When a group of us at Evolved first became furloughed, it was a bit of a shock to the system. The cancellation of our daily routine, the work we’d been contributing to and the usual level of interaction with colleagues, was unnerving.
Luckily, at Evolved Search, we have an incredibly supportive team and they encouraged us to use some of our furloughed time to create a voluntary project that would both use our skills and be purposeful in some way.
After a virtual ideation session, we realised there was an area we were all passionate about that would benefit from some help. In the initial phases of COVID-19, a lot of initiatives sprang up to support those who were vulnerable and to ensure that people could get hold of essentials.
The Government began implementing loans and schemes to support businesses, but for many, it wasn’t enough. Small, local and independently-run businesses were struggling to survive. Particularly in the food and drink sector, where their products and services weren’t deemed “essential” as such.
We noticed that many were adapting and mobilising, offering deliveries, collections and limited opening hours with social distancing measures where possible.
But this was often not reflected on search engines. Or, if you were unaware of the business to begin with, it was unlikely you’d come across them now, even if it would be useful. Enter, Shop on the Tyne.
So, we decided to build an interactive map with all the details of local, independent businesses in the food and drink sector. The map shows all the ways to contact the businesses, opening hours, delivery and collection hours, and information around how they have adapted their offering during the pandemic.
The furlough team was made up of people from across the agency, including our account management, content marketing, digital PR, design and development, and PPC departments. We knew that with this particular set of skills, we had everything we needed to plan, produce, and promote something that would be useful for a lot of people.
The list of businesses we began with was carefully curated. We enlisted the help of our still full-time working Evolved colleagues to help highlight businesses they knew of.
We collected information from websites and social media channels to give a more accurate and in-depth picture than a simple Google search would.
The site also has a filter to enable you to narrow your search field.
We launched on the 9th June, fully aware that as we come out of lockdown, the information might change rapidly.
Our aim is to extend the range of businesses by adding to our list of places as we find them – or they find us. We’ll update the site to feature the most relevant and current information and also look to cater to non-food-and-drink-related businesses in the future.
We’ll also be writing blog posts that highlight some of the businesses involved and how they’ve adapted and overcome in challenging times.
If you run or know of a business that you’d like to be involved, you can contact us with the details and they’ll be added to the site.
It’s been satisfying whilst on furlough to have a focus that is purely for the benefit of others. Research has shown that we are hardwired to be kind. As we grow up and stress, outside influences and life, in general, gets in the way, we can lose this inherent ability.
The pandemic has shown us just how much we need each other. Even us introverts have struggled! But helping others or an act of kindness has been shown to boost your serotonin, release endorphins, reduce stress, prevent illness and ease anxiety. Who doesn’t need a bit of that right now?
This project began as a response to a world that changed dramatically in a matter of days. It has quickly become something we can see has a future beyond the pandemic and we hope to be able to continue to develop the site to support the local area. We’re extremely proud of Newcastle and the North East. The past few months have been incredibly difficult for everyone and yet we’ve seen some truly amazing examples of people pooling resources, banding together and supporting each other.
It’s our hope that as we find a new way to live, perhaps as a society feeling more fragile, yet more human than before, we can learn to bring more of the kindness we have shown and that others have shown us during this time into our work and our daily lives.
This project is certainly one way we can continue to do that and with the support of the team at Evolved, we’re looking forward to evolving (pun intended) Shop On The Tyne for whatever road lies ahead.
Head to Shop on the Tyne’s Twitter page for more info as it happens. We’d like to say a huge thank you to each member of our furloughed team for their continued hard work on this voluntary project!