emerging picture. Useful for us all but also to feed up to sector bodies.
  • Provide links to inspiring examples, useful resources and contacts for people to be able to take that inspiration, learn and practically apply that learning to their own situation.

‘Hot topics’ – regularly repeated topics and questions relevant to all themes

Our resources page will share any recorded or upcoming webinars on these topics.

Getting people online: Many of those most vulnerable don’t have access to the internet through computers or smartphones and this is a growing concern.  See “Volunteer Hubs & offline social connection” and “Facilitating online social connection” below.

Mental health and wellbeing: An increasing concern for many – a topic we will return to for our next call.  Important for staff and volunteers as much as those in the community that we are supporting.  See “Volunteer Hubs & offline social connection”, “Facilitating online social connection”, “Supporting micro-enterprise in your network” and “Maintaining community-based health and social care”.

Furlough or not to furlough: Whether and under what circumstances to furlough staff is a recurring theme – this is a time many need to mobilise not mothball their operations.  So what can we do?  At the moment the advice is that furloughed staff can’t work or volunteer for the organisation they are employed by in any capacity. The latest on this issue is best followed through the sector resources page as this is an ingoing questions and many are both lobbying and seeking to find practical solutions e.g. setting up a new operation to which furloughed staff can volunteer; ‘swapping’ furloughed staff between organisations so they volunteer for someone else.

Safe payment options: The issue of collecting payment safely when connecting with people e.g. for tasks, food deliveries, etc. is common for many.  See “Volunteer Hubs & offline social connection”, and “Manging food prep and delivery”.

Identifying vulnerable people and safeguarding: Managing safeguarding concerns is a very common issue, as is getting a clear picture of those that might be most vulnerable in communities where there are gaps in your contacts. This database from HACT may be useful for some.  See “Volunteer Hubs & offline social connection”.

Keeping good records and managing cashflow: The importance of keeping clear logs of actions, decisions and cash-flow forecasts has come up many times – not just to manage for the medium to long term rather but to enable community businesses to have trust and information when securing future grants and donations including government ones. Having people ensuring this is being done could be make or break for many.  The cash-flow template tool at the bottom of our resources page might be helpful to many. See “Crowdfunding/donations”

Reconfiguring business models online: Many are having to do this quickly to support their businesses and those they work with.  There is a lack of certainty about whether people can move business models online and charge for things when so much is appearing to be provided for free.  See “Maintaining community-based health and social care”, “Facilitating online social connection” and “Supporting micro-enterprise in your network”.

Crowdfunding & donations: It seems that people in many locations are still interested in making pledges on community projects as dominations etc and for many community share issues were working well - these are a great potential source of patient capital and cash-flow (though this was not the case in all areas).  See “Crowdfunding/donations”

Increasing capacity e.g. from volunteers and local businesses: This website might be useful to many from Business in the Community trying to match business offers of support with those that need help.

Grant, loans & allowances: Community business are often caught in the middle of different support and at risk of being left behind and confused about what they can and can’t qualify for – they are businesses, sometimes charities, sometimes not, sometimes companies, sometimes cooperatives sometimes subcontractors to the public sector for vital services. The best sources of information of grants and loans, including sector and government is through the sector support sections of the resources page as this is an emerging picture.


Volunteer hubs and offline social connection (including getting people online who aren’t)

Providing ‘offline’ support safely and managing safeguarding challenges

  • Importance of offline communication, such as phone calls, especially for the elderly is common.
  • How best to facilitate support, in the form of essential deliveries and how to best facilitate this in a way that’s safe and contactless. ‘SumUp’ was presented as a payment solution working effectively in Watchet that removes the need for cash. Machines can be loaned from furloughed local businesses.
  • Safeguarding (both the people we’re supporting and volunteers), especially retrospectively, for a system that was set up at speed remains a key challenge – the need to sidestep bureaucracy to enable a nimble and effective response vs the need to stay safe.


Getting people online

  • How we get people online is a key question. As time passes, we need to find ways of getting people online, as many services, including GP appointments, move online.  As community businesses, we are often working in tech poor areas, making our communities less adaptable / even more vulnerable during this time.
  • Onion Collective has sent out a special edition newsletter asking if people have tech / internet in their houses and asking them to call a helpline if they don’t.
  • Is there potential to work with other trusted local organisations to facilitate a tech roll out, especially in the elderly groups, where peer support / encouragement would be essential?
  • However, there is a need for agencies to be genuinely helpful – listening to what we need and not duplicating effort, and not responding in ways that dampen community response and engagement. How can we be a part of the discussion to work collaboratively with local government and support agencies effectively in partnership – a national issue for many of us?

Resources and case studies (remember the case studies includes contact details of people there happy to explain more)

  • Onion Collective, Watchet – including details of “SumUp” – an app to take contactless payments at the doorstep, with a deferred payment from the shop.
  • Hastings Emergency Action Response Team – including details of Nationbuilder – a CRM system that’s currently free for those responding to Covid, to monitor a database of volunteers.

The resources page has the latest on safeguarding from sector bodies and government sources, as well as other ideas and resources for offline connection

Managing food preparation, delivery and/or distribution services to the most vulnerable

Food supply

  • This is an erratic supply of donated goods and foodstuffs


Food preparation

  • You need a super safe kitchen - see government regulations, and there are other tools on YouTube
  • Safe cooking, chilling and reheating is critical
  • Get in touch with your local environmental health officer if you aren’t already
  • Keep a space free of all “traffic” – people, equipment, smokers!


Food delivery and payment

  • Delivery & collection-safe methods - ask others rather than make up your own and make sure volunteers are signing up to risk protocols
  • Minimal interaction best but connection still vital so use delivery as a means to check in on people for those who already live in difficult circumstances and have a chat (at safe distance). Alienating the alienated doesn’t help keep folk safe.
  • Payment is best done through


Resources and case studies (remember the case studies includes contact details of people there happy to explain more)

  • Onion Collective, Watchet – including details of “SumUp” – an app to take contactless payments at the doorstep, with a deferred payment from the shop.
  • The Bevy Community Pub, Brighton - including more on all these areas from supply, to food prep, to delivery
  • The resources page has more on connected issues of safeguarding from sector bodies and government sources, including Plunkett Foundation page specifically on issues of food supply.

Maintaining community-based health and social care

Remodelling the business

  • This could be a good time to try and press cases for funding and delivering differently – plenty of staff are not in Coronavirus mode and have time to talk about these things (time they usually don’t have) e.g. funders, NHS backroom staff/ Commissioners.
  • Re: capacity if resources are not being used – maybe think differently about how to put to use e.g. an example from Kitty’s launderette in Liverpool where they were asking health / social care if they wanted to use the washing machines.


Personalised care

  • Delivering personalised care is very difficult at this time – lack of PPE equipment is one barrier and difficulties in doing this sort of personal support from the end of a phone if someone is particularly vulnerable
  • Also – not an easy decision to furlough staff as recruitment of suitable people  into personal care roles  is challenging at the best of times – so furloughing workforce means the workforce might go elsewhere (very competitive market for staff)
  • There are some good examples of trying to deliver things remotely


Resources and case studies (remember the case studies includes contact detail of people there happy to explain more)

The resources page has more on some of these themes.


Crowdfunding / Donations


  • It seems that people in many locations are still interested in making pledges on community projects as donations etc; numbers of pledging were holding up pre-and-post lockdown in a few examples.
  • Having good visibility of cashflow was crucial, and recommended a rolling 13-week cashflow. This would be crucial to have visibility about the pressures to come (to identify if there was a need to undertake crowdfunding) and to use as evidence of competence etc with potential grant funding support in coming weeks and months.
  • The potential to create a community share issue is common - share capital was ideal for supporting short-term cashflow pressures such as businesses are facing now. However, some share issues seemed to be proceeding OK, whereas others weren’t doing so well so not an even picture. It seems like where the main investor pool is the general public more broadly, the share issue might struggle, whereas higher-net worth investors might still be interested in making long-term patient investments.


Resources and case studies (remember the case studies includes contact details of people there happy to explain more)

The resources page has more on some of these themes.


Supporting micro-enterprises in your network

How to support microenterprises

  • Many micro businesses aren’t ready for support – dealing with family etc. not ready to face the change needed
  • There are questions regarding the overlap between small business and charitable allowances and facilities – it gets confusing as community businesses
  • Use podcasts to share knowhow and as a marketing tool
  • There are a number of micro businesses that have survived being flooded in the past few years – learn from them.
  • Facebook group sharing case studies: ‘hidden, home based and self-employed businesses’
  • There is a community called ‘micro business matters’
  • Ask customers about their capacity (time) and ability (tech and kit) to move to online for doing business and receiving support
  • Community businesses are used to being resilient and know how to bootstrap
  • Platforms for click-and-collect are being created to enable community businesses to continue to operate
  • Having to go online is forcing us up our game. And oh are people game (even the technophobes)!

Role of support organisations

  • Support orgs need to step up and provide clear reassurance, representation and 121 support i.e. Plunkett made the link between small community shops and knowledge via association of convenience stores.

Mental health and wellbeing

  • Mental health and wellbeing is a concern that we must work with alongside enterprise support
  • We need a groundswell of goodwill that connectspeople

Resources and case studies (remember the case studies includes contact details of people there happy to explain more)

  • “Isolation Station” in Hastings is a good case study of online connection and supporting microenterprises
  • The resources page has more on some of these themes, including the latest from government support and sector support agencies on areas such as government grant schemes and other support and funding for community business and micro-enterprises.

Facilitating online social connection / entertainment

The need for online social connection and entrainment

  • Need to support staff wellbeing and facing the challenges that some staff are on the frontline, some self-isolating, some furloughed.
  • Concern for the need to keep members and like-minded organisations across the country connected and informed as easily as possible
  • Many that generally run a face to face sessions directly with local people, or to self-employed people/ microenterprises are wanting to maintain a service and connection as well – many have moved online already or will need support to do so to diversify their offer.
  • There is a huge amount of furloughing in the creative sector and a desire to connect creative capacity with community needs.



  • Zoom is the ‘go-to’ choice for most. Many have tried Google Hangouts which have very good video quality, can share pics, more of a chat, but can be hit-and-miss with sound and visuals. House Party allows many users to chat simultaneously but was mentioned as having had some ‘scare stories’ recently (but the reviews the risk as low).
  • There are also specific apps for different kinds of formats – e.g. QuizUp for quizzes or Kahoot! for various learning offers either as surveys or live online.



  • Recognise that online contribution to wellbeing is about socialising as well as practical support.


Online access

  • For those with broadband but who have never used online apps/social media potential to
    • ask the local C19 Mutual Aid group whether they have volunteers who can help people get online (e.g. onto a zoom call)
    • Citizens Online (which has a branch in Brighton) have networks of champions who can help. We should be thinking in terms of ‘training the trainers’ to distribute skills as widely as possible
  • For more vulnerable people (e.g. neurodiverse)
    • mainly relying on carers or parents
  • For those without broadband
    • need to think about mobile platforms. Think mobile first – recognise that (young) people have been watching more and more video content on phones for a while and your offer needs to work on a small screen.
    • an initiative in Germany to help migrants involved encouraging individuals at home to create a public log-in for their broadband (or just gift it to a neighbour by creating a log-in specific for them). That overcomes the worry about security because they wouldn’t be logged in through the individual’s own account.
    • some efforts are being made by mobile/internet providers
    • potential use of buildings as hubs so that people can tap into their wifi from outside/nearby
    • technical response would be a mesh network where you can use the wifi without logging in or paying – something to explore further



Isolation Station Hastings (ISH) has come about because of existing relationships between tech people/companies, creative producers and wider community. Other places could set out to find local creatives and tech people through existing clusters or via the local C19 Mutual Aid group.

See the Coronavirus Tech Handbook for more

See resources around staff wellbeing on Coops UK C19 page.

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