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Turn a crisis into an opportunity

Image credit: Team Locals Media

Over the past few weeks and months, many of us have been enjoying our turquoise seas, clean air, and quieter streets. We have been pleased at how quickly the homeless have been found accommodation and our community has worked tirelessly to protect the vulnerable. Have we witnessed a fleeting moment in our history, or do we now begin to seriously tackle climate change and the deep-seated inequalities in our society? How will we work in future and how can we best support local businesses. We asked leaders in various sectors to share their hopes and thoughts on how Portsmouth & Southsea might TURN A CRISIS INTO AN OPPORTUNITY…

Alistair Bell: Chairman of Bell Microsystems

Along with most business colleagues I speak with, I believe it has taken this crisis to make us appreciate the value of our lives; the value we can tangibly place on health, work-life balance, family, time and our location.

Recent evidence has shown that the time previously taken in travelling to meetings, using airports or trains, can now be used more efficiently by conducting meetings on Zoom or Teams. We no longer have to deal with the logistics of getting five people with different diaries into the same room. 

Many of us are no longer taking our health or the infrastructure to support it for granted, the change in circumstances allowing us time to walk instead of using a car bringing obvious benefits. 

How can Portsmouth benefit from the changes that are evident after the three months forced imposition on our working lives? 

We live in a wonderful city; the coast is magnificent. We need to appreciate what we have.

Moving forward, our intention is to vastly reduce our London office space and we have drawn up a rota for office departments to be in on different days, with provisions made for lunch or evening drinks so that the departments can spend time together. 

As daily commuting is no longer a necessity, resulting effectively in a shorter working day, we can use this extra time and money otherwise spent in other cities’ restaurants to support our great local restaurants. The entertainment and hospitality sectors have been particularly hard hit, and we can help them restore their business.

Lastly, Portsmouth should position itself as a new Solent hub for business to operate in a technology-enabled environment, a greater degree of communication fuelled by connectivity should be encouraged.


Andrew Griffiths: leadership specialist & partner at Strengths Unleashed 

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking”. Albert Einstein. Emerging from this crisis with energy and renewed optimism will require a different mindset. I believe passionately that our famous city can not only adjust to the ‘near normal’, but take on some of the big challenges we face to create a sustainable and vibrant city fit for the future. My leadership role brings me into contact with some of the world’s most innovative and original thinkers at Stanford University. It is incredibly exciting to be part of a team that is discovering the future for organisations, solving current problems and finding the next challenge.

We can do this in Portsmouth by thinking bold ideas with no limits on what we can achieve. If we can bring together people who represent every aspect of our city and work with creative confidence, we can build a sustainable future which everyone can be proud of. The exciting part of this is that everyone has a role to play, this is putting the community at the heart of our city, leveraging local people’s thoughts and ideas to reimagine the future. Leaders in successful organisations believe two things: ‘The future can be better than the present’, and ‘We have the power to make it so’…. I know Portsmouth can rise to this challenge. 


Finola Sloyan: PR consultant 

It only took a couple of months for the coronavirus to change our lives; it’s doubtful we’ll ever return to a pre-COVID-19 world. Two innovative ideas providing solutions for the here and now caught my attention:  

1. Pay it forward: consider paying forward for a service we are going to need in the future, thus helping small businesses to continue operating.

2. Redefining jobs: It’s not just changing where we work, it’s also fundamentally altering what work is done and how we do it – shifting work, talent, and skills to where they are needed most. We’ve seen this with distillers pivoting from making spirits to anti-bacterial hand gel, fashion houses making surgical masks and gowns, finding solutions during uncertainty. 

This can be a time of creativity for Portsmouth, with reimagining jobs around the constraints of today’s challenging business environment. 

It’s important for businesses to keep the lines of communication open, regardless of the situation. When a Southsea restaurant adapted to the pandemic by offering a delivery service, I was happy to support it and also appreciated the message of thanks for my support – this goes a long way. When instructors from our local gym found themselves without any source of income, we immediately signed up for virtual classes. As a community, we appreciate these services and the people giving them. Finally, World Environment Day was on 5th June: “these are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message: To care for ourselves we must care for nature. It’s time to wake up, take notice, to raise our voices and to build back better for People and Planet.”


XR Portsmouth: environmentalists

During lockdown, nature has had a chance to restore itself – cleaner skies, clearer coastal waters, and more audible birdsong. The change in “business as usual” attitudes and the benefits for our ecosystems have been monumental. We have discovered new ways to shop, live, and entertain ourselves that put nature at less risk. This pandemic has taught us the importance of slowing down and being mindful in valuing the small things and our relationships with those around us. 

We must extend this care and compassion to nature in Portsmouth, and all of our neighbours to build real societal change. The time for action is now. We have had enough and we say: no going back to our destructive way of life.

We advocate: Segregated cycle lanes encouraging safe commutes for both cyclists and pedestrians.

An increase in on-street secure bicycle parking & storage.

Education and information about environmentally friendly commuter options.

A commitment to a reduction in dangerous pollutants such as CO2, NOx and others.

Establishing a Citizens’ Assembly so that voices all across Portsmouth are heard. XR Portsmouth is committed to working with the council to achieve this.

Developing a closer relationship with the other environmental groups in Portsmouth and the wider community. We believe this is how we make this recovery a success. XR is a peaceful and passionate movement trying to protect planet A: Because as you’ve probably heard – there’s no planet B: Let’s move forwards to a better future, for us, our children, and our planet.


Joanna Bushnell: Director of Aspex Gallery

I think it’s safe to say the world, the city, the environment in which I work, will never be the same again, and nor should it. It would be a shame to go back to things the way they were pre-Covid-19, before the recent Black Lives Matter protests, ignoring the positive impact that staying home has had on the environment.

At Aspex we’ve been taking stock. After the initial shock of closing the gallery and all going home to continue working, we’ve started to consider how we can work differently. We are looking to make our work accessible to more people, by taking it into the public realm, or delivering it online. Later this summer, prior to reopening the gallery, we are going to launch a new project which we hope people, particularly teenagers and young adults can get behind and engage with, but it’s a little too soon for announcements just yet!

We are determined that concerns around diversity, access, and the environment don’t get sidelined while we turn our focus to the economic imperative, reviewing our business model and survival. It’s time to slow down, think and proceed in a more inclusive, sustainable and accessible way – to improve social justice. We are optimistic!


Stef Nienaltowski: CEO of Shaping Portsmouth

I am delighted to have been asked to lead a group of talented and focussed leaders from across the city through Shaping Portsmouth’s Future Together, a new action group of key organisations in the city to help Portsmouth recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Each of us is totally committed to providing all the necessary help and support to enable our city recover from this crisis as quickly as possible. By joining forces we will avoid duplication, share knowledge, and better inform businesses and organisations of the help and support available to aid recovery. We want the city of Portsmouth to thrive in the future to the benefit of the whole community. The group aims to co-ordinate support, advice and funding, identify any skills shortages, and high-light opportunities to businesses, education providers, and the community. This spirit of collaboration, will use the goodwill in the city as a catalyst for economic – and by extension, community – recovery. It is made up of representatives from Shaping Portsmouth, Portsmouth City Council (including Deputy Leader Cllr. Steve Pitt), The News, Hampshire County Council, The Hive Portsmouth, Pompey in the Community, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, University of Portsmouth, Solent NHS, city care providers, Portsmouth Creates and Job Centre +.

Posted in: Articles, Environment, Local & Community