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Advancing engagement and shared learning for COVID-19 support programme

We helped deliver the strategic engagement and created opportunities for shared learning in the development of a national programme of Community Champions supporting risk groups with COVID-19.

Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit (CSU) and Arden & Gem CSU were commissioned to represent NHS England and Improvement and support the Government’s Community Champions programme.

Senior leads in the communications and engagement collaborative service for the CSUs were appointed to work alongside Public Health England (PHE) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government to help deliver the strategic engagement and support the communications on this national programme.

It aims to support people identified to be most at risk from COVID-19 (including those from an ethnic minority background, disabled people and other risk groups) to follow safer behaviours and reduce the impact of the virus on themselves and those around them.

The national programme supported local authorities with:

  • activity and interventions to reduce the disproportionate impact of the virus on certain communities
  • engagement strategies and outreach work in the most at-risk places, with the most at risk groups
  • new and existing networks of grassroots advocates or ‘champions’ from impacted communities
  • voluntary and community groups and other national or local actors who specialise in working with communities shown to be most at risk from Covid-19.

Midlands and Lancashire CSU supported the programme by:

  • developing an online Future NHS collaboration platform as a resource bank and vehicle for sharing best practice, case studies and events, and to encourage conversations on the discussion forum
  • leading the organisation of a programme of webinars to advance learning and share best practice.
  • engaging with stakeholders across Whitehall and the NHS and voluntary sector organisations in several forums – supporting the development and promotion of the Community Champions programme
  • developing of resources, case studies and cascading of information both ‘up’ and ‘down’.


The Community Champions workspace created a valuable resource that was both current and iterative, supporting over 240 stakeholders in Government departments, the NHS, PHE, local authorities and the voluntary community. Feedback showed the workspace was helpful in quickly accessing all correct and timely the information and official resources in one place, allowing users to focus on delivery. The discussion forum also provided a useful place for peer engagement and sharing of ideas.

The webinar programme was highly popular, with 99% of eligible local authorities attending a webinar. A further session open to wider stakeholders achieved full capacity. Evaluations showed the webinars were highly valued and well themed to meet participant needs. Workspace members increased by an average of 20 after each webinar, demonstrating their success encouraging people to seek further information.

The national programme is considered by the Government to be a success and is currently under review for development/expansion.