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How GIF is responding to coronavirus

By Madeleine Eastwood, Head of Communications, and Charlotte Ward, Managing Director – Portfolio and Investments

The spread of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the coronavirus, is an unprecedented event and an increasing priority not only for the public, but for the workplace also.

Employers are being asked to do all they can to slow the spread of the virus and protect employees, while maintaining business continuity.

As GIF confronts the impact of coronavirus, the health and wellbeing of our staff and the teams that make up the innovations in our portfolio and the beneficiaries they serve, remains our top priority. The work we do and investments we make are critical to millions of the world’s poorest people, and we’re committed to being there when innovations in our portfolio need our support the most.

After closely monitoring the fast-moving coronavirus situation the decision was taken earlier in March, in consultation with GIF Board members and the Executive Team, to instigate home working for all GIF staff with immediate effect. The protection of the GIF family, and their families, as well as doing our bit to try and prevent overload on healthcare systems, is of huge importance and we were ready and able to respond in a timely and strategic manner.

At GIF we pride ourselves on being a forward-thinking organisation that can offer flexible working arrangements that allow employees greater autonomy over how they do their work, including the hours, conditions, and management of their home lives and responsibilities. Technology makes this approach easier than ever and we’re pleased to say we invest in first-class systems and applications to facilitate this. However, for many staff our current way of working means adjusting to a new way of life and a time to consider how best to: respond to the needs of our portfolio, pipeline, and donors; keep up interaction with colleagues; and look after their health and wellbeing – all while being at home.

We’re encouraging all staff to continue what would usually be a face-to-face interaction, or meeting, over video call instead. This includes informal check-ins with one another and carved out time for teams to virtually meet. We have commenced regular all-staff ‘town hall’ gatherings via video calls, which will provide an opportunity for us to come together outside of our day-to-day work to ask questions, share key updates, and check-in with each other. Alongside these calls, our Executive Team circulate a weekly memo which includes strategic updates on deliverables for each function at GIF and other mission-critical information.

Our investment team has been busy reaching out to companies and organisations in our portfolio with a team-first approach – we are very aware that all companies will have varying vulnerabilities, with the impact of the pandemic very different for each. The number one question has been around health and wellbeing. Are their employees and stakeholders safe? If everyone can’t work from home, what is the company doing to protect workers and adapt operations? Extraordinary measures may need to be considered that should be implemented, such as funding for childcare allowances and protective health measures.

Supporting our portfolio towards clear and efficient decision-making is high on our agenda – depending on where companies are in cash burn cycles or programming, each organisation has very different needs.

We have also opened lines of conversation with portfolio companies focused on supporting them to analyse the means and ways by which they could reduce the threat of coronavirus. Including focusing company strategy where it may meet a need that creates high impact – and could help with constraints in private and public sectors as a result of the pandemic

By being available and responsive to our portfolio, around the table with other stakeholders, we hope we can support idea discussion, planning and responsiveness in this time of uncertainty.