Its hard to believe that a year ago our lives all changed, as the Government announced the start of lockdown in an attempt to bring the pandemic under control. On 16 March 2020, the government announced the first lockdown. Social distancing restrictions followed, people entered bubbles, and we all began working from home. On 16 March 2021, one long and difficult year later, we do not seem to have moved on very much.

The same difficulties exist for charities and community groups, their futures still hang in the balance financially as ironically most have never been more busy and more needed. 


Hope however is on the horizon. The vaccine programme is well under way, with more than 23 million people in the UK receiving their first dose. The number of deaths and cases are in decline and the easing of social distancing restriction has just been announced.

We have all learnt a lot from the last year, from parents appreciation of teachers to our general appreciation of smaller simpler things in life. Here last LEXXER Solutions we love to learn and while not all lessons are easy they are all useful. This year we learnt just what is essential in business and in the sectors we work with. We learnt how to do things digitally with some exciting new relationships with digital experts.

We have ourselves hosted or taken part in a staggering 670 online events, meetings and activities, and helped to organise  range of virtual events from festivals to conferences and helped 23 clients take their operations and activities online. Many were supported in their digital journeys of transformation with 11 new and relaunched websites and digital platforms. We even managed to find the time to give our own site an overhaul!

Aside from the practical and technical support we have ensured that organisations from small businesses to regional charities have been able to access the funding, support and services they need to survive the crisis. As part of our knowledge based work we have helped them respond and react then supported their more strategic responses to the pandemic and restrictions. 

We have been able to help 17 clients access more than £1.2 Million of funding, government support and investment to not only keep them going but to make them stringer and able to come out of this period in a better position. 

As a knowledge broker the first thing we learn was just how little we all knew about the virus and its impact. We spent a lot of time this year dealing with uncertainty, and when we all found ourselves in a world we could never have imagined, we set ourselves the task of helping clients plan for these uncertain futures. 

Our traditional services such as strategic planning were supplemented by scenario planning which allowed clients to map the future whilst acknowledging that none of us could be certain. We were able to use the best research and data driven modelling to help organisations reboot their strategic plans and develop new and exciting responses to the challenges they faced. 

As we look to the future, as we start to emerge into a world with a touch more certainty, it’s important that charities learn from the successes of the past year. Since the arrival of COVID-19, we have been championing digital transformation within the charity sector. We are happy to reflect and say that as a sector in Northern Ireland it has proved strong and resilient, able to meet digital demands and rise to the challenges. We have worked alongside a number of bigger regional organisations looking at the big questions such as ‘COVID – Is it An Event or An Era?’ The answer to this will dictate just what charities do next and how they plan for the future. With intelligent Scenario planning they can then strategise for different scenarios ensuring that they are not locked into a strategy which is no longer fit for purpose. 

Many of the shifts that we saw in 2020 will continue well into the future. Post-COVID-19 tech trends are likely to be a mix of the past and the present. Many charities will likely take a hybrid approach to service delivery, fundraising, and events with the traditional face-to-face services supplemented by digital tools and techniques.


Driving the Digital Transformation

Nine-in-ten charities say the pandemic has negatively affected the ability to complete objectives, according to a survey from Pro Bono Economic. Service delivery is particularly important in that regard, as it is so essential for users. Many charities can afford to neglect admin responsibilities, for example, but cannot easily put service delivery on pause.


Charity professionals have been quick to adapt. Many realised that digital tools could provide effective service delivery in the absence of face-to-face contact. Charity professionals jumped on Zoom and Microsoft Teams to offer support and guidance to users. However we have all seem the limitations of the off the shelf services no matter how much we have been used to them.

We have worked hard with local digital experts and designers to develop bespoke solutions and services which have either helped clients access and use available technology like videoconferencing to create support groups and offer online classes. For others we have but or redeveloped websites and social media platforms to raise awareness and give essential information. Others adopted virtual reality and AI to provide services that were usually performed in-person. Some culture and heritage organisations have offered virtual tours and virtual performances, and others used automated bots to help with redirection and support assisting with administration and organisational issues.

We were called in to deal with a crisis and the solutions we proposed have now become a comfort to many, we were presented with problems and have developed bespoke digital and practical solutions and for many being able to plan and work through the problems have seem them turn into opportunities. This has been perhaps the most rewarding year for us all because of this. 


Charities and community and voluntary groups have been able to increase their reach, for example, finding new audiences unrestricted by geographical limitations. Charities also saved time and money, as certain virtual services do not require the same maintenance or expenditure.


History has taught us that war has often been the great driver of innovation, we think of how the rocket technology of the evil Nazi regime was repurposed to take man to the moon. The Pandemic has been this generation’s ‘World War’ and we hope that what we have learnt, the knowledge that has been created will not be squandered and lost but will drive forward a new digital revolution.