John Gourd, Cambridge Network's CEO, reflects on 2020 – and looks to a brighter future.
A year like no other
No one can deny that 2020 has been an extraordinary year.
It has been tragic for huge numbers of people – loss of life, loss of livelihood, loss of freedoms and the disappearance of many of the things we used to take for granted. The latest blow – last-minute changes to Christmas plans – will have affected many families and tested us all to remain vigilant and strong despite this unhappy situation.
However, the pandemic has also underlined the extraordinary ability of humanity to bounce back from the brink in the worst of circumstances. We have seen this locally, with so many businesses finding new ways to continue working – and even to thrive and prosper. Collaborations and unions were formed to address some of the biggest technical challenges imaginable. We've seen heroism in our doctors and nurses and support staff; in our supermarket workers and delivery drivers. We've witnessed massive outpourings of thankfulness, and amazing acts of philanthropy.
Like so many other organisations, survival for Cambridge Network – which centres on providing services and support for our business community – meant we had to learn to adapt quickly. We mastered technology to find new ways to communicate with our members and to connect them with each other. Positive feedback received across the past few months proves we have succeeded in that mission.
An unexpected consequence of the move to online delivery is that we have reached a much wider, more diverse audience this year than would ever have been possible in the past. Virtual communication means there are no geographic, cost or travel restrictions, so we have welcomed participation in our online activities from people all over the UK and indeed the rest of the world.
Through our popular series of webinars (70 to date, and counting), we have reached nearly 4000 people from just over 800 organisations since the start of lockdown. That figure does not include people catching up via YouTube, or those attending training courses, recruitment fairs or peer groups, all of which have carried on through Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
Our Recruitment Gateway team has run a full series (four days of sessions) of Virtual Jobs & Careers Fairs, attracting as many as 200 signups each time, helping candidates to find jobs, and employers to find talent. We created a special 'Employment during coronavirus' page on this website – this is still live– to highlight employers in supply chain, logistics and healthcare who needed more people to cope with the crisis.
Our Learning Collaboration has delivered CPD-accredited online training courses and workshops for large numbers of people, including the personnel of global companies located as far afield as California. Closer to home, Cambridge Network peer groups – for example for PAs, marketers and HR experts – have continued as normal, enabling more and more individuals to learn about relevant topics and to connect with each other.
Our website has carried news, blogs and opinion pieces from members and other important sources. And our team has maintained its involvement with local and national government bodies, representing the needs of the region's population as well as our member businesses.
Glass half full
As the year ends and 2021 dawns, we will keep going on. We’ll continue with our virtual programmes and hope that it will be possible to return to face-to-face events – or perhaps hybrid ones, where there is a little of both, as soon as it is safe to do so.
Thank you to all our members for the support you have provided and the faith you have shown in our services.
The Cambridge Network team and I wish all the best, to you and your families, for the New Year.
Cambridge Network is a membership organisation based in the vibrant high technology cluster of Cambridge, UK. We bring people together - from business and academia - to meet each other and share ideas, encouraging collaboration and partnership for shared success.