Navigating the extraordinary challenges of a global pandemic
The last few months have not been easy for anyone, nor for any business. From managing unprecedented demand through to losing huge amounts of business, the challenges are widespread and are affecting a lot of social enterprises. So how do you make sure that your social enterprise survives and that you keep making positive impact while the crisis continues?
Well, it’s not easy. We are incredibly fortunate that both demand for our services has remained high and we were able to quickly adapt to meet client needs during this time. Though we know that is not the case for everyone, we hope that, by sharing our recipe for continuing to make positive impact, we may be able to help other social enterprise organisations adapt to, and stay positive through, the challenges.
Adapt where you can
The first challenge for us was that, as you would expect, face-to-face interpreting services were no longer possible. That did not, however, change the fact that they were very much needed. In some situations, particularly those of a sensitive nature, a telephone interpreter isn’t the right fit and some kind of face-to-face element is needed to best support the end user. We knew our clients needed this, and so we set up a brand-new video interpreting service.
Digital capabilities are such, in this day and age, that new services or products can often be set up very quickly. In fact, we had video interpreting up and running within a week. Look at your digital options – is there are part of your service which could be delivered in a different way online? Or, if not, can you create some online brand value that either encourages sales or, at the very least, keeps customers engaged until they are ready to purchase again?
See the bright side where there is one
Our telephone interpreting services are on demand; clients can call us at any time of the day or night and be connected to an interpreter within minutes. Many other interpreting organisations don’t work this way and instead have a pre-booking system. The need for instant, unplanned access to interpreters has particularly increased for charities as they support their clients through these difficult times, and so we have a lot of charities currently moving to us for their interpreting provision as it better meets the needs of the day. We see and appreciate how lucky we are in this, and serving these charities and their end users drives the whole team forward in these difficult times.
Keep in touch with your clients
It’s worth also noting that the new business discussed above has come almost entirely through word of mouth and the recommendations of our current clients. Clients, when you provide a good service, are happy to support you and be advocates. Perhaps consider reaching out to them if there is anything they can do to help you, and certainly keep in touch and remind them you are there and need their support to continue your impact.
Support the effort to keep everyone safe
We undertook some pro-bono translation work with Doctors of the World to translate their COVID-19 guidance, making it accessible to more people, particularly to refugees and asylum seekers. We translated 32 documents covering 16 languages which provided the momentum to start a chain effect – there are now 43 translations thanks to other agencies and individuals who have also joined to help! We are now also working with British Red Cross on our next set of pro-bono translations. Are there ways which you can put your products or services to good use?
Support each other
Let’s realise that we are all in this together and pool our skills where we can. We reached out to other social enterprises language providers (many of whom specialise in face to face interpreting which, as we have seen, is highly impacted by the pandemic) to see how they are doing. We offered our help and support in any way we could. By banding together like this, we will be able to better navigate these challenges.
Whether business or individual, we would like to encourage everyone to shop social where they can. Lots of incredible projects are suffering at the moment, and you can make a difference simply by buying your usual purchases through a social enterprise. Let’s keep the amazing impact of social enterprises going through this time. Browse social enterprises to support here.
Ultimately, we are know that we are very lucky that our services are still required at this time, but adapting services quickly and engaging in pro-bono work to support refugees and asylum seekers has helped us to both continue making positive impact and continue serving our clients.