Community Engagement in a time of crisis webinar

BITCI News - May 05, 2020

On April 23rd we hosted the second webinar as part of our ongoing series.

The webinar, entitled ‘Community Engagement in a Time of Crisis’, featured a  panel of guests from key NGOs who discussed some of our most pressing needs, including funding, food poverty, the digital divide and social isolation.

We also spoke to two of our member companies – Workday and Tesco – to learn about their approach and experiences to date of community engagement in response to the crisis.

Below is the list of the speakers who took part and their key updates to follow

  • Jenny Kavanagh, Director Global Impact and Employee Life at Workday
  • Lorraine Shiels, Head of CSR and Internal Communications at Tesco
  • Tina Roche, CEO,Community Foundation for Ireland
  • Iseult Ward, founder and CEO, FoodCloud
  • Marianne Checkley, CEO, Camara Ireland
  • Anna Greenhalgh, Employment Programmes Assistant Manager, Business in the Community Ireland


Jenny Kavanagh, Director of Global Impact and Employee Life with Workday raised a number of important issues and gave us an insight into what Workday employees have been doing to support communities and charities. Jenny spoke about the importance of forging strong relationships with local communities through employee volunteering initiatives; Covid-19, however, has meant volunteering has had to be reimagined due to restrictions and social distancing.

Here’s a snapshot of what Workday has been doing.

  • Workday has donated 1.6m dollars to the Global Response Crisis
  • €100k has been committed to the Community Foundation for Ireland
  • Charitable donations have been raised for Food Cloud, Ronald McDonald House, Dogs Trust and the Abigail’s Women Centre

Jenny spoke of the important work done on behalf of the Community Foundation for Ireland, points that were later elaborated on by Tina Roche, the Foundation’s CEO.

In addition to the aforementioned points, Workday crowdsourced ideas among employees to support Daffodil Day. Employees lit up their Slack channel (a business communications platform) for the day with daffodils to show their support for the charity. As a result, they raised over €10,000 for the Irish Cancer Society – almost three times more than what they would normally raise.

The organisation’s sales team also raised €2000 for ALONE, reinforcing how community is at the heart of the organisation’s operating model.

For Earth Day, Workday’s ‘Green Team’ ran an online campaign that saw employees submit images of sustainable practices they’ve been engaging in while working from home. For every image submitted, a donation was made to An Taisce.


Lorraine Shiels, Head of CSR and Internal Communications at Tesco, spoke of the organisation’s very established community strategy.

The company has a locally based ‘Community Fund Pillar’ that supports causes through Tesco’s ‘Blue Token’ initiative. Covid-19, however, meant that Tesco has had to temporarily remove the tokens and take a step back to examine new approaches to supporting local causes.

Tesco identified key groups that are supporting vulnerable people who have been impacted by Covid-19. The dedicated Community Fund Pillar was reassessed. As a result, Tesco engaged colleagues and stores to identify groups that would have the biggest impact on a community level. This resulted in €120,000 being donated to 453 local projects, such as hospitals, nursing homes, meals on wheels and much more.

Tesco also identified three main charities to support people at a local level: ALONE, Age Action and Family Carers Ireland. This allowed Tesco to reach out to a wide-range of people impacted by Covid-19 who needed additional supports.

Each charity was allocated €50,000. Tesco’s ability to adapt to the crisis ensured that their sustainability and CSR strategy remained at the heart of what they do.

Both of our members discussed the importance of empowering employees to come forward with ideas to respond to the ongoing crisis. This feeds into the need for organisations to engage employees in the decision making process and work on revising their partnerships and seek new ways of providing support.

For example, Lorraine raised the importance of getting ideas from the Government’s ‘Community Call’ and asking whether or not your organisation can support it in any way. The Community Call‘ is a major initiative that links local and national government with the community and voluntary sectors.

Insights from NGOs

Tina Roche, CEO of the Community Foundation for Ireland, discussed the Covid-19 Community Fund.

The fund reached out to donors and raised funds to support a number of causes: elderly people, victims of domestic violence, mental health initiatives and much more. Through engagement with frontline services, Tina highlighted how we are going to need a massive and continued response to support our mental health services and victims of domestic violence. Tina also outlined the importance of supporting charity organisations going forward to ensure that they survive this crisis and continue to support people on the ground post Covid-19.

Marianne Checkley, CEO of Camara Education Ireland, discussed the sudden growth in virtual classrooms and how the digital divide was suddenly catapulted into the limelight.

We learned how Covid-19 has shone a glaring light on technological inequality and how this has had a knock-on effect on students trying to stay on top of school work. This prompted Marianne to launch the Tech2Students campaign –  an innovative collaboration run in conjunction with Trinity Access (TCD), with logistical support being provided by our member ESB.

It is part of a wider coalition involving the two organisations, the Social Innovation Fund Ireland and several NGOs. You can make a donation and learn more about the campaign and its efforts to address the digital divide here.

There is still a lot more to do and, although the campaign has been primarily based around the Greater Dublin area, Marianne is hopeful that it can be rolled out nationally.

Anna Greenhalgh, Employment Programmes Assistant Manager with Business in the Community Ireland, detailed how our employment teams have been reimagining how they teach clients by utilising online classes and resilience webinars.

The most important thing, however, has involved our employment team calling clients to see how they are coping. Sometimes it is the only call that clients receive.

Challenges around the digital divide and how people without laptops are disadvantaged were also highlighted. It is also apparent that insecurity about clients’ future job prospects have been exacerbated by Covid-19. We heard how businesses can address this by overhauling their hiring methods to ensure that their recruitment processes are more inclusive of the people our employment programme supports.

Iseult Ward, founder and CEO of FoodCloud, explained how FoodCloud works with a network of over 700 charities and community groups who avail of FoodCloud’s services.

In an effort to support local communities, the organisation reached out to the Government to identify new partners that they could deliver food to. The strategy ensured that no area in Ireland was overlooked in terms of food support.

Iseult drew our attention to a number of proactive measures being taken on the ground. In Cavan, for example, a Principal at a DEIS school established a Covid-19 response to deliver meals – provided by FoodCloud – to student’s homes. The students would normally have availed of the school’s breakfast club. This story is just one of many that highlights the vital work FoodCloud does.

There has been an increased demand for FoodCloud’s services and the organisation is constantly trying to respond to the needs of individuals on the ground. In the past three weeks, FoodCloud’s food volume has shrunk. You can support the organisation’s emergency appeal here.

It is clear that one of the overarching themes of our webinar was collaboration.

If you are member please visit the Members Area of the website to view the recording of this webinar. Check out the event section of our website to see what’s coming next in the BITCI webinar series.