How We’re Supporting Our Community: A Message From Wired Sussex MD Phil Jones
Since the advent of the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown, the Wired Sussex team have been working tirelessly to support our regional digital, media and technology cluster.
We began with a rapid response strategy. This was designed to establish the immediate effect of the crisis on our members, focus on helping share our community’s knowledge, expertise and resources, and lobby national and local government on your behalf.
In the past five weeks, we have surveyed hundreds of businesses and individuals and spoken directly to many others in order to understand what the impact has been on our members, if the government support packages will work for them, and what new tactics we should develop to provide appropriate advice and support.
You can find the results of our initial survey here. We know that many of you are finding the current situation extremely challenging. In summary, two-thirds of the freelancers we spoke to expect to experience significant financial hardship, many small companies are not eligible for the SBBR grants as they are in managed or co-working spaces, and over three-quarters of companies are furloughing staff. Further, the government’s much-trumpeted emergency business loan scheme (COVIL) was not actually delivering for our members.
Our Slack Group, open to members and non-members alike, has become a go-to resource for hundreds of people, providing detailed and up-to-date information on support programmes, sharing resources, and connecting Wired Sussex members with digital and non-digital business, charities and community groups. Amongst the many successes that the Slack group has been party to, we are really pleased that it was instrumental in helping create the online home of the Covid-19 flashcards, which went from concept to launch in 72 hours, and are currently being used in hospitals in nearly 50 countries worldwide. If you want to connect, learn or help, then join the Wired Sussex Slack Group today.
Wired Sussex is engaging with the government, both regionally and nationally, on an almost daily basis. We are founder board members of the UK Tech Cluster Group and every week we have a weekly call with the Minister for Digital to help her understand the challenges our community faces and suggest action the government could take.
The work our sector does is critically important to the future of the region and will be key to the economic recovery of the UK, so it is vital that this sector is helped now when, through no fault of its own, it is in need.
We are pleased to see that in some key areas (e.g. targeted support for start-ups, revisions to the emergency loans scheme) the government has indeed listened and adapted. We will continue to openly and forthrightly articulate our clusters’ needs to the government.
We have followed up on this rapid response work up by adapting our business support programme to online and virtual delivery. We have already delivered over a dozen events virtually on various platforms. This included pivoting Talent Fest 2020, our week-long festival to support digital talent and leadership, to feature (all online):
- 1-2-1 portfolio advice from top design talent for 70+ budding digital creatives
- A leadership Skills Summit with top international speakers including Bruce Daisley
- A Jobs Fair providing information via talks and 1-2-1 advice to over 1,000 people worldwide on how to get and grow a career in digital in this region
Wired Sussex is a small, not-for-profit business and like most of you, it has been an uncertain and difficult time for us too. But we are determined to keep on supporting you and to hold dear to these guiding tenets:
We are independent
We don’t receive any funding from the public sector to sustain our organisation. We rely on income from our members, supporters and our FuseBox innovation hub residents. This means we always speak out for our community, and are never compromised in that.
“All the pieces matter”
We are not just about identifying and helping a few selected high-growth businesses. We support and recognise the value of every part of the regional digital ecosystem. So whether you are a start-up, a scale-up, a small firm or a freelancer, you matter equally to us.
Real lived knowledge
We are a local organisation with deep local roots. We listen and respond to our community every single day. The activity we undertake and the support we deliver is always based on understanding your challenges, your needs and your concerns.
But we cannot deliver without your ongoing support. If you are a freelancer or a business working in digital, media or tech in Sussex and are not yet a member of Wired Sussex, please join now. It’s just £72 (+VAT) per year. That’s less than £1.50 per week for a shedload of benefits (and love!).
Please help us to help you. It is your support that will enable us to continue supporting everyone in our cluster who needs it, both now and in the future.