28
Jul
Salonee Gadgil

So… has the pandemic set us back or propelled us forward?

Posted by Salonee GadgilTagged , , , , , , , ,

Last week, just days after the restrictions in England were lifted, we hosted our first panel event. The discussion brought together great minds: Chartered Psychologist Dr Jennifer Opoku-Lageyre who spoke about her experiences treating patients with trauma and anxiety during the pandemic, Andy Ratcliffe, Executive Director of Programmes at Impact on Urban Health, who shed light on what it was like supporting communities in South London during the pandemic and Maccs Pescatore, CEO, Montessori Centre International who shared her views on how lockdowns have impacted Britain’s early years education. The conversation was chaired by Sarah O’Grady, Social Affairs Correspondent at the Daily Express and our Managing Director Laura Oliphant.

It was rich discussion, one that was supposed to last 45 mins, but lingered on for much longer and continued over a few glasses of wine. Our insightful speakers and engaged audience had much to talk about. The discussion swung between being quite pessimistic about the damage done by the pandemic, and optimistic about it being the catalyst we needed to bring about social change. We asked those in attendance what they’d remember most about things that were discussed. What’s the one idea or insight they’d take with them? Here’s what they said they’d be most likely thinking about on the train ride home.

The fact that there is a difference in 12 years of life expectancy within Lambeth borough.  

 We often talk about the great divide between the haves and have-nots in London. But Andy really hammered the message home with this very shocking statistic. It reinforces the need for tailored messaging around things like the vaccine. Can we really be reaching these two very disparate groups of people, one in Dulwich, another on Queen’s Road Peckham using the same public service messages asking them to go take the vaccine? Are we surprised they don’t all behave the same way?

We haven’t seen the economic second wave yet.

 A lot of Andy’s work at Impact on Urban Health is around how life hits health, that is, how housing, jobs and income affect ones physical health. So far, we’ve had the job retention scheme, we’ve had benefits, and suspended evictions. People working in the sector worry that when all these support systems are taken away, there will be a new wave of illnesses from people who can’t eat or live as well, or look after their children because of economic pressures. People have been talking about ‘long covid’, but what Andy’s been worried about is the ‘long pandemic’.

The desire to make decisions begins very young and is fundamental to our development.

Maccs reminded us of just how important early years education is, in developing decision-making skills. When a child goes into a Montessori nursery, they learn to make their own choices about what they want to play with, draw, and so on. This ability to make choices, autonomously, is vital in building a sense of self and resilience. Dr Jen pointed out that over the course of the pandemic, rules have been made for us. This loss of autonomy has been the fundamental cause for why people have experienced poor mental health. Humans strive for autonomy and personal freedom. If adults are suffering from the lack of the freedom to choose, what impact has living under strict guidelines had on small children? Should we really be more worried about the loss of their maths ability during the pandemic, when the real issue may be an ingrained lack of autonomy?

Read more “So… has the pandemic set us back or propelled us forward?”

26
Jul
Grace French

Wellbeing is not a one-size-fits-all approach

Posted by Grace FrenchTagged , ,

It’s safe to say that being plunged into multiple lockdowns across the past 18 months – though for good reason – has played havoc with the nation’s mental wellbeing. With restrictions changing at short notice and guidance sometimes unclear, at times it’s been hard to know where to turn and what we can safely do.

A consequence of that has been growing uncertainty and instability in how we monitor and look after our wellbeing. It’s a story of two halves – with the stay at home guidance we’ve had much more time to reflect on our mental wellbeing and focus on self-care. But at the same time, increased isolation and ongoing uncertainty has meant that a one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing can’t be applied, and we haven’t all been able to access our usual coping strategies.

Recognising that wellbeing means different things to different people, Stand has offered a wellness bounty for a number of years, which colleagues can use however they wish for the benefit of their own wellbeing. By giving everyone the freedom to choose what serves their needs best, we can ensure people feel supported, but not pigeon-holed by a restrictive wellbeing programme.

It’s really come into its own since the pandemic – allowing people to explore new coping strategies as well as reinforce existing ones. Here’s a roundup of what we’ve been up to with our wellness bounties recently.

Tash

“I used some of my wellness bounty to buy a Fitbit. I started running during lockdown to get out of the house, get fitter and clear my head before work – my Fitbit has really helped to motivate me to continue doing this.

“Even on days when I don’t go running, it encourages me to get up and walk around every hour to get at least 250 steps in, which helps take my eyes away from my screen and gives my mind a quick rest.”

Cait

“During lockdown, I found solace in running over the summer months. As we started going into autumn / winter, and another lockdown loomed, I realised I didn’t have the kit to run in the cold. The wellness bounty enabled me to buy active wear that would be warm enough. Exercising outdoors really helped with my mental wellbeing and knowing that I was going to be able to continue to use running as an outlet lifted a big weight off my shoulders.”

Georgie

“I’ve invested in some refreshed yoga equipment, including this eco yoga mat. Yoga is a bit like the swiss army knife of exercise for me – it can be intensive, restorative, focusing – whatever you need it to be. Having a new mat has been very welcome.”

Grace

“During the pandemic I channelled a lot of energy into creative activities. I used my wellness bounty to buy some papercutting, silver jewellery-making and arm knitting supplies.

“Being able to focus on a task I could control, and then have something tangible at the end that I can now enjoy, has done wonders for my wellbeing. And I’ve discovered some lifelong skills in the process!”

Sadie

“I’ve used some of my wellness bounty so far on some walking shoes, for trekking around the Cornish coast when visiting family. I’d had my eyes on them for a while but couldn’t quite afford them, so I’ve been extremely pleased to now have the means to do so! I look forward to making the most of the rest of my wellness bounty and remain appreciative to work at such a thoughtful agency who support health and wellbeing.”

Laura

“I’ve put my wellness bounty towards some new trainers for the London Marathon 2021!  Hoping they will keep me niggle free and help me get across the finish line in October!”

Jevan

“I used my wellness bounty for my gym membership and an apple fitness subscription, which has kept me active during lockdown (and kept my sanity). It’s so nice to work for a company that supports employees’ wellbeing, across both physical and mental health.”

18
May
Olivia Williams

Democracy’s a game – but who’s playing around?

Posted by Olivia WilliamsTagged , , ,

What do Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Roger Williams (my Grandad) have in common? No, they’re not just older, white men. It’s the love of the game.

The European super flop:

In the last few weeks, the worlds of football and politics collided, with the European Super League rising and falling with the grace of the Ottoman Empire. Last month it was announced that a new league was to be forged, consisting of top clubs across the world, competing exclusively against each other in a closed format. By the Wednesday of the following week it was over, with protests across the country and all six UK clubs pulling out, taking the positions of Jose Mourinho and Manchester United’s Executive Vice Chairman with it. So, what’s problem?

The new league, backed by JP Morgan, sent shivers down the spines of fans and politicians alike, as many feared this was another step down a slippery slope to a US-style sports-league. US leagues often face criticism for their anti-competitive structures, whereby, wealthy elites who own the league, are at liberty to make TV and sponsorship deals, decide where and who plays and are able to impose rules on clubs’ business operations, which stops money flowing to the players… and the fans.

“It means everything to the fans”

The issue most took, was that such a system risks a near-future where an elite set of clubs distance themselves from their communities of life-faring fans and supporters. In the US, for example, teams have moved sites to seek greater profit, have curbed spending on youth development to make bids for new players, and are propelled (even more so) by big brand sponsorships.

In the UK, the slippery slope may have already begun. Advertising in football is at an all-time high, with brand names dominating football kits; for all the efforts of various fan groups, season ticket prices are increasing each year; smaller clubs went under during Covid-19 without the support of the bigger players; meanwhile increasingly clubs are being bought out by foreign investors, while fans lose control of a club and a team that they have identified with, shouted for and spent Saturday’s with ever since they were a child.

Political football

In a divided political landscape, football has united the playing field and seen politicians reaching across the aisles, albeit from different standpoints. Boris Johnson criticised the league on the grounds of free market values, believing it to offend “the basic principles of competition” and clubs distancing themselves from local communities. Keir Starmer was adamant the non-domestic league should not be able to ignore supporters, and Jeremy Corbyn was distraught with his own club, Arsenal and its move away from its humble beginnings when it was, like many others, funded by workers. (My grandad by the way, was also appalled that Norwich City hadn’t been invited). The common theme, however, in all these conversations: voice, participation, community.

A democratic playing field

If you ask any football fan, no matter their team, they will be adamant that they love the game. If you ask any politician, no matter their party affiliation, will they be adamant that they love democracy? Debating in order to achieve common ground with the community in mind, no matter your party politics, is for me, where the spirit of democracy lies. Indeed, the super-flop was truly a watershed moment, as for the first time in a very long time we saw genuine consensus.

Now the dust has settled, and with a good dose of hindsight, I propose that there are two lessons to be learned. If we can all agree that football without its community is nothing, can we also agree that society without its community is nothing? Football is of course not perfect. It is tribal by nature and this comes with its own issues that must be stamped out. But isn’t there something in the game’s power of bringing people together, a joy that can be shared whether it’s in the back garden or in Anfield, a game where one is based on their own merits, skill and passion?

Lesson one: we currently face some of the biggest challenges of humankind: climate change, structural racism and poverty. It’s about time we injected this sense of community back into big debates to find common ground. Whether that be through citizens assemblies or genuinely listening to voters’ concerns.

Lesson two: it’s not just football that can spur community. We’ve seen devastating cuts to our youth services (70% in the last decade). Maybe, that community feel got lost because we don’t have enough clubs and spaces, be they sports, arts or humanities, to unite under. As Martha Nussbaum said: “Play teaches people to be capable of living with others without control; it connects the experiences of vulnerability and surprise to curiosity and wonder, rather than to crippling anxiety.”

Since ‘Super League-gate’, nine of the clubs who joined the league, including England’s big six, have signed a letter of apology, recommitting themselves to UEFA and agreeing to give money to the grassroots game in recompense.

The whole debacle showed us that community spirit is still very much alive. But football, music or art – it doesn’t really matter. Play, in whatever form, teaches us how to live together, in a community and in a democracy.

A small ‘footnote’

The cynic in me cannot help but add a footnote to this article. You can find a really interesting piece about Red Wall politics and the political reaction here.

01
Apr
Georgie Howlett

Can we afford purpose in a recession?

Posted by Georgie HowlettTagged , , , , ,

Yesterday I got out of my (virtual) four walls for a panel discussion organised by Pimento, about whether businesses can afford purpose in a recession – though it inevitably explored so much more.

In short, it’s a resounding ‘yes’ from me. The business benefit is clear, with socially driven brands outperforming ones that aren’t, 91% of millennials saying they’d switch to a purpose-driven product over a competitor, and millennials (who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025) looking for socially responsible employers. Bigger than that, it’s just a better way to be as a business.

To be clear on what I think ‘purpose’ is. It’s the reason for being, beyond profit. It’s how, as a business, you act as a force for good. It’s not just running your business ethically, it’s the north star (or as Beth Pope better articulated on the panel yesterday, the catalyst for change) that drives your whole organisation from the inside, out. It spans the nuts and bolts of how you do business (operations), how you run your business (culture) and how you are a positive force in the outside world (brand). Critically, it’s not just the latter.

Read more “Can we afford purpose in a recession?”

30
Mar
Aga Maciejewska

2020 – what we learnt about clients and ourselves

Posted by Aga MaciejewskaTagged , ,

At the end of last year, we reached out to our clients asking them to reflect on how the pandemic had impacted their approach to communications and the way we worked together.  We were keen to understand what we did well, could have done better, and what was important to maintain as we start to come out the other side of the pandemic.

Not surprisingly, the results showed that 2020 marked a big shift for our clients. 67% of respondents said the pandemic required them to fundamentally change how they communicate as an organisation, and/ or change the messages they delivered.  For half of them, it emphasised the importance of strategic communications.

Reflecting on the role Stand has played in supporting their comms objectives throughout the pandemic, 50% said we helped them navigate communications challenges in a proactive way and a third said we provided strategic advice and acted as a trusted partner. As a result, 33% of respondents said that their relationship with Stand is stronger than it was before the pandemic.

Stand’s ethos of backing brands that believe in better resonated strongly with 73% of clients, who said it aligned with their own work towards creating positive change. Clients value our strong understanding of their business objectives, our flexibility, responsiveness, empathy and understanding. Proactive, approachable and professional were the three words people thought best reflected Stand and our work.

When it comes to our values – staying curious, sharing our passion and enthusiasm, writing our own rules, being tenacious, giving the best advice and always keeping people at the heart of what we do – clients see them lived, and reflected in our work.

As the UK slowly emerges from the pandemic, we want to learn from the last year and continue to look for new ways to help our clients meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the post-covid world. We believe real change is coming, and we can help them on their own journey towards ‘better’.

02
Mar
Georgie Howlett

Why ‘sustainability’ is falling short

Posted by Georgie HowlettTagged , , , ,

Before I get carried away, it’s pertinent to point out that this was first mooted nearly a decade ago. I am not saying anything new here. But like with any change, there are the early adopters, the pioneers, the people who have an idea almost too soon. Real change occurs a while later, at the tipping point, as Malcolm Gladwell so aptly put it.

Never has the welfare of our beautiful blue planet been so high on the public agenda. Maybe some businesses are talking about it because they’ve realised their customers are starting to vote with their wallets and they are only interested in the bottom line, and some consumers are choosing sustainable brands to look good among their peers, but ultimately, the tide is turning. And ultimately, do individual motivations matter if it makes an overall positive change (for the time being, anyway)?

One of the silver linings of Covid-19 is it has been a bit of a global reset of attitudes and priorities, prompting many businesses to take a long hard look at themselves and do better.  As I am in the business of language, I want to put the spotlight on the word ‘sustainability’ and ask if it’s enough.  There is a whole industry built around ‘sustainability’ and it is a vital one. The people working in sustainability, and the businesses championing it, are doing truly exciting work. They are shaking up old models, interrogating supply chains, and finding the path to net zero, or better, net positive.

But let’s look at the word. To ‘sustain’ in this context means to maintain, to keep at a particular level.  In fact, its definition is ‘to cause or allow something to continue for a period of time’. It’s passive. Haven’t we learned that this isn’t enough? Last year the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted how not being racist isn’t enough – standing by silently is not enough, and the rallying call to society was to take action for change to happen. It is very clear the action we must take now is to put things back, to rebalance, to regenerate the biodiverse soils and seas that we have ravaged. We’ve taken so much from our planet, that operating ‘sustainably’ is not enough.

Read more “Why ‘sustainability’ is falling short”

11
Nov
Chloe Roberts

Believe in Better: Insight and inspiration from industry leaders

Posted by Chloe RobertsTagged , , , , ,

Recently we spoke to Justine Lago, Director and Executive Coach at Onion HR. Justine has been involved in operational leadership management and development for the last 20 years, having worked in senior operational management positions, human resources and consulting.

In this episode we discuss what good leadership looks like during challenging times, and which attributes have helped organisations grow during this time. We also asked Justine what qualities leaders will need to have in the future, and as businesses respond to new lockdown measures – and many teams continue to work from home – how do companies build a supportive culture to ensure resilience and keep motivation up?

Watch this space for future episodes of Believe in Better with more inspiring thought leaders from our network.

To learn more about Stand Agency, work with or collaborate with us, please email ask@standagency.com. Follow us on Twitter @standsays

22
May
Cait Dacey

Pitching to media during a global pandemic

Posted by Cait DaceyTagged , , , , , ,

The PR industry has evolved a great deal over time, with the original focus solely on securing coverage, to adapting broad offerings, much like the services offered at Stand – including digital, strategy, insight and creative. However, while excelling in these areas, it’s still important that agencies deliver outstanding results when it comes to coverage. Getting news in the paper, online and on the TV and radio may be harder on some days than others, but once you understand what makes a story, and you push your team in that direction, coverage should follow – right?

Read more “Pitching to media during a global pandemic”

28
Apr
Francesca Rivett-Carnac

Lessons from Remote Working #4 – Embracing vulnerability

Posted by Francesca Rivett-CarnacTagged , , , , ,

It’s amazing how powerful a human connection can be when we see beyond someone’s professional façade and catch a glimmer of their real life in all its chaotic, mundane glory.

After five weeks in lockdown, the surprise appearance of small children in business video conferences now feels completely normal. People’s pets regularly grace my screen. I’ve seen piles of washing-up in my colleagues’ kitchens, and they’ve seen mine.

Read more “Lessons from Remote Working #4 – Embracing vulnerability”