How do we get through COVID-19… and make a better world?

Learning at MAP

A blog by Dan Mobbs, Chief Executive.

I’ve done my commute (walked up stairs) and made colleagues a cuppa (just me). It’s another day working from home. I start the day as usual with a video chat check-in with the senior managers. It makes us feel connected and that we have fully arrived at work. Like every day, I’m working for a better world. That’s my purpose and MAP’s. So how are we getting through Covid-19 and what are we learning?

Learning & adapting

What we’ve achieved as a local youth charity has been incredible. Within two weeks of lock-down we launched a free-phone advice line and email advice service for young people across Norfolk. We moved our therapeutic work to text, email, telephone and video call sessions – and it’s as busy as ever. Our youth work has been fantastic – groups and activities, campaigns, youth groups – all online. Young people appeared on Radio Norfolk to talk about their online cooking group. It’s inspirational.

Creativity and flexibility is tiring though. Working in new ways takes a lot of effort. All this screen time is draining. We’ve not furloughed staff – they are doing all they can. But when working from home there’s no chats about life over tea break; no cycle rides to meetings. I was amazed to hear that staff were asking themselves if they were doing enough. Yes – you are, I say. But we see doctors and nurses going into hospitals, supermarket staff working on check-outs ….

Rainbows connecting neighbourhoods

We feel empathy for them. We see charities having to furlough staff and even going into liquidation. We worry for our families and friends. No wonder we’re so tired. We all have big hearts. I can’t thank our staff and volunteers enough for their commitment.

So what have we learnt about how we get through all this? For me it’s what doesn’t change. For MAP that is our vision and values. They are very real for us. Our vision is a world where all young people feel valued. That’s why our staff and volunteers work so hard. Our values are being young person centred, valuing each individual, being professional and working for social justice.

Being young person centred

That’s why we’re always asking young people how to support them and not making assumptions. For example, while many young people are finding being at home very difficult, especially where parents aren’t able to support them, some have said they’re glad for a break from school as it is the biggest cause of anxiety in their life. Even setting up new ways of working, we’re still maintaining professional standards – we just passed our external audit for the AQS advice standard. Social justice is central to our response. Our advice line’s priority is to make sure young people’s basic needs are met – food, housing. Our youth work is ensuring young people have a say. In a crisis it is always the poorer and disadvantaged who are most affected.

We’ve also learnt some pretty basic things. You can do a lot if you put your mind to it. Things that seemed difficult before just get done. What was getting in the way before? Fear? Habit? Vested interests? Some new practices need to stay: the option of online support in a rural county; video conferencing to avoid needless journeys – what’s not to like? We’ve learnt how it feels good to come together as a nation and express love and gratitude for people who are there for us – even going out in the street to clap and cheer key workers. I love doing that.

We must really take note of what we’ve learnt and what we’ve been reminded of:

  • Our vision and values drive everything we do
  • Things can change

We must, more than ever, refuse to accept that things can’t change because we know they can. We must work to our vision and values and continue to be thoughtful and generous and remember how good collaboration and sharing feels. We must keep listening to each other; keep empathising and connecting. This is how we make a better word.