Posted By : Darren Ward
19th March 2020
COVID-19: 3 Lessons learnt from Crisis Response – Message from our Partners
COVID-19: 3 Lessons learnt from Crisis Response – Message from our Partners-image

It has been said that no one alive today has faced an issue as big and as global as this pandemic.

For those of us in the social impact sector, whether in national or international CSO’s, foundations, businesses or government, the effect of COVID-19 is going to be complex and multi-faceted. 

Challenges are appearing on several fronts for our clients, with issues in the office, in projects and within important stakeholders. The role of social impact organisations in the crisis response and the recovery period immediately following is uncertain and still to be fully defined, but it is clear it will be significant.

For many this is proving to be extremely concerning as the demand for services is increasing or will increase many-fold, human and financial resources are stretched and funding is put at risk. It is not an understatement to say that this pandemic will substantially affect all parts of organisations and has the potential to drastically reduce the social impact organisations are having.

Since the news of COVID-19 broke we have been working hard with clients on how these risks can be best mitigated. We would like to share some interim insights with you, which we hope you might find useful.

Lesson 1: A structured assessment and whole of system view is particularly important in crisis response.

While for most of our client organisations the immediate priority seems to be on their own operations (inward looking), it is as important to consider the impact on their mandate work, as well as their organisation’s financial and operational ability to sustain through such a crisis. We are helping our clients determine where they are having the most short and medium term impact now, what current projects will have the most impact in a post-pandemic environment and where changes can be made that will limit reductions in impact. Having a system view might be counterintuitive, but it is essential.

Lesson 2: It’s about people!

We found this blog particularly helpful: Your people and other stakeholders will be looking to leadership to provide as much security and direction as possible in difficult times. A strong organizational culture is crucial in managing through these times and giving context to decisions, even when they are very difficult ones. If the culture is not maintained it increases the anxiety of all and reduces engagement.

Lesson 3: Balancing the immediate and the strategic issues

The operating environment we are working in has changed fundamentally and requires an immediate response. However, this will settle and maintaining important existing strategic projects will be crucial to building momentum and impact in the future. Cutting the wrong projects now could have more of an effect on impact in the future than the current pandemic driven challenges.

Our recent blog “3 Questions to Stop Restructure as a Response to Crises” ( has some further insight into managing in tough times. We are publishing regularly content which you might find helpful.

Times like these can determine your impact for many years to come. How you will shape your organisations’ capacity for impact. In crisis situations like this, and particularly in complex discussions, where people have different functions, interests and views, good facilitation makes the difference between success and failure.

If it would be useful for you to talk through your challenges and plans we would welcome your call, obligation free. What kind of support do you need and what kind of support can you provide to peers?

As this pandemic develops the solidarity of the social impact sector will be so important.

Thank you for your commitment to social impact at a time it is needed most.

Darren Ward and Markus Hesse

Managing Partners

Darren Ward

Darren Ward is the co-founder and managing partner of Direct Impact Group Ltd. He brings his experience in senior leadership roles in both the business and iNGO sector to offer a broad understanding of how both sectors can deliver maximum social impact. His core competencies are strategic planning, transformational change, partnerships and collaboration and the role of new finance models for impact.