Opus Journey Through Covid-19

Opus is a relatively small organisation and we’re still trying to understand our collective future. We are still working out how to survive, how to continue to pay wages, and how our purpose as an organisation is changing. Understanding how our work contributes directly to a better Sheffield and a better world in key systemic areas such as income inequality, the democratic deficit, climate change and anti-racism as we exit lockdown is the most important thing. 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

March 2020 

  • In March 2020, the full extent of the coronavirus pandemic was starting to hit the UK. On 13 March, Opus’s 13 staff (Hand Board) moved to work from home on their 21 live projects.
  • The distribution model was the first income generator to cease. Opus had to consider how long we could continue to pay wages and maintain our platforms and projects. 
  • True to the Opus vision, rather than closing our doors to those in need, we opened our platforms for free to stakeholders, cancelled invoices, rolled up our sleeves and began to work with the city’s voluntary and community sectors.
  • Work began on re-framing projects including sadly pressing pause on the 12th anniversary edition of Now Then Magazine, and beginning to re-imagine Festival of Debate.
  • March was a bleak month for the Opus finances, with no income and no sign of Government intervention. To afford the month’s payroll bill, Opus lent heavily on its reserves. 

April 2020

  • The organisation entered into the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention scheme to help save the remainder of our already depleted reserves. The majority of staff went on furlough leave, and Opus continued to deliver its mission with a skeleton staff team. 
  • Opus continued to support the UBI Lab Network, helping to bring UBI into the national consciousness. There are now 24 self-initiated Labs, covering almost every city in the UK.
  • Opus takes on a new role as the Communications Hub for the voluntary and community sector in Sheffield, amplifying how critical this sector is for many people in Sheffield.
  • Opus loans its van for free to Foodhall to deliver food parcels.

May 2020

  • On the back of the Communications Hub, Citizens Advice Sheffield employ Opus to get messages out to the public about their changing service and the implications of government schemes.
  • Recognising that the need for people to engage with issues of social change was still very necessary, the Opus team set about learning how to curate and produce Festival of Debate online.

June 2020 

  • Festival of Debate’s online programme is launched with live streams on core systemic issues including Black Lives Matter, Income Inequality, Climate Change, Wellbeing Economics and the impact of the pandemic on Arts & Culture.  

July 2020 

  • The final Festival of Debate Online event took place on 9 July. As a whole, the festival engaged with tens of thousands of people, hosted over 130 speakers and offered a unique and compelling snapshot of the issues facing society.

August 2020 

  • Constant attention on the finances since lockdown ensures Opus has enough reserves to continue into 2021.
  • Throughout the summer the Opus team has been assessing its model and working up plans for our role in the new normal.

September 2020

  • New projects for the next 18 months are shortlisted by the Opus team and are presented to the Head & Heart Boards.

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