“The rule book is out the window …”

Last week, through our collaboration with @ACOSVO, Animate hosted two calls relating to third sector governance in the context of Covid. Voluntary boards, like those of private industry, are facing serious issues relating to contractual issues with both funders and staff, empty premises, considering how best to exercise their Duty of Care – and whether or not doing so is compatible with continuing to operate a service for the public.

We have also been hearing people beginning to think about the next phase of our Covid reality – when doors are open again. These have tended to be tentative, half-formed, thoughts about what might remain digital, what will be deemed essential, and even what might cease. In one of these conversations, we were invited to embrace the opportunity inherent in ‘the impossibility of returning to business as usual’, and in the words of Winston Churchill to “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

On another call this week with a group of senior leaders in the fields of health and housing, in the context of facilitating shared visioning around the interface of these two key areas of service in the future, we heard from one member of a large directorate in Scottish Government that “The rule book is out the window … things need to be safe and secure, but otherwise the old rules don’t apply.”


Animate has worked on many health and social care integration projects since 2015, across Scotland’s urban and rural communities. ‘The rule-book’; especially relating to sharing patient/client information, separate IT systems, different protocols and professional codes; has presented ongoing challenges to integrating these essential services.

This was particularly the case in relation to ‘bed blocking’ in hospitals – until now Spring 2020, when in response to the Covid crisis, health and social care systems have amazed themselves by finding ways of unblocking thousands of beds over the course of a few weeks.

We have likewise been amazed and made hopeful by ‘listening in’ to the incredible innovation and professional dedication evident in so many different types of services and organisations in recent weeks.

We are curious about how innate such responses are for human beings – combining our efforts and ideas in the interest of something much bigger than ourselves, of which we are a part. Some of our most inflexible systems have embraced innovation with relative ease on a scale which we are yet to really understand.

If we commit ourselves to ‘not wasting’ this crisis, then we need to bring some rigour to our efforts to reflect on what has happened, and learn from it. The return to open doors will be much more complex and challenging than was the immediate need to close our doors in March. It looks at least a few weeks away, and our clients are beginning to think about and plan for it. As those plans are emerging it might be useful to reflect on these questions together as teams.

  • What feels ‘routine’ now that was new territory when we went into lockdown? Is it something we want to keep, or should we think of it as a necessary and temporary solution?
  • What have been our ‘highs and low’ as a service/team, during lockdown? What can we learn from them: about how to work better as a team, how to serve our clients better, and how to be stronger generally as we go forward?
  • What has been better than it was before lockdown – for our patients/clients, and also for us as a team? How can we integrate this as we return to ‘doors open’?
  • What has working this way shown us that we had not noticed prior to lockdown? What will we do about it?
  • What has kept us resilient as a team, and as a service/organisation? How can we integrate these behaviours and structures as we return to ‘doors open’?
  • If we were using this as an opportunity to redesign our service, what would we change when we return to ‘doors open’?

We look forward to continuing to be inspired by our clients, and the many organisations we would not have had the opportunity to get to know had Covid not necessitated that we innovate – which for us has meant volunteering regular support to member organisations of key intermediaries.

Animate will do its best to make the most of the crisis.