What has been your organisation’s response to the global pandemic?

“Business in the Community (BITC) is a business-led membership organisation. We inspire, engage and challenge business to tackle some of society’s biggest issues. You can imagine, given who we are and our history, when the reality of the coronavirus crisis started developing, our membership started asking: ‘How can we help?’ And our outreach teams were hearing about the growing need for help from community organisations. 

“We came up with the idea of making the connection between the community need for help and the business desire to provide support. The National Business Response Network (NBRN) was launched in April.”

Who is involved?

“So many of our members have got involved on the supply side, and we’ve opened the door to non-members to try and meet a need. We’ve had one person and their van wanting to help us move things around to an oil company providing hundreds of laptops. 

“On the delivery side we’ve also built strong partnerships with charities like FareShare and In Kind Direct, to make sure we can deliver where we need to.”

How did you coordinate this project?

“None of this was planned, and we had no idea it would grow as fast as it did. We repurposed a whole group of BITC. We took a leap of faith, to say: ‘Let’s just jump in and make this happen, we can’t afford to wait because the need is so great.’ We went out to try and get some funding because we hadn’t budgeted to do this. We’ve seen our own income decrease, like every other charity. We built a platform within two weeks, and we partnered with some other not-for-profits. We didn’t wait to set up the perfect organisation, we just went and did it.”

If the idea is right and the need is there, sometimes you just have to leap in and make it happen. Despite the perceived lack of trust in business, there is a huge desire to make a difference

Nick Diamond
Membership director, BITC

This just shows how effective an agile and collaborative response can be…

“It has reinvigorated that community spirit. I don’t think it will go away, and we will play a role in that. At the moment we’re looking at responding to the crisis. What we now need to think about is: ‘How do we rebuild communities to recover?’ A lot of businesses will have been impacted by it so how can we continue with this great support over a period of time, not just in response to this crisis?”

What sort of matches have been made between business and communities?

“Since the start of the pandemic, the NBRN has made nearly 1,500 matches between local community groups, schools and charities and UK businesses that have been able to meet their urgent needs. At the moment the most asked for things are tangible, like food, equipment, clothing, or technology. Baby company Mayborn, for example, donated baby bottles, sterilisers, and other accessories to The Haven Wolverhampton to help the charity continue its work supporting women and children who are vulnerable to domestic abuse and homelessness.”

What have you learned during this challenging time?

“As an organisation, that we’ve got the ability to mobilise our fantastic membership and make a difference. And sometimes we perhaps spend too much time thinking about what we want to do rather than just getting on and doing it. 

“We’ve proven with this network that if the idea is right and the need is there, sometimes you just have to leap in and make it happen. Despite the perceived lack of trust in business, there is a huge desire to make a difference; I think that’s been confirmed. Personally, it’s given me a sharper appreciation of how fragile our communities are, particularly those disenfranchised parts of our communities. We all need to be aware how fragile that balance is and make sure we do everything we can to make a difference.”

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