What will no longer be the same
A return to "normalcy," in the sense we knew before the pandemic, is not possible. What does it give up and what does the good industry gain?
Beyond the momentary adaptations, imposed by the state of emergency, there remain practices, means, but also new causes. We asked several organizations about the lasting changes that have occurred in their work. So what's left after the pandemic passes?
Iuliana Meseșan, Motivation Romania Foundation:
"From the desire to stay with our beneficiaries, we designed remote support programs and befriended online meetings. Online sessions on the topics of active living and maintaining health for wheelchair users with medullary lesions will still be a good channel of communication and support for people who cannot physically reach our events. The #Motivation team, which includes independent life instructors – wheelchair users themselves, and physical therapists, will continue to #schimbevieți for the better through this type of activity as well. The MotiActiv mobile app and the wheelchair user's phone 0800 030 762, which can be called free of charge, still remain resources of advice for an independent wheelchair life."
Irina Vasilescu, On Stop:
"The pandemic has shown us the complex and terrible faces of poverty. I've always kept in mind that menstrual poverty is only a small facet of a systemic problem. However, after mobilizing last year to provide emergency support to the families we work with and learning more about their situations, it became clear that the only solution for the effective fight against poverty is to approach it on all levels: educational, social, health, economic, etc."
Silvia Boeriu, CeRe: Resource Center for Public Participation
"I think we will think several times before holding big events, with many people, indoors, when the conditions related to the pandemic will be more permissive. For example, now that we have adapted with the transformation of our biggest event – the Public Participation Awards Gala – into an itinerant event, instead of the singular event format with many guests inside, I think the preference will still remain for smaller offline events. At the same time, I think there have been increased doses of enthusiasm in the team that we have been resuming for some time to have just as many offline meetings with the people, groups and organizations we work with. What has changed is, I think, that we appreciate more than before that we can see each other offline with people and that we have not reached the point where online fully defines how we interact with each other."
Andra Munteanu, Narada:
"For us, the pandemic was an ultra-catalyst, we had to grow in a year as big as seven, so that's what we did. We doubled our community of volunteers overnight, we hired people in the team with each month that passed and most importantly, we managed to reach thousands of children and teachers, for the urgent needs in education they had. What else can an emergency unit do in education than to grow rapidly to match the number of children in whose service it exists?"
Sabina Antoci, Senior Program Manager, Vodafone Foundation:
"Looking at the post-pandemic perspective, the lessons we have integrated in the 15 months different from the dynamics in which we operate reflect:
1. Sustainability at micro level:
– care for the team and strengthening resilience in a new system of activity, hybrid (remote & office);
– we appreciate the long-term perspective in the way we manage the portfolio
organizationally, we navigate the professional plans and give priority to the actions to be taken;
– integrating innovation into the way of working as an opportunity generated by the pandemic;
– migration of part of the activity to the online environment and use of smart digital solutions to streamline and optimize processes;
2. Sustainability at societal level:
– developing and engaging in broad, proactive initiatives aimed at social inclusion, based on interactive relationships with other actors, collaboration and mutual involvement;
3. Systemic sustainability:
– engaging in a frequent and consistent dialogue with public authorities to explore
actions that solve the challenges of our communities, in the conditions of experiencing similar crises, all the more so as the pandemic has shown us how vulnerable is the system in which not only the NGO environment operates, but also the wider community;
Diana Păiuș, Bethany Social Services Foundation:
"Internally, I believe that the pandemic has streamlined certain work processes, forcing an automation and a digitalization of the work tools, along with the flexibility of the working hours and of the framework for carrying out the activity. We have noticed a positive effect in the hybrid work system at the level of the motivation of our team and the efficiency of certain activities that require concentration, for which working from home was a suitable environment. It is an effect that we want to maintain in the next period as well.
Externally, the pandemic has shown us how much the support network that an organization has in the community (volunteers, donors, partners) matters. Depending on the size, but also the quality of these relationships, an organization may or may not survive a crisis situation. Therefore, our concern for the future is to strengthen and expand this support network, investing in developing the quality of the relationship with our stakeholders, but also in evaluating and communicating the impact of our programs in the community.
Another lesson learned is related to the importance of having and activating a crisis plan in the organization and some resources allocated to it. One of our concerns this year and over the next year will be to build an emergency fund and develop a crisis response plan. to be able to respond coherently and in a similar way in the future."
Alina Burlacu, Executive Director, RBL:
"Like many other organizations, ours has also gone through a process of transformation as a result of the context generated by the pandemic. I would rather refer to what lessons we have taken in the last year and a half and how they will build on them further.
– Scenario-based operation and not rigid planning. This approach helped us to act quickly, to be more attentive to what is happening around us and to cultivate a new set of skills that would allow us to make decisions, with the information at our disposal, even in a landscape marked by a lot of uncertainty.
– Proactivity rather than reactivity and more trial and error. The pandemic has overturned old models of doing things, challenged some already trodden paths, and sometimes put us face to face with awkward questions about the meaning of things we were doing, perhaps out of inertia.
– More humane, constant and more open communication with the people in the community, team, projects, in order to understand how they feel, what they are concerned about and how we can meet them. This has also given rise to a lot of ideas about what we can do better and has also allowed us to have a filter of relevance to everything we do.
– More active integration of sponsors in the co-creation of initiatives and events that enhance each other and that generate a collaboration focused on intervening where we bring much more value, together.
– Hybrid working style, based on responsibility for the things we have assumed organizationally, while encouraging the intrapreneurical approach within the team.
– And last but not least, with the pandemic, we have staked more and will continue to do so, on the strength of the people in the community to gather ranks, to support each other and to learn from each other.
Alida Barbu, Communication and Fundraising Director of the Ornithological Society Romanian:
"Certainly, even if we return to offline events, with the public, we will also think and realize online variants of at least some parts, and the projects and educational activities will be designed with greater applicability online.
We hope to keep the approach more relaxed towards the work schedule (partly from home, at different times, etc.) and organizing meetings with the team or partners and online, reducing the time allocated.
What does not necessarily depend on us, but we would like not only to preserve, but even to amplify, is the more open relationship of the authorities towards online communication, electronically signed contracts, documents sent by mail, in some cases dedicated platforms for interaction with 'citizens'."
Anca Ciobanu, WWF Romania:
"What has changed because of the pandemic and will it remain? We work more from home. But we don't know if it's for better or for worse.
We are more visible, more in the attention of people. People have seen that nature can regenerate if you leave it alone. The pandemic made them visit Romania, they saw how beautiful our country is and they began to inquire about how to protect these areas.
We're thinking about backup plans, we've got more pressure because it's an emergency to protect the environment. On the one hand, people are more attentive to nature, but on the other hand, other social problems, education, poverty have come to the surface, but we are confident that more and more people will support more and more causes at the same time.
Even if we do not always manage to talk to potential face-to-face donors, we will invest more in our relationships with them, show them that they can be helpful and that they can trust us, whether we contact them by phone or by other means."
Daniela Chesaru, Executive Director of the Timișoara Community Foundation (FCTM):
"At first glance, the way we organized our work outside of a fixed office has changed a lot. Both within the executive team and on board and in the relationship with our beneficiaries and partners, most of the meetings we held online and so everyone worked from anywhere. We noticed that although we can return to the office that FCTM owns, most of the team, but also our beneficiaries and partners prefer to meet and still work online. In addition to the convenience of working from anywhere without wasting time on travel, another reason is that we still do not feel ready to resume work as before the pandemic, we have changed our behavior towards both the workspace and others. Now the office and the workplace is "wherever you are" and bonus, the bureaucracy and the need to necessarily have contracts and documents signed face to face has been substantially reduced compared to the time before the pandemic. We can say that we have made an important leap towards cutting red tape. It's as if we're all organizing our house outings, documents and work better so that we don't move unless there's another alternative (I think this is something that we're drawn from filling out hundreds of statements we had to make to get out of the house)."
Diana Marița, FDP Fundraising Manager Protagonists in education:
"It's been almost 1 year and a half since we changed our way of life, our interaction with people and implicitly the way we carry out our activities. We can say that the Sars COV 2 pandemic has highlighted the best in us, especially when it comes to readjustment. We learned that we can also help remotely, we learned once more to support unconditionally and we found how it was natural that technology can save us. And now, it is all technology that can make it easier for us to understand, how we can better, more effectively support children and families at risk of social exclusion.
What has been missing — and we will probably miss for a long time to come — are the events, especially the sporting ones (carried out through the Social Sports School - Real Madrid Foundation) program, which often brought together the participation of volunteers from the partner companies (over 500 volunteers who were involved in various activities with children). It is physical interaction that unites children, that makes them much more competitive and develops many skills for them.
Between us, the colleagues in the organization, however, relations have become much closer, even if physically we do not all meet at the office yet. What was extraordinary during this period was that we supported each other, that we found that inner strength that challenged us to realize that only together and patiently can we build and remain true to our mission to give good further."
Maria Culescu, M.A.M.E. Association:
"For us, the M.A.M.E. Association, the pandemic has changed the way we work with the beneficiaries, because we had to translate online some of the therapies that we carry out one to one, in the offices within the Star Center – a center for psycho-socio-medical support and recovery for sick children. More specifically, we have adapted the psychotherapy, nutrition and physical therapy services, in the online environment, in order to ensure the continuity of the recovery programs for the sick children.
We had to stop the group activities and the most important events of the organization, but we are glad that we managed to continue the projects we have in progress, and even to initiate new ones."
Andrei Chirtoc and Gabriel Solomon, Galantom:
"Beyond all the hardships and negative aspects that have pressed us both personally and professionally during the pandemic, there have also been some important good things.
It may seem paradoxical, but this period has helped us to the cohesion of the team. We used to work quite a lot remotely, but now we've been forced to work just like that. However, we mobilized to work even more dedicatedly for our projects and had many more sharing and teamwork meetings than we had before. What we want to happen next is to stay with the same team cohesion, but to move as soon as possible all back to offline, because we miss the face-to-face meetings with colleagues 😊.
Our projects, especially the Galantom.ro platform, have also grown due to the fact that they have been useful in fundraising campaigns to combat COVID. With all the enthusiasm generated by the good results of last year, we have become more aware of the need to have an internal crisis plan, which until now has not existed, but, above all, of the need to have a financial provision that allows us to keep the team and the activity in borderline situations.
Perhaps most importantly, we've learned to be even more flexible, and more available to adapt, and more aware of the impact we can have together if we stay and work together."