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Why covid:aid is building a collaborative charity platform to support organisations around Covid-related issues – and how you can help

Michael MacLennan

covid:aid is the UK’s charity for all those significantly affected by Covid-19, and has been uniquely set up to act as an open and collaborative partner and platform for healthcare providers, charities, and other groups – ensuring people and organisations can find and access support tailored to their needs, wherever that may be.

  • COVID-19

covid:aid is the UK’s national charity dedicated to supporting those significantly affected by Covid-19. My personal motivation in starting the charity began around the Christmas period of 2020. Like many people in the UK, I found myself feeling increasingly upset and powerless as a second wave led to more people becoming seriously ill and dying due to Covid-19.

I could see how those close to me had all been affected in different ways: through the debilitating short and longer-term physical effects, grief and bereavement, isolation, loneliness, displacement, financial hardship, and so many other related issues. Everyone had their own story to tell, their own need for support, and I felt strongly that by bringing people together – and highlighting what had been achieved under such difficult circumstances – we could not only support each other further, but begin to plot a more positive path forward.

A charity to bring together everyone affected by Covid-19 – and all those providing support.

My research into the support, information, and advice available was surprising, as there didn’t appear to be a UK-wide charity set up to support all those significantly affected by Covid-19. In a couple of ways this made sense. It’s always a challenge to set up a charity – never mind in the midst of a pandemic – and lots of organisations and groups had stepped up brilliantly. These included the NHS, the social sector, existing charities, social enterprises, and a variety of amazing grassroots groups who had sprung up to provide peer support around issues including Long Covid and grief and bereavement.

However, a couple of things also seemed clear. It was clear even then that people in this organisations and groups were exhausted – not least through remaining in emergency mode months beyond what most had anticipated, with no end in sight. The energy of a new Covid-19 charity could help boost the support they were providing. (I think of this a bit like an extra person being able to come in and give a push trying to get something over the line, which can provide a psychological boost in addition to a literal one.)

The most important one came from my own background in building open and collaborative networks. Having worked in digital roles for organisations including the BBC, ITN, and Red Bull – and having developed digital strategies for charities and acted as a trustee for several years – I felt that a modern charity could act as a platform for other charities, healthcare providers, grassroots groups, and other organisations.

As covid:aid we could inform, boost, and promote the advice and services they provide – looking to work together and provide a single destination which could act as a go-to destination pointing people in the right direction, whether their needs are direct or indirect. This would drive an audience towards trustworthy providers, organisations, and groups, while providing those requiring support a degree of certainty amongst an increasingly confusing online sea of contrasting advice and outright misinformation, making it hard to know who can be trusted.

Building a platform and network to support charities and organisations

Launching in May 2021, this open and collaborative approach has allowed covid:aid to support individuals significantly affected by Covid-19 through quickly establishing a supportive network. We won a National Lottery Community Fund-funded Catalyst grant in conjunction with fantastic digital services agency Hactar to build a digital Long Covid toolkit (including personas and user needs statements) to aid charities, healthcare providers, and other organisations, running a series of workshops with participants including fellow new National Voices members Long Covid Support and Long Covid Kids.

These workshops were in themselves a significant journey. We ended up ditching a lot of the intended training materials to ensure a more collaborative approach and open discussion, while making adjustments to delivery to accommodate the needs of those with Long Covid – breaking down sessions into shorter running times, increasing breaks, and providing recordings for those too ill to attend. These changes reflected a need to ensure those with Long Covid – and other patients – are full participants at the very beginning of projects, rather than being brought in at a later stage or treated as anything less than full partners. It also illustrated why the distinction between those providing support and those requiring support should be broken down – we can all be either or both at different stages of our own individual journeys.

Our membership of National Voices has allowed us to establish working relationships with the likes of Asthma UK/British Lung Foundation and great new autoimmune charity The Wren Project, while engaging in beneficial conversations with diverse organisations including the NHS and CBI. In terms of directly supporting those affected by Covid-19 we have started publishing a diverse range of advice and information on our website – looking to signpost to the best sources of support while doing so – and have launched an innovative managed Community platform on our website which will allow us to host events and courses signposting and showcasing the work of our partners.

From the very beginning I wanted to establish an inclusive charity here for the long term that was national and broad in its scope, in recognition of the fact that every single person in the UK has been affected by Covid-19. We are stronger together, and myself, our trustees, and our volunteers truly believe that is how we can make the greatest positive difference. We didn’t imagine that at this stage the rates of illness and death would be so high, but this means our mission all the more vital – as are those of all charities, organisations, and groups seeking to support those significantly affected by Covid.

Please get in touch if we can support you, or if you would like to support us by joining our vision. By working together, we will ensure every adult, young person, and child in the UK can easily find and access the vital support they need to overcome the traumatic effects of the coronavirus pandemic – and build a more positive future.