Covid-19 has had a significant impact on businesses across Scotland. For many it has meant they have had to evolve and adapt their products and services, and support for their wider business community, in new and different ways.
For the Can Do Collective, it has meant taking all of their events online, however an online and virtual approach has allowed the Collective to increase their events programme from five events in 2019, to more than 33 virtual events and gatherings in 2020. They are also concluding the year celebrating a 25 per cent increase in community size.
Rachael Brown, Can Do Collective Convener and CEO, The Future Economy Company explains;
“We’ve seen many examples of how the Scottish business community has stepped up to provide a flexible, fast and appropriate response to individuals in need this year. Business support communities have removed subscriptions and paywalls, more events and conferences have moved online and there has been a marked increase in the frequency of events.
“In times like these, community and peer to peer support is so vital. Now more than ever, there’s an opportunity for businesses to really show their human side, to come together in trust and credibility. We’ve been truly encouraged by the sense of community spirit, entrepreneurialism, agility and creativity we’ve witnessed and the willing to work collaboratively for the greater good.”
A number of businesses have shown great strength, resilience, agility and entrepreneurial spirit in the face of Covid-19 and have continued to support their respective business communities in challenging times. One of the virtual events that the Can Do Collective has initiated as part of their new virtual events programme, is the Partner Spotlight webinar series, which has seen business leaders from around Scotland share their leadership journey and advice for drawing on community, creativity and resilience. Here, some of them share their journey through 2020.
Social Investment Scotland:
One of those leaders is Alastair Davis, Chief Executive of Social Investment Scotland (SIS) – the leading social enterprise whose aim is to help social enterprises to scale and grow their business. He explains;
“The global pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way we all work. Back in March, there was a realisation that Covid-19 was going to have a significant impact. So as a team, we quickly started to think about ways to support our community. We wanted to go out to them and say, ‘we’re here to support you’. Organisations really appreciated that proactive, calm approach. We were there from the start offering help, support and advice. I’m really proud of that, and indeed the ways it has continued throughout the rest of this year.
“This year’s events have also shown us the energy that can be created when you work quickly, collaboratively, and responsively. It has actually driven us to accelerate many of our plans and strategies, and we have been able to design, develop and launch things really quickly. That’s certainly something I’d like to hold onto as we look post pandemic.
“It’s also taught us the value of investing in relationships and collaborations. It’s so important to build communities like that created by the Can Do Collective that are supportive, curious and helpful. Now more than ever, trust, credibility and collaboration are vital and will allow us to bounce back post pandemic, in whatever way that means for different businesses.”
Interface is an organisation that connects businesses with academics. Dr Siobhán Jordan, Director, of Interface, explains the ways they have adapted to support their community through the global pandemic;
“A huge part of our work is about keeping in touch with businesses to understand the difference we are making, and the ways in which we can continue to support them further.
“That put us in a strong position to be able to proactively support our community. We were immediately helping to address challenges faced by the businesses we work with. Many of them had to look at adapting their existing products, and many had to look at creating new products.
“Proactive but empathetic has been our approach in helping businesses navigate through the pandemic, and also look ahead to recovery and green shoots.
“We’ve also been hugely excited about some of the new things we’ve been able to do. For example, we’ve developed a campaign around ‘Adopt a business’. We asked our academic community about ways they could help the tourism and hospitality industry, practically, as they start to think about restarting and recovery. We were overwhelmed by the interest from universities to offer practical help. Working with VisitScotland and Scottish Tourism Alliance , we then had over 80 businesses keen to work with academia. It’s a programme we’ve been able to launch and establish really rapidly but has also been brand new for us.
“We know the next few months are not going to be easy, but collectively, we in Scotland have an opportunity to come together to bring energy to the economic recovery and ensure we continue to build networks to nurture and support. Support groups and organisations like the Can Do Collective are vital for us all to continue to seek knowledge, ask for help from others, and support one another.”
A business that has been involved with the Can Do Collective since its inception, Evelyn McDonald, Chief Executive of Scottish Edge, The UK’s Biggest Business Funding Competition discusses ways in which their business has had to shift and evolve;
“I’ll admit, I found the initial few weeks after lockdown began in March, extremely challenging. We had launched a competition at the end of January, and at the beginning, we kept going. But there came a point when I had to make the difficult decision that we couldn’t continue. Matched with the challenges all small businesses have had this year – having to put a couple of our team on furlough and having to cut costs and plan for the worst – it was pretty painful.
“But once we’d made the decision to pause the competition and focus on our 335 alumni of businesses, we knew immediately it was the right thing to do. We’re really lucky to work with people who have great ideas, right at the early stages of their business and we became very focussed on providing support to those business, with a specific focus for those who have loans with us. We’ve been supporting with information on grants and loans, events, training, as well as peer to peer mentoring. The great thing for us is the feedback we’ve had from our community. We will hopefully come out of this with a stronger, more connected group of businesses.
“We’ve now announced our next competition, which we’re all incredibly invigorated by – it’s lovely to be looking forward to the next round which we will be launching in July and we will be inviting those previous applicants back and also opening to new ones. The competition round subsequently attracted 327 applications, the largest number to date.
“What’s been truly valuable throughout is the support from the wider Can Do Collective network. We know there are a lot of willing hands and willing hearts out there to help us. A trusted network and group of people that are open to collaboration is what can help us all recover and look forward to 2021 with renewed energy.”