Ian Bruce: Reflections, Relationships and Recovery

As the team at Glasgow CVS prepare for a well-deserved Christmas break, I have been reflecting on the last year.  It has not been the year I expected. 

Having settled into my new role at Glasgow CVS, we came into 2020 with ambitious plans for how we could support community groups, voluntary organisations and social enterprises in the city.  Many of those plans were put to the side as we all stepped up to the plate to respond with compassion and purpose to the pandemic.
No person or organisation has been untouched by Covid-19 and its wider effects.   So many have lost loved ones – perhaps needlessly and certainly prematurely.  The economic impact has been deep and devastating.  As happens every time we see recession, disaster or social change, it is those people pushed to the margins of our society that have been hit hardest.  And as happens every time, our sector has been there to help people in need.
Community groups, voluntary organisations and social enterprises responded magnificently.  They gave immediate assistance to people who could no longer get out for food or medication. They offered support on digital to people who were suddenly disconnected from their world.  They worked with families so that children were supported and able to continue to learn.  They offered meals, financial help, advice and connections.  Most of all, they offered kindness and stood with those who felt abandoned and forgotten. 
The sector has faced its own challenges as well – of course financial, but there are other issues too. Those organisations that rely on fundraising, participation fees or trading with the public saw a dramatic reduction in that income. While Scottish and UK Governments acted to provide financial support with a variety of schemes, some organisations have fallen through the gaps between these. Even for organisations whose income hasn’t been affected, there have been additional challenges around using digital, maintaining activities and supporting volunteers and staff as we tried to understand this new virus and what we needed to do to keep people safe. 
The pandemic has demonstrated things that were known but insufficiently appreciated by those with power.  That too many people in our city live with the effects of disadvantage, exclusion and poverty. That many more are simply coping – always at risk of no longer being able to do so.  That it is the relationships between people and the strength of communities that are important.  That a strong voluntary sector is the key to community and individual resilience.  The pandemic has been an expensive lesson, paid for dearly with lives and livelihoods. I despair if our leaders have not learnt from this.
Lots of people and organisations have done amazing work this year, but I want to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to my wonderful team at GCVS. I’ve seen them all work so hard for the benefit of the sector and the city.  I won’t list the achievements as I don’t have anywhere near enough space to include everything, and I can’t single out one team over another. The combined effort has assisted people to find the help they needed; they have supported organisations through difficult times and have built connections and collaborations across sectors.  I am both privileged and proud to work with all of them. 
I’ll finish by wishing you all a lovely Christmas and a happy New Year.  If this festive period allows you to have a long overdue rest then enjoy it, ready to come back refreshed in 2021.  To those who have to work over the break because you are continuing to provide essential support, thank you.
My best wishes to you all,

Ian Bruce, Chief Executive, GCVS


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