Published 28th March 2020

Why one of the most important things we can do right now is listen

It is a natural human response in crisis is to provide help and support to one another. The response to Covid-19 is no exception. The global pandemic is spreading, but acts of kindness are multiplying faster! Racing through the nation – and across the world – are simple neighbourly acts, which are providing much needed support to those who are isolating and vulnerable; those protecting themselves from the coronavirus.

This support, self-organised and locally led, is the rapid first response of neighbours coming together to look out for one another.  But I think what happens next is crucial.  We are seeing swift and decisive leadership from Government as it seeks to respond to the onset of initial crises brought about by the impact of the virus – taking significant steps to address the impact on personal income, strengthening the NHS, and ensuring that a moratorium on evictions is enacted; protecting those in rented accommodation.

For now, Government really does appear to be listening.

As Government continues to respond to the crisis on a national scale, so too are many others – all with the ambition of ensuring the much-needed support for communities is in place.

But all of these acts will be strengthened if we can commonly accept the need to listen.  We need to find time in this crisis to listen to those affected; to those providing on the frontline; to those who are seeking to co-ordinate; to those who are putting resources into communities so that the support can be afforded.  And whilst we are physically distancing, listening will help us to keep connected relationally.

Deep and effective listening is a powerful tool.  It brings people together and it is a leveller in terms of power and relationship.  We need – in and amongst the rapid response and pace of support – to find time for the act of listening.

Listening will enable us to build a collective, shared, and collaborative response to this change.  It will allow us to look beyond the surface level of issues that are brought to our immediate attention and uncover some of the underlying challenges that we will face.

It will enable us to develop a sense of shared understanding and common ground as we continue to provide our response.  And, most importantly – above and beyond all that – it will develop trust and rekindle the relationships between, what was being described only a few months ago, as a divided society…

So, let’s continue to act and support one another.  Let’s continue to provide the necessary frontline response.  But let’s also commit to listening so that together we will not only beat this virus, but also develop a stronger more collaborative civil society that we can build on.

If a pandemic can bring about togetherness, then perhaps, post-pandemic, a positive alternative could just be the very simple act of listening.

Nick Gardham


Nick Gardham is the Chief Executive of Community Organisers.

Find out more information on the work of Community Organisers or about community organising HERE.

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