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An effective COVID-19 recovery plan requires co-operation

Jamie McMahon outlines five areas where co-operative values and principles can support local authorities in the recovery from COVID-19. A version of this article was originally posted on the Co-operative Councils’ Innovation Network website.

Amongst the tragedy COVID-19, there have been a few reasons for optimism: the new-found appreciation for the work of our public servants; the speed at which partners came together to respond and save lives; and the sense of collective action from communities up and down the country.

As we now move beyond the initial crisis phase, it is vital that ‘recovery’ is well-planned and isn’t just about returning to ‘business as usual’.

Local authorities are uniquely placed to think about what comes next. Only local authorities can bring partners and communities together to develop a strategy that navigates the uncertainties, sustains those positive changes and works to tackle the challenges laid bare by COVID-19. The cross-cutting nature of COVID-19’s impact means local authorities will have to build new teams and governance to manage the response, all whilst the dust settles on the personal and financial impacts of the pandemic.

To come back stronger, the recovery must be underpinned by a strategy that empowers and strengthens communities, harnessing collective action between local people, businesses and public services. This strategy needs to plot a path through all the stages of the recovery: lifting the lockdown; living with COVID-19; and longer-term renewal.

A co-operative approach

At Mutual Ventures, we see how the crisis has brought local people, businesses and public services together. That is why we have developed our five-level co-operative approach to recovery framework. The framework defines five ‘building blocks’ required to instil a co-operative approach that supports communities, people, businesses and organisations to be more resilient.

Each building block is underpinned by practical suggestions that could make a difference, based on experience and lessons from the pandemic. For example:

  1. Strategic co-operation between partners – committing to joint strategic leadership through the recovery with local strategic boards continuing to meet, harnessing the best parts of ‘Gold Command’ COVID-19 crisis response.
  2. Local people’s role in public services – implementing Alternative Delivery Models to increase engagement of local people. Co-operatives, not-for-profit companies and public service mutuals have a track record of delivering sustainable growth whilst embedded in the communities they serve and a public sector ethos.
  3. Business as part of the community – rewarding businesses that supported communities in the crisis and promoting positive behaviour by providing recognition and praise.
  4. Supportive neighbourhoods – promoting the sustainability of mutual aid groups beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
  5. Self-care – building self-care into care pathways, integrated across social care, health and voluntary sector partners.

These ideas can be a starting point for a recovery plan, but will need development to reflect the needs of stakeholders and the local economy.

COVID-19 has shown us how much can be achieved by working together and the power of local action. Those areas that are successful will be those where there is genuine co-operation between local people and public services. This will take imagination and determination over the months and years to come. The need for co-operative values and principles existed before COVID-19 – that need is greater now.

To hear more about Mutual Venture’s work with local authorities and how we might help you, contact jamie.mcmahon@mutualventures.co.uk.

Mutual Ventures is proud to be an Affiliate Member of the Co-operative Councils’ Innovation Network and a member of its Dynamic Purchasing System.

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