Community business across Europe stepped up to Covid-19 crisis, says Locality research

Actions include mental health support, digital innovation, food distribution and public health messaging to counter fake news

New research from community business organisation Locality show the extent of the sector’s role across Europe in tackling the Covid-19 crisi.

Bringing together findings from the UK, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Finland, and Sweden, the research shows that “community organisations across the continent were able to identify, react and adapt to local needs quickly and most effectively”.

Locality says the sector responded not just to the health aspect of the crisis, it also stepped up when “the pandemic exacerbated many social and economic issues ranging from food poverty to digital exclusion to social isolation”. 

Key common experiences of community organisations across Europe included:

  • An increased focus on mental health and mental health support – among beneficiaries, staff and volunteers
  • Quick digital innovation – Core services such as counselling and debt advice became digital overnight. Many organisations worked to address the digital exclusion faced by beneficiaries
  • The pivoting of services towards emergency support such as food distributions
  • A sense of community togetherness and comradery
  • The need to combat fake news with accurate public health messaging

The report also explores some of the difference that community organisations in Europe have faced, including the impact of restrictions and lockdown measures; the different financial support offered and the different funding models; the extent to which governments have recognised the value of community organisations.

Sophie Michelena,  European project coordinator for the IFS based at the La Fédération des Centres Sociaux et Socioculturels de France (FCSF), who led the research, said: “This new research documents the incredible community response to the pandemic across eight European countries. It shows how community organisations have been supporting their neighbourhoods through the hardest of times.

“Despite the huge economic and social threats we are facing in the wake of the virus, we heard about the determination and faith in the power of community to support healthier, happier and more resilient places through the recovery and beyond.”

Gökcen Demiragli of Verband für sozial-kulturelle Arbeit’ (VskA) in Germany said: “Community organisations are like a seismograph: [they are] able to feel the problems and concerns in their places and work with neighbours and government to tackle them.”

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