Five weeks into managing Hubbub during the COVID-19 crisis feels like forever.   It is incredible how distant the previous ‘normality’ seems and how quickly change happens.  What is clear is the incredible job being done by those who are looking after the sick and who are keeping the basic functions of our society operational.  Whatever happens post COVID-19 these essential services need to be recognised, rewarded and properly funded.

Given the scale of sacrifice and loss many people are facing, the challenges of keeping an environmental charity functional seem slightly peripheral, but I thought that it might be useful to highlight what we are learning and how we are responding.

Managing a virtual organisation

The shift to managing a virtual organisation has been relatively smooth.  We have realised that we need to boost the number of conversations we have directly with all staff and increase the frequency of line management meetings.  The importance of social get-togethers has also become hugely apparent whether self-organised such as team quiz nights or through activities we have arranged such as yoga, well-being sessions or high intensity work-outs. 

There is always a danger that people can become disconnected from the organisation – particularly those who have been furloughed and we are looking at ways to create more safety-nets to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Financial viability

Hubbub started six years ago with virtually no investment and as a result cash management is embedded within our culture.  This is crucial during the current crisis when large chunks of our income ended without warning.  Cash is king in this situation and we are doing all we can to maintain a healthy financial reserve.  This has included cutting costs using the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, seeking out new funding for activities helping the most vulnerable and securing social investment loans which enable us to deliver essential new services through cash injections that will be repaid over time.

Helping the most vulnerable

Hubbub has always recognised that sustainability means addressing social inequities as well as environmental concerns.  The impact of COVID-19 has brought this to the forefront.  Our focus has shifted towards helping people get more value from food, including supporting our network of Community Fridges which redistribute healthy food that would have been wasted to people in the community. 

We are launching two new campaigns.  One will be a low carbon collection and redistribution scheme that will take food and other provisions directly to those households who most need it.  The other will redistribute smart phones that have been digitally and physically cleaned to isolated households.  Both schemes have environmental benefits as they get most value from existing resources, but the driver for each is to help the most vulnerable in society.

Reframing the conversation

We are putting considerable thought into how we frame the environmental conversation post COVID-19.  For too long environmentalism has been seen as a luxury, middle-class pursuit.  The ‘buy a bamboo toothbrush to save the world’ narrative much beloved by the glossy colour supplements is inaccurate and damaging to the movement.

The reality is that it is invariably the most vulnerable who are hardest hit by flooding, drought, storms and poor air quality.  Our hope is that post COVID-19 we will see a fairer and more just world.  This will mean that the economic rebuild must address climate change and air pollution.  We need to ensure that we don’t get back into the environmental destructive path we were previously travelling and to achieve this we require a strong new narrative.

Looking ahead

Uncertainty is everywhere.  To give people a chance to discuss possibilities and share ideas, we have decided to launch a ‘Hubbub Explores’ initiative.  This is a series of five virtual workshops asking questions such as; What will our High Streets look like in the future; How will our food system change; What will be the impact on travel and What will a purpose driven business look like?

These workshops are proving incredibly popular and we will use them to create discussion pieces, open up new conversations and explore opportunities for new campaigns. Want to know more about 'Hubbub Explores'?

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On a personal level, managing the organisation is stressful and challenging – particularly with two young children rampaging around the house as part of their ‘home-schooling’.   What is clear though is that when some sort of normality returns, Hubbub will operate differently as some of the changes forced upon us have been beneficial and will be retained.

Read the previous blog posts in this series

Part 1: Managing an organisation through the coronavirus

Part 2: Managing an organisation through the coronavirus