Covid-19 and the Gift of Time to Prepare for Uncertainty

I am sure that the past few weeks, including the current period of lockdown, has been a very challenging, painful and at times bumpy one for many of you running churches and other charities. You may have had to furlough or even make redundant much valued members of staff, have taken a significant dip in your income with financial uncertainties ahead, whilst also experiencing significant disruption to how you do normal business requiring you to rapidly adapt to a new ‘normal’. Many of you reading this may be feeling that there is little, if anything, positive about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yet, one of the positives that this current challenging period offers us is a gift of time since the normal pace of our busy lives and worlds of charitable business has by necessity had to slow down or even pause. This offers us unique thinking space to plan and prepare for the future. For many of you, the crisis may have exposed all sorts of gaps and potential vulnerabilities within your organisation that you were not previously aware of. This may have been in relation to financial, administrative, personnel, data handling or legal/insurance aspects of your operations. Your organisational responses to the crisis may have been very reactive and stressful as a result. This may have been made worse if you had no resilience arrangements in place, such as a basic business continuity plan which had planned and prepared in advance for how you might respond to an unforeseen event causing significant disruption, whether a pandemic, flood, cyber-attack or other event. Did you feel that you were ‘surviving’ rather than ‘thriving’?

Now may present an ideal opportunity for many of you to re-examine the resilience health of your charities, in particular to: (1) (further) identify what gaps and vulnerabilities exist, such as in your organisational systems and processes; (2) better understand why these exist, and (3) how these can impact negatively upon your normal operations; (4) identify key lessons learnt, such as challenges responding and adapting to the disruption caused by the pandemic; (5) decide what measures need to be put in place to address those organisational gaps and vulnerabilities identified, and (6) develop a plan to implement these measures to ensure that they are not quickly forgotten once we emerge from the current period of lockdown; and, if you do not already have one, (7) put in place a basic business continuity plan (or make any necessary revisions to your existing one) to assist you to more smoothly navigate through challenges and disruption caused by future crises.

Being more resilient as an organisation, including in terms of your levels of planning and preparedness for uncertainty, will not necessarily spare you adverse impacts of crisis situations, such as a global pandemic. It will though reduce the scale and reach of such impacts upon many aspects of your organisation. In turn, this will allow you to ‘thrive’ rather than ‘survive’ in the face of what promises to be uncertain and turbulent times ahead for all of us.

Katja Samuel is the founder and CEO of GSDM(R4C), with broad ranging resilience experience and expertise.

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