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Posted by Sarah Brown on 30 Jan '21

Inspiring and creative ways to get through the pandemic

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There has been lots about how individuals have been more creative during the pandemic. It might be tapestry and art, as in my case, or as Mary Portas shared on Radio Four this morning on Saturday Live painting her living room herself for the first time.

There has been less about the creativity of many organisations be they charities, social enterprises or businesses. Some themes emerge that have prompted creative responses or have highlighted existing notable organisations that already existed. They all use the power of shopping online or digital communication in innovative ways, and all show that you can be ethical whatever you are, business or charity.

Harnessing the power of Amazon 

A  small local charity run by volunteers POPI (Pass on Preloved Items), has capitalised on how much people use Amazon and created an Amazon wishlist of items needed to support local families. The items get automatically sent to their address. People can still donate physical items, but this allows people to help during the lockdown and give something really needed.

As they explain "So many local families have very little. So many people want their preloved items to go to those in need. This group lists specific items needed by families with under 5's who live in Keighley and surrounding areas. The items have been requested for families via organisations such as Children's centres, The Salvation Army, Homestart, T-natal, Keighley Domestic Violence, Social care, food banks and local churches."

You can see more on their Facebook group  

Creative and different gifts to show you care

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ARTHOUSE Unlimited is a collective of artists living with complex epilepsy and learning disabilities.  The artists work alongside instructors to create artworks which are developed into designer products for sale. As well as selling direct, they have joined forces with various distribution channels such as postboxed which focuses on items that will go through the post box and are beautifully creative like the chocolate above.

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Bloom & Wild are a commercial firm that can also offer gifts that will fit through the letterbox, flowers with instructions on how to arrange them and variable-length subscriptions which can be given as gifts. 

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They say "We don't just send flowers. We help you care wildly." Every time someone buys our Florist's Pick, they donate 15% of the profit to Carers Trust who help support the 7 million unpaid carers in the UK. Bloom and Wild explain "This wonderful charity gives support, resources and respite breaks to the people who endlessly care wildly. So they can live a better life themselves."

They show they care themselves by their sensitive approach to marketing: "We believe in doing business thoughtfully. Because when you treat your customers the same way you treat your closest friends, you unlock this caring two-way relationship that rewards you with trust, love and loyalty. We found this out for ourselves when we gave our customers the chance to opt-out of emails about sensitive occasions (like Mother's Day) in 2019. And the response from our customers was unexpectedly huge.
That's what inspired us to launch our Thoughtful Marketing Movement, which is now a community of over 130 amazing businesses. With everything from monthly newsletters and advice to Q&As with marketers in the community, opinion pieces, live panels, how tos - and more - we've created a space for marketers to discuss, inspire, educate and help each other find ways to be more thoughtful together."

If you want to find out about other brands that being thoughtful particularly during Covid then here is a fantastic blog

Capitalising on the reading boom

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To allow independent bookshops to compete with Amazon bookshop.org was launched in 2020 and has so far raised over £800k for local book shops, you can search for your local bookshop order from them and bookshop.org manage the process.

The Charity Shop Exchange has been set up to help charity shops sell books and DVDs in these difficult times. You can subscribe as a consumer or register your charity to get support; they are looking for more charities URGENTLY and the north of England at the time of writing had no charity shops registered.

Helping people to celebrate at home in these dark times

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A client of ours, LoveShack, a business with a social purpose, is offering vegan Lovin' boxes across London during lockdown. It is developing a special Valentines day celebration kit for couples to feel special at home this year even if they can't go out.

Reflecting the themes of the time

Bear Hug was set up by Victoria Jenner who explains "I set up a new business in Lockdown 1 because my existing business struggled as everything was closed / cancelled - so not much call for branded kit. I used my existing equipment & skill set & started to sell slogan tops instead. I donate 10% from every sale to Mind & it's great!"

As they say

"Bear Hug is all about bringing joy in some small way.  Our products are designed to do two things: bring a wry smile to your face (or even better, a belly laugh) and to lift you when you wear them.…Here at Bear Hug we are committed to producing ethically sourced and sustainable garments, we are proud that all our sweatshirts are approved by the 'Fairwear Foundation' and are ethically manufactured plus they are 100% sustainable."

Responding to new social needs

The social enterprise Connectforce CIC started in May 2020 as a COVID-19 emergency response. It has worked with over 200 care homes and over 8000 elderly people to combat UK care home residents' growing isolation during the pandemic. The initial idea was simple: video-calling technology to allow residents to communicate with their loved ones.

They were successful in getting 310 electronic devices into some most critically in-need care homes across the UK. But they realised that that was not enough to address social isolation and the profound loneliness many older people feel. It gave residents the ability to communicate with loved ones via video calls and has been a true life-line for many care home residents. One lady felt it had "allowed her to be herself again".  But many people have no one to call. And there is a need for broader interaction and stimulation for all residents. In response, they are developing a range of digital programmes that address this massive gap in provision building on their experience and creative backgrounds.

The ideas include Connectforce Companions that provides enhanced virtual befriending using confident trained and skilled communicators who are all professionals from the arts sector. Connectforce pairs residents with volunteer virtual 'companions', with whom they communicate through weekly video calls. Residents and their companions can talk about whatever they like - just like meeting a friend face to face. They are also piloting, the Connectforce Calendar to provide a programme of monthly events streamed digitally into care homes. The Calendar is in response to research, indicating that residents sorely miss the joy of external visits and extracurricular activities. Their goal is to provide an entertaining and insightful series that will help care home residents to feel connected to the outside world.

Conclusion

I hope you are as inspired by these examples as I am. There is a mass of opportunities which will need creative and bold responses, and I'd love to work with someone on positive ways to use the multiple retail spaces that are now empty. I am always happy to chat about how together we might help you with creative ideas to change the world for the better.

For more inspiration, read:

An unexpected tale

Six strategic lessons we can all learn from the Olympics

Five news stories to make you happy