CHERWELL COLLECTIVE WINS THE EESC CIVIL SOLIDARITY PRIZE FOR THE UK

Cherwell Collective's "Live, Learn, Eat, Grow" is among 23 projects from the EU and the United Kingdom that have received the award for their outstanding contribution to fighting COVID-19 and its disastrous consequences.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has awarded the Civil Solidarity Prize to the UK's Cherwell Collective for its project, which fights against COVID-related food insecurity and financial hardship by empowering people to become an active part of their own supply chain. Focusing on waste reduction, education and outreach, the Cherwell Collective is helping make its community more sustainable and better prepared for a post-COVID future.

The EESC, an advisory body representing Europe's civil society at the EU level, selected Cherwell Collective as the best UK candidate for the Prize, feeling that its entry stood out as a shining example of remarkable solidarity and civic responsibility during the COVID-19 crisis.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, the Oxford-based not-for-profit company has supplied food and other provisions to many residents in need. Instead of simply mitigating food and supply shortages, it devised actions to teach people how to grow their own food and to reduce waste by learning how to make the best use of all surplus foodstuffs. Through education and empowerment, people become more independent and self-sufficient.

With "Waste not, want not" as its unofficial theme, the Collective hopes its forward-thinking approach will help reduce food poverty and increase well-being after the crisis. 

Cherwell Collective was announced as one of the 23 prize-winners at a virtual awards ceremony held by the EESC on 15 February. Each winner received a prize worth EUR 10 000.

Presenting the prizes, the EESC's vice-president for communication, Cillian Lohan, said:

The EESC has repeatedly stressed that solidarity and targeted shared action are key to surviving such a pandemic. The only effective response to a crisis such as this pandemic is to act quickly, decisively, and together. There are lessons here for dealing with other crises whether they are social, economic or environmental.Civil society has been at the forefront of all solidarity actions and without their help on the ground, the price paid for this pandemic would be much higher. All the projects we received are proof of selfless citizen and grassroots engagement, showing the contribution of civil society in this fight to be enormous. With this prize, we are acknowledging the people and organisations making a difference in these unprecedented times. It is an honour to be able to celebrate together.

Apart from the UK, the awards went to the winning entries from 21 countries of the European Union. One prize was given to a project with a cross-border focus. The prize was open to candidates from the UK as a gesture meant to show that the EESC wanted to keep close ties with UK civil society, despite the fact that the country has left the EU.

Although the EESC aimed to find a winner in each EU Member State and in the UK, six countries offered no eligible entries.

The full list of the winners is available below and on our webpage.

The winners were selected from a total of 250 applications submitted by civil society organisations, individuals and private companies. All of the projects had solidarity as their driving force and displayed creative and effective ways of rising to the often-daunting challenges posed by the crisis.

Most projects targeted vulnerable groups or people most affected by the crisis such as the elderly or young people, children, women, minorities, migrants, the homeless, medical personnel or employees and employers.

As regards the content of the projects, they focused on five main themes: food supply and assistance to vulnerable groups, medical equipment, advisory services, educational services and information on the pandemic, and culture.

THE UK WINNER

Cherwell Collective received the award as one of the entries focusing on the theme "food supply and assistance to vulnerable groups". The theme grouped together projects supplying food rations, such as freshly-cooked food or fresh fruit and vegetables, often combining it with other actions, such as distributing medical equipment or offering additional support services for everyday life. The primary target groups were the elderly, especially those living alone, the homeless, families in need, minorities, migrants and refugees.

The Collective runs three interconnected core projects: Cherwell Larder delivered supplies to some 600 people each week during the UK’s first lockdown and now feeds more than 1000 a week.

Born out of produce shortages and supply-chain problems, Harvest @ Home provides basic garden supplies and guidance for people to grow their own food. Climatarian Kitchen offers cooking courses, meal kits and ready meals made from surplus food. Meal kits include flexible recipes that help build people’s confidence in the kitchen. Since July 2020, the initiative has supplied 100 households each week.

I am honoured to receive this prize on behalf of the hundreds of people and organisations who have helped make this project possible, said Collective founder Emily Connally. This prize gives instant international credibility that could immediately facilitate dozens of local jobs and, in the long term, will empower the sustainable redevelopment of our community.

Detailed information about all of the winners and other candidates can be found in our brochure, which is available upon request.

The EESC hopes the Civil Solidarity Prize will enhance the visibility and raise awareness not only of the winning projects but also of many other creative citizens' initiatives taking place in the EU.

Today, we are not applauding only our 23 winners. We are taking our hats off to all of Europe's civil society and to so many of its organisations, companies and individuals who have shown and who keep showing unprecedented solidarity, courage and civic responsibility in these difficult and trying times, Mr Lohan said.

The projects and initiatives run by citizens and civil society in many ways complemented efforts undertaken by Member States to cushion the blows of the crisis and were even ahead of them in some areas, such as the production of face-masks at local and regional level, the EESC said.

Compared to the entries received for the Civil Society Prize in previous years, the EESC saw an increased number of applications from informal or less well-established organisations, which clearly demonstrates the spirit on the ground. There were also fewer entries from some countries that were less severely hit during the first wave of the pandemic or from those with stronger welfare systems.

THE PRIZE CRITERIA

The EESC launched the prize in July 2020 with the theme "Civil Society against COVID-19", announcing that it would be an exceptional, one-off award replacing its trademark Civil Society Prize. The aim was to pay tribute to Europe's civil society, which actively and selflessly engaged in acts of solidarity from the very first days of the pandemic.

The contest was open to individuals, civil society organisations and companies whose projects had to be strictly not-for-profit and not more than 50% publicly funded. They had to be directly linked to COVID-19, specifically aiming to fight the virus or to tackle its consequences.

Each year, the EESC's flagship Civil Society Prize honours civil society organisations and/or individuals whose projects celebrate European identity and common values in a particular field of work. It has been awarded since 2006.

FULL LIST OF WINNERS OF THE EESC CIVIL SOLIDARITY PRIZE 2020:

COUNTRY

WINNER

AUSTRIA

Kommunikationswerkstatt Talk 27, a network fighting disinformation, fake news and misinformation on the pandemic and motivating citizens to stand up against emotional and cognitive manipulation

BELGIUM

OKRA, trefpunt 55+, an association that responded to the pandemic with The resilience of OKRA, a creative initiative aimed at keeping older people active and socially connected;

BULGARIA

Karin dom, a foundation that offered online training activities to support families of children with special needs

CROATIA

Hrvatska mreža za beskućnike, a Croatian network that supported homeless people as the country moved into lockdown and was further hit by an earthquake

CYPRUS

Volunteers for the support of vulnerable groups during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, for their initiatives, which included the delivery of food and medicines to people isolating because of their age or health issues. The initiatives were coordinated by Erika Theofanidi

CZECHIA

Nevypusť Duši – an association of doctors, psychologists and social workers, whose online webinars helped high school students cope with mental health problems and build psychological resilience during the pandemic

FRANCE

Bouge ton Coq, a platform that strives to keep rural France alive, for its initiative C’est ma tournée! (It's my round!), which supported rural shops and businesses struggling to meet costs during the pandemic

GERMANY

Krisenchat, a 24/7 counselling service, which provided free practical support and comfort via Whatsapp or SMS to young people and children

GREECE

Steps, a non-profit organisation that transformed its existing One-Stop project into Many Stops, providing hot meals, bottled water and personal hygiene products to homeless people and those in precarious housing;

HUNGARY

Magyar Helsinki Bizottság, or the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which provided free legal assistance in human-rights-related cases linked to the crisis

IRELAND

Alison - Free Online Courses & Online Learning platform, for its project Coronavirus: What You Need to Know, a free COVID-19 facts course that has been translated into over 60 languages and has reached over 350 000 people worldwide

 ITALY

Casetta Rossa, a non-profit association that combines food delivery to vulnerable people with a radio station broadcasting information and personal stories to boost morale

LITHUANIA

Karolina Barišauskienė, a communications expert, for her project Priešakinėse linijose (At the Front Lines), a digital campaign of stories and insights from medical professionals on the coronavirus front line

MALTA

Malta Chamber of SMEs for its project With You All the Way, which provided online advice and peer support to help thousands of SMEs to adapt to the pandemic

POLAND

Krystyna Paszko, a high-school student who created Chamomiles and Pansies, an online shop offering a lifeline to victims of domestic violence during lockdown

PORTUGAL

Vizinhos à Janela, a neighbourhood initiative presented by Íñigo Hurtado which brought some relief through daily balcony concerts and food delivery to people in need

ROMANIA

Asociatia Prematurilor, the Romanian association of premature babies, for its project Support for Medical Staff and Newborns in Maternity – Protective Equipment and Apparatus Against COVID-19 in maternity wards

SLOVENIA

Društvo psihologov Slovenije, an association of Slovenian psychologists, for their project Psychosocial Support to General Public and Professional Support to Psychologists and Other Healthcare Professionals During COVID-19 Outbreak in Slovenia

SLOVAKIA

Človek v ohrození, a non-profit NGO, for its initiative Their Health is Also Our Health, which supported hard-hit Roma communities and helped them through the pandemic

SPAIN

Asociación de Familias y Mujeres del Medio Rural (AFAMMER), an association of families and women in rural areas for its project AFAMMER Great Rural Solidarity Network, which brought together hundreds of women in rural Spain who gave their time and sewing skills to tackle a shortage of protective masks and the growing isolation of elderly people during the pandemic;

SWEDEN

Blivande, a Community and arts space and non-for-profit company, for its project Crisis Response – an open-source initiative to create protective healthcare equipment on a large scale

UNITED KINGDOM

Cherwell Collective, CIC, for their project Live, Learn, Eat, Grow, which provided food and other essentials to people in need and trained residents to grow their own food

CROSS-BORDER / EUROPEAN

Emergency, an Italy-based NGO, for the assistance it provided in Europe and worldwide to contain the pandemic, in particular through its Replicable Model of Safety and Protection Measures, a scalable model to design and manage hospitals during the pandemic