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‘We need to be optimistic’ What the future holds for Norfolk and Waveney’s charitable sector

PUBLISHED: 15:27 03 July 2020 | UPDATED: 22:40 15 July 2020

L-R : Tim Sweeting, Rachel Cowdry, Lou Gardiner, Simon Wright, David Powles, Hugo Stevenson and Claire Cullens. Picture: Zoom

L-R : Tim Sweeting, Rachel Cowdry, Lou Gardiner, Simon Wright, David Powles, Hugo Stevenson and Claire Cullens. Picture: Zoom

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Innovation, positivity, a lower dependency on statutory funding and better communication between different organisations, have all been highlighted as ways in which Norfolk’s charities can recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Simon Wright, the chief executive of charity Nelson's Journey. Picture: Richard Jarmy PhotographySimon Wright, the chief executive of charity Nelson's Journey. Picture: Richard Jarmy Photography

On Friday, July 3, an expert panel of representatives from key charities in Norfolk and Waveney came together to discuss what the future holds for the region’s charitable sector.

The virtual discussion was the latest in a series of events exploring key issues in Norfolk and Waveney, hosted by the Eastern Daily Press.

The panel consisted of Simon Wright, chief executive of Nelson’s Journey, Claire Cullens, chief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation, Hugo Stevenson, from the Priscilla Bacon Hospice Appeal, Lou Gardiner from ACE Project, Rachel Cowdry of Break and Tim Sweeting of YMCA Norfolk.

They were also joined by more than 30 representatives from other charities.

Our webinar looked at the challenges facing charities. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodOur webinar looked at the challenges facing charities. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Key topics covered over the course of the hour-long discussion included the challenges faced by each organisation during the pandemic and how they had adapted to lockdown, funding challenges and an increase in demand within communities.

Claire Cullens said the Norfolk Community Foundation had gone into “absolute overdrive” at the beginning of the crisis to support local and frontline organisations, to date raising almost £1m.

She said: “This is just the beginning so while we might think ‘lockdown over, it’s all over’, those issues we’re seeing in our communities are deeper than ever as a result of the pandemic and it’s critical that our frontline charities are enabled and supported to carry on supporting people across our county.”

Tim Sweeting highlighted how, as mission driven organisations, charities would prefer not to exist, but said the pandemic created an opportunity to deliver more services to communities.

“There’s a need for us to be optimistic, a need for us to be able to say all hope is not lost but we need the narrative to be one that’s positive.

“As charities we’re used to being agile, we’re used to surviving with very little money that’s were we are, so these are the perfect conditions for us to be able to do some really, really good stuff for communities,” he said.

Here are some of the key things identified as being vital going forward for Norfolk and Waveney’s charitable sector.

Rachel Cowdy, chief executive of Break. Picture: BreakRachel Cowdy, chief executive of Break. Picture: Break

• Positivity

A ‘can do’ attitude and positive outlook remains an integral part of how our charities are run and operate.

• Collaborative working between organisations

Panellists discussed how there could be more scope for sharing ‘behind the scenes’ resources and complimentary services and outreach work.

Norfolk Community Foundation chief executive Claire Cullens. Picture: Norfolk Community FoundationNorfolk Community Foundation chief executive Claire Cullens. Picture: Norfolk Community Foundation

•Communication

Without exception charities have adapted to the confines of lockdown by communicating with service users differently and often digitally.

• Less dependency of statutory funding

Panellists talked about the need for caution around the supply of statutory funding and the importance of diversifying funding sources.

Norfolk YMCA chief executive Tim Sweeting. Picture: Denise BradleyNorfolk YMCA chief executive Tim Sweeting. Picture: Denise Bradley

•Nimbleness and Ideas

Our charities have risen to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, altering how they operate within days and weeks.

• Innovation

Charities continue to innovate be that new ways of working, fundraising or assisting clients


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