In one sense we are back where we started, with a new COVID variant threatening to overwhelm the NHS and curtail festive celebrations, but 2021 has also seen momentous changes.  It is a year where organisations have navigated the multiple challenges of remote working, Brexit legislation and tightening supply chains. With the UN issuing a ‘Red Alert for Humanity’ in the run-up to COP26 the level of trust in our political institutions has become ever weaker.  Leading Hubbub through this period of turmoil has been exhausting but looking back there have been five key things I have learned.

1. Social and environmental issues converging

An underlying theme of COP26 was that those least able to cope are most adversely impacted by environmental injustice.  This is starkly obvious in countries vulnerable to extreme weather but is also apparent in the UK in the way that we use and distribute resources.

We live in a country which wastes food whilst households struggle to put healthy meals on the table, where we are creating a mountain of electronic waste yet still have households with no access to digital devices and where people in the most disadvantaged areas have the least access to local green spaces.

Tackling these dual environmental and social challenges has become a driving force for Hubbub through our partnership with the Co-op that will establish 500 Community Fridges across the UK, working with Virgin Media O2 to redistribute 13,000 surplus smart phones alongside free data to those who are digitally isolated through Community Calling, and helping communities in Manchester connect with green spaces through ‘In Our Nature’.

2. Collaboration creates innovation

Collaboration has always been at the heart of Hubbub’s approach but 2021 has forced us to take this to a different level.  Not only are we working with major corporates but have deepened our connections with grassroots community groups and innovative tech companies. 

Links with local groups have been essential in enabling the rapid expansion of Community Fridges and Community Calling.  Partnership with tech startups, such as Ellipsis Earth, resulted in the award-winning use of drones to track littering in Bournemouth and create impactful behaviour change campaigns.

Most importantly these partnerships bring new ways of thinking and different ideas into the organisation helping to drive innovation and create campaigns.

3. The delicacy of integrity

Retaining integrity is essential for an organisation seeking to drive environmental change but is increasingly difficult.  In 2021 the glare of social media is stronger than ever, bringing with it high levels of scrutiny, expectations and challenge.  Assessing the public mood has become more important than ever, as has the need to ensure that we have a strategy to cope with areas of weakness, and an openness in our communications. 

Throughout 2021 Hubbub undertook extensive public polling on a range of issues and, through our corporate partnerships, held interviews with hundreds of people from a diverse range of backgrounds.  This insight helped us to develop campaigns built on people’s real concerns and aspirations.  Organisationally the importance of demonstrating integrity led us to obtaining B Corp status for our social enterprise, to undertake an assessment of our work on diversity and will lead to the creation of a robust Net Zero strategy. 

4. Managing organisations has got more complex

The disruption caused by COVID19 has fundamentally changed the dynamics of managing an organisation.  The importance of employee wellbeing has soared up our agenda resulting in more investment in training and broader staff support.  We have fully endorsed flexible working but recognise that this can weaken culture, hit innovation and hinder staff development.

Finding a hybrid working model has been an ongoing challenge during the year.  Our expectation is that we will need to organise more staff away days and rethink our use of office space to ensure that time together is used as creatively as possible.

5. Values, values, values

Very few people could have predicted the massive disruption caused by COVID or how it is going to play out in the years ahead.   Addressing huge uncertainty has required flexibility, supportive employees and fundamental changes in approach.  Navigating this intense period of change has required the organisation to hold true to its core purpose and reason for being.   

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