Photo of a computer on a table as a back setting to writing. Home Symposium, Keeping Strong during a global pandemic, 27th May 2020

Home Symposium – Keeping Strong during a global pandemic

Last week saw Barnwood Trust, alongside the Cranfield Trust and GCHQ, host their first ‘Home Symposium’– a virtual conference for charity leaders to learn about how they might sustain, strengthen or reinvent their organisation in light of Covid-19

It is clear through this pandemic that VCS organisations have the strongest links with those who are most isolated, and who risk being forgotten or left behind in the crisis.  Supporting these crucial organisations amplifies the positive impact for disabled people and people with mental health challenges in the county.

My job on the day was to go along, listen and watch and share with you all how it went, so how did it go? What did people talk about? And what did people share?

I’m going to start with something someone said during the day: “People just want to be able to give something right now.”  This struck a chord with me and summed up for me how it felt to be part of the day.

People from VCS organisations across the county wanted to join together, listen to others, have the opportunity to share their experience, and ask for advice.

It was a full day of talks and activities. The day began with a welcome address from Helen Lovatt, the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, a keynote speech followed this from Baroness Rennie Fritchie, Chair of the Lloyds Bank Foundation.

Then three workshops around the theme of adapting well; four different discussions on resilient leadership, fundraising, volunteer workforce and reserves budgeting; and a closing reflection from Sally Byng CEO of Barnwood Trust.  Also running throughout the day was the ‘Garden retreat’ which involved various breakout sessions ranging from mindfulness sessions to ideas about fundraising.

We are going to share the slides and speeches from main events of the day for anyone who would find it useful, but we also wanted give you a flavour of the content which is outlined below.

Welcome address and Keynote

Helen Lovatt

Helen became the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire in March, just as lockdown began. Her diary emptied overnight, and she had to find a new way of undertaking her role and connecting with people.

In reimagining what she could do and how she could still carry on with her role, Helen noticed three important things; community, compassion and collaboration.

To read Helen’s full speech click here 

Baroness Rennie Fritichie

Rennie Fritchie has been involved in the charitable sector for many years.

Rennie reflected on how charities have been affected in some similar but also some very different ways. Some of us are able to pause, tread water and even mothball what we do.  Some of us are front line charities, supporting or providing services to the most vulnerable people and are suddenly seeing more new clients, as well as returning clients who had moved on to independence but now need additional help.

“I think charities in Gloucestershire have demonstrated leadership, imagination, resilience, partnership working and sacrifice. I am daily inspired by the stories of the work you do.”

Rennie also talked about five distinct phases as we engage with our current realities; react, recover, reflect, reimagine and renew.

To read Rennie’s full speech click here


There were three workshops (some workshops contained more than one talk) throughout the day as outlined below. 

Cranfield Trust – Adapting well

Cranfield Trust’s workshop focussed on building organisational resilience.

Amongst many other things, Cranfield Trust provides free business skills to help build successful charities. From mentoring to help with project work, or strategy development, they are on hand as critical friends and trusted advisors.

Cranfield presented the change curve diagram which has been adapted from a grief model. It takes you through the stages of shock, denial, frustration, depression, experimentation, decision and integration.


The diagram provided an interesting reflection on what organisations (and people) and going through at the moment in relation to covid-19 and how we are all at different points on the curve on any given day or week. For leaders it is important that they understand which stage their team members are at and respond accordingly.

Cranfield also talked about the ‘Tension Quadrant’, encouraging people to think about where in the quadrant people placed themselves as leaders and how has Covid-19 affected this, if at all.

Finally, we looked at the 4Sight Model of Organisational Resilience which focuses on hindsight, foresight, insight and oversight and explored ways of using this within organisations.

GCHQ – Business continuity and accessibility

GCHQ talked about the importance of accessibility when returning to in-person activities in the workplace, a very relevant topic for many of the organisations present as lockdown begins to ease.

Government guidelines will obviously play an important part and something we will all have to adhere to.

We must consider everyone’s differences, what will make people feel more comfortable and able to return to work. Consider any type of impairment that will affect people’s return to work and how we can facilitate this to be the best possible experience. Regardless of the impairment, disability or condition, communication will be key when making changes to the physical environment. Importantly;

  • Establish a clear, regular and accessible comms routine for your workforce/user groups. Make sure that it is in a format that works for all users.
  • Explain why changes are being made, even if you think it’s obvious. Communicate any changes ahead of time if at all possible. Remember that a positive change aimed at one group could affect others either positively or negatively.
  • Provide a staff/user feedback mechanism. Monitor frequently asked questions (FAQs) and provide answers to these via your regular comms bulletins.
  • Ensure comms to the workforce make everyone aware that some may be having difficulty with social distancing and to help where possible, even if that is just moving out of their way.

GCHQ – Business continuity and risk

GCHQ encouraged small charities and organisations to revisit their first principles, and why they came into existence.

Revisit what your key services are – look at who your customers are, what internal considerations you need to take into account, the need to prioritise importance and urgency and also what constraints you have. Think about what might happen to the following:

  • People
  • Process
  • Information
  • IT
  • Facilities and Equipment

We need to think the unthinkable to both ensure continuity and manage risk effectively.

Mitigations against risk could be – training for cross team role filling, data backups, call outs and alternative storage and office facilities – consider buddying with other charities in a different sector. 

Dr Marie Owen – Covid-19 and the Chamwell Centre

Dr Marie Owen from the Chamwell Centre spent some time talking through Covid-19 from her perspective both as a doctor and a Chair of the Chamwell Centre.

Marie talked about focussing on some of the absolutely certain things within your organisation, what are completely unknowns, and what are maybes, and prioritise according to this.

Think through where you are now and where you want to be, and of course the planning around how you are going to get there.

You can use a five-step model to help you realise this.

  • Vision
  • Skills
  • Incentives
  • Resources
  • Actions

GCHQ – High level planning, coordination and risk management

GCHQ talked through the important of planning, coordination and risk management, using the Dart Model.

The Dart Model breaks down into strategy, definition, delivery and sustain.

Strategy is developed and ideas shared, they recommended using a business case approach which focuses on the strategic, economic, commercial, management and financial issues for the organisation.

GCHQ – Cyber security for small charities

A representative from the National Cyber Security Centre provided a session about cyber safety.

It started with looking at why charities are at risk. These range from charities holding funds, personal, financial and commercial data, through to potentially being a route into a ‘bigger fish’ such as a local authority or corporation.

Charities are at risk from cyber criminals, indirect attacks and insiders.

They looked at how charities can be affected such as ransomware and extortion, malware and spyware, business email attacks (phishing) and fake organisations and websites.

Five simple, low cost things charities you can do to protect your organisation, they are:

  • Backing up your data
  • Protecting your charity from malware
  • Keeping your smartphones/tablets safe
  • Avoiding phishing attacks
  • Using passwords

Finally, we looked at what you can do if you fall victim to any of the threats. You can report to Action Fraud which is the Police’s central fraud reporting centre in the UK. Data breaches must be reported to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), which is the data regulator in the UK. You must report to the Charity Commission, or other regulators/funders relevant to your organisation.

Closing address

As the day drew to a close, Sally Byng, Chief Executive of Barnwood Trust reflected that in these really challenging times organisations have reinvented themselves, staff changes have had to take place, Government guidelines have led what we can and can’t do, and yet every organisation that she has so far come into contact with continues to prioritise the people we are here to serve.

“I’ve been in this sector for all of my working life and I am blown away by what I’ve heard over the last month.”

If you represent a local charitable or voluntary organisation and would like to know more, please get in touch with Georgia Boon, Director of Relationships at Barnwood Trust on  Also speak to us if you would like to be informed about any similar events in the future.