I’m writing this on Sunday evening.

Crisis comms

I feel like in the last ten weeks I have learnt a lot about communicating in a crisis. I have tried to be more concise, to focus on specific and straightforward messages, and I have tried to focus on what the team wants or needs to know. Sometimes, on longer calls or videos with the Renaisi team, I don’t always achieve that, but I think I’m getting better and I’m much clearer on what is needed.

I’m not convinced our government has grasped that need for clarity. I can’t get over the fact that if you have a 5 point scale, and then you allow half points, you have a ten-point scale.

On an all-team Q&A last week, I was asked about returning to our offices given public transport and other fears. We had started talking this week about what returning to offices might look like, and how people felt about that – practically and emotionally. We have zero desire to rush this, but we also want to start the conversations early with our team. There was nothing that the Prime Minister said that made me think we would be speeding any of those conversations up…

Place-based systems change

I’ve been working to a steering group of organisations, led by Save the Children, on a fascinating project about place-based systems change. I created a framework for them that tries to explain how different approaches and organisations get towards working in a place-based and systemic way, and how funders could support them down that journey. I’ve tried to fit a lot in that framework, and it was good to get feedback on it. I used to be very precious about my work when I was younger. Most of the time now, I do agree with the ethos that feedback is always a gift. I got some constructive challenge, but also a lot of positive endorsement from some people I respect. When I heard from Louisa Mitchell about how this could have helped her during earlier stages of the development of West London Zone, I was happy that there was value in this.

I look forward to publishing the report and framework soon.

Tech, health and those at risk

I was on a webinar this week for the Digital Health And Care Alliance, talking about the role of technology support vulnerable people during the pandemic. It was an interesting conversation which I think highlights that every organisation/ sector has blind spots about those at risk. I finished the session more convinced that our highly centralised response (with thousands of unused national volunteers and a focus on building new hospitals), was never going to help everyone. Local responses can do it, but not without a strong local government and voluntary sector. We are in danger of weakening both at the moment.

Reading, listening and watching

I got the end of Normal People. It didn’t maintain the excellence of it’s first few episodes, but there was some good stuff in there throughout, including consistently good music and direction. For me it was weakest when it lost the threads of abuse and deracination that so challenged the two leads. Without those threads, their actions sometimes felt strange, or unexplainable. I was reminded that I liked the books because I think that those two issues cover so much of the damage and scar tissue in people’s lives, relationships and communities.

There was also a moment in the episode when Connell talked of standing in front of a painting all day. It reminded me of the times I used to go back to the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice (I was lucky enough to live there for a few months as a student) to just look at Boccioni’s Materia for long periods. It was on loan to the gallery, and I just loved it. The hands. After being reminded of that, I spent a pleasant couple of hours looking through the Guggenheim collection online. Lockdown has some benefits.

John Hitchin Renaisi CEO