Alice Russell says values are absolutely critical for organisations during the coronavirus pandemic
As lockdown restrictions begin to lift and messages from the Scottish Government become more nuanced, there will be a need for all of us to exercise judgement and responsibility. Values play a central role in our decision-making and we must continue to recognise that every decision we take as individuals has an impact on others and our collective wellbeing. Faced with this sense of shared responsibility and community, we must also consider the role values play in our charities and how they can drive meaningful change for our communities and Scotland’s third sector.
At The Brain Tumour Charity, our values underpin our culture, the way we do things and what we believe in. We are pioneering, passionate, smart and collaborative. We exist to defeat brain tumours and have two very clear goals: to double survival rates and to halve the harm brain tumours have on quality of life. These are unchanged, but the roadmap to get there has been transformed by the ongoing pandemic and lockdown measures. Our values are serving to navigate our response to this crisis, informing our approach, decision-making, and uniting our team and community.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread disruption to our charitable activities. There is an unavoidable drop in research activity due to lockdown measures around the globe. Dissemination of HeadSmart materials, to raise awareness of signs and symptoms of brain tumours within schools, in partnership with Fife Council, has been postponed and the virus is taking effect on all aspects of our fundraising. But at such a time as this, it is critical we hold true to our values. It is these values that drive our continued investment into pioneering, outcome-oriented research and catalyse innovative fundraising initiatives that will shape our income generation beyond lockdown.
Another thing the pandemic has served to show us, is how we can work smarter, how we can turn this into a learning opportunity. BRIAN, our trusted online app, allows those affected by a brain tumour to track, share and compare their experiences. We added a questionnaire to BRIAN to understand how the virus and lockdown are impacting our community. Responses enable our support services to provide the best help and researchers to study the impact this virus has on people living with a brain tumour.
Faced with a 50% increase in demand for our services in April, it has been great to see our collaborative culture in action. As our community is confronted with cancelled surgeries, changing treatment plans, in addition to the other overwhelming uncertainties a brain tumour diagnosis brings, we’ve devised new ways to keep our peer groups connected: setting up online meet-ups, using our private Facebook groups to connect individuals, and compiling a comprehensive hub on our website that has already had over 49,000 users.
The above demonstrates just how challenging a time it is for our community and for our sector. But as Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce, writes in the opening of his book Trailblazer, “If there’s one thing that the experiences I’ve shared in these pages taught me it's that tough times are when values and culture matter most.” I think this is truer still for charities. When government resources are stretched more than ever and it’s not commercially attractive for the private sector, it’s the hardest place to be. But if we truly believe in the role of charities, this is exactly where we should be and where charities that are truly values-led, are.
Alice Russell is development manager (Scotland) for The Brain Tumour Charity