Supporting a local community response to COVID-19

Mark Golledge
4 min readMar 16, 2020

It has been really interesting to see from around the UK how local communities are responding to support each other in light of Coronavirus. Within the last few days we’ve seen lots of local grassroots community activity emerge and an explosion on social media of self-organising local communities.

In both where I work (City and Hackney) as well as where I live (Chelmsford) there are hundreds (in some cases thousands) of people committing demonstrations of kindness in the face of Coronavirus. The seemingly small things that people are doing are having an impact.

I thought I’d do my bit to share a few examples below which I’ve come across that might be helpful. This is by no means comprehensive but hopefully will give you a flavour of things that I’ve come across. I’d also be interested to hear of other things I’ve not captured.

There’s also some interesting questions coming up at the moment around this. Here’s a few:

  1. How do statutory organisations support local community responses rather than tell or ‘advise’ local communities what to do?
  2. How do we best connect local community responses to others that might be able to support them and work together (e.g. voluntary sector, primary care)?
  3. How do we work with local communities to consider aspects like safeguarding and data sharing?
  4. What practical things are making a difference?

We are grappling with some of these things locally and would be particularly interested to hear from others in how they are responding.

Anyway, here’s some resources I’ve gathered which you might find helpful:

  1. Self-Organising Community Groups (Online)

a. COVID-19 Mutual Aid: — this is a group of volunteers supporting local community groups organising in the UK. In many cases this is coordinating volunteers running local errands although it varies from group to group. Over 400 groups have been established (at the time of writing) and you can find your local group here. Some of these are managed via Facebook, Whatsapp or Slack groups.

2. Voluntary Sector Facilitated Community Responses

a. Essex Coronavirus Action: — Essex County Council alongside local Facebook group owners have established three main services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This is based on three areas — PREVENT, INFORM and ASSIST. On the latter both individuals and businesses can register to be involved in supporting local voluntary efforts.

b. Bath and North East Somerset Community Volunteer Sign-up: — this is probably happening in other areas of the country but I love that a voluntary sector membership network is encouraging people to volunteer. It seems a good way to link people into things which already exist and maybe overcome some of the areas to consider around safeguarding and safety of people.

c. Camden Volunteer Sign-up: — Camden Council with partners (including Volunteer Centre Camden) is encouraging people to sign-up to coordinate pledges of voluntary support to others across the local area. Again, this is facilitated by existing local organisations.

d. Community Care Volunteering Leeds: — Community Care Volunteering is a Leeds wide initiative to ensure arrangements are in place to support people and communities during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is being run by Leeds City Council and Voluntary Action Leeds. This includes a sign-up form for interested volunteers.

e. Improving information about local voluntary organisations / local volunteering opportunities: More something I’ve heard about organisations working together to improve awareness of local volunteering opportunities.

3. Resources

a. #COVID19Kindness and Petition: See here — A great practical way of demonstrating a commitment by using the hashtag on social media of #COVID19Kindness (and/or #viralkindness) and signing the petition which commits you to three things — 1). supporting others; 2). being socially responsible and 3). saying thankyou.

b. Postcard to offer help to people who are self-isolating: See here — These are often being used at a hyper local level (e.g. where you have neighbours or people on your own street that you might know). These are a practical way of supporting friends … and I’ve seen some wonderful community responses. There’s a write-up on the BBC here:

c. Community Action Response (Eden Project Communities): — this is a great and simple practical guide in how people can be encouraged to think of others in their local community.

d. Declaration of Interdependence — I can’t find a web-link so have posted here. Some very practical declarations you can make (I’m sure it’s fine to amend some of these as you wish!).

e. Coronavirus Tech Handbook: A crowdsourced — There’s a much longer list of practical tools being crowdsourced which can help support a volunteering response to Coronavirus. This includes:

  • Managing volunteers and requests for assistance;
  • Communications
  • Organising platforms
  • Video calls /conferencing

4. Practical things to do: By no means exhaustive but a rather varied list which a few people have suggested….most of these would work best for people you already have relationship / connection with:

  • Help with shopping
  • Cooking/food delivery
  • Providing support to Foodbanks (most have a Facebook page you can view)
  • Support shops online — or buy gift vouchers now which you can use in the future
  • Dog walking
  • A friendly phone call
  • Driving people
  • DIY repairs
  • Translating, or reaching out to local groups for which English isn’t a first language

Hopefully a few thoughts which might be useful!



Mark Golledge

Neighbourhoods Programme Lead working across health and social care in City and Hackney | Previously: NHS and Local Government |