Frontline to Online: running a social enterprise during a pandemic

The pandemic and its impact on our everyday lives came as a shock to us all - and we at Team UPside were no different. We had planned for our year to look a lot different, with a multitude of in-person events planned to build on the success of our inaugural Sunday Sessions last Summer. With a heavy heart, we made the decision to cancel our Easter drop-in sessions as the country prepared to go into lockdown, and there was a real fear that this year would be a complete write-off.

Instead, however, we decided to work with the cards we’d been dealt and make the best of a less-than-ideal situation.

We decided to take advantage of our existing networks and online reach to continue our mission of promoting educational justice. In this article, we will share our journey of adapting to Covid-19 and conclude with some insights that can hopefully benefit any organisation that is struggling during these unprecedented times. 

How we adapted:

  • Lockdown Learning - We launched our ‘Lockdown Learning’ series as a way of inspiring young people to learn new skills and be productive whilst being stuck indoors, ranging from fitness, writing, and doing online courses. We tried to document our experiences to help foster a sense of community spirit and inspire young people to use this precious time to their advantage.
  • ‘Upside Updates’ and Website - We launched a revamped version of our weekly newsletter. This newsletter serves to plug the information gaps that exist between young people and sources of knowledge & opportunities. We also updated our website to give people access to our catalogue of previously published newsletters.
  • ‘Inspiration From History’ Documentaries - Our minute-long ‘Inspiration From History’ documentaries were created to bring to light remarkable moments and people from history such as the Bristol Bus Boycott and the Tiananmen Square Protests and inspire young people to realise their power and strive to achieve their untapped potential.
  • Virtual Book Club - The Virtual Book Club consisted of weekly Instagram Live sessions where members from the team along with guests shared insights from their favourite books focussing mainly on the themes of racial and educational justice. The aim was for them to serve as springboards for our followers to engage with these important ideas and concepts. Utilising Instagram live streams to hold interactive discussions with our followers and sharing them to our IGTV channel so our followers could catch up afterwards helped us achieve this goal. It was a hugely successful first season and we hope to resume these discussions after a brief interval.
  • ‘Team Upside Talks’ Podcast - Podcasting is an ever-growing medium, and we sought to ride this wave with the launch of the ‘Team UPside Talks’ podcast, posting accessible 20-minute interviews on all major podcasting platforms. We provided insightful discussions with our committee members, exploring their journeys through education and the moments that shaped them into the people they are today. We look forward to using the podcast medium more creatively and exploring different themes and ideas in the months to come!

Key Insights

  1. Video is king – video content has proven to be the most effective in gaining user interaction and growing an audience during the pandemic. Static graphics with information are no longer an effective means of disrupting IG feeds and grabbing an audience’s attention.
  2. Consistency is key – over the last few weeks, Team UPside has published 3 pieces of content per week which has accelerated our growth and seen our interactions skyrocket.
  3. Diversity of platforms – creating a podcast and launching our YouTube channel has further diversified Team UPside’s social media presence and enabled us to attract new followers by reaching users who prefer to access content through more traditional online mediums.

Our latest season of content stimulated massive gains across all of our social channels, and over 25,000 views on our platforms. From a marketing and branding point of view, it’s extremely satisfying to see the fruits of your labour in the form of booming statistics and a growing audience, but it is also extremely important to keep in mind how this contributes to our overall mission. We’re a youth-driven organisation and we rely heavily on word-of-mouth for people to learn about the services and support we offer. It’s someone from our network sharing one of our videos with their younger cousin, or a Head of Sixth Form who comes across our work and invites us to come and speak to a year group of students. As our network grows, so does the net we cast and it becomes more likely that the young people at risk of falling through the cracks will receive the support they need.

Resilience is all about accepting your new reality and making the most of the resources you have at your disposal.

At Team UPside, we have people, passion, and a purpose - the three resources you need to achieve anything in life.