Releasing the Social Business Economy: applying purple flag principles to the next phase of the emergence from lockdown

This report outlines the impact of Covid-19 on the ‘social business economy’, with a focus on how it has impacted events and experiences bringing people together in the night-time economy. It explains how the principles of the Purple Flag accreditation for managing places after dark (policy envelope; wellbeing; movement; appeal; and place) can inform recovery strategies for our town centres and high streets.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

This report outlines the impact of Covid-19 on the ‘social business economy’, which relates to “any activity or business model that relies on social gathering”. In particular, it focuses on how the pandemic has disrupted events and experiences bringing people together in high streets and town centres during the night-time economy. As the authors argue, “the rebirth of the high street was meant to hinge on social experiences, people coming together for good food and drink, art, culture and community... COVID-19 has undermined this”. The report, therefore, explains how the five principles of the Purple Flag accreditation for managing places after dark, can inform recovery strategies for bringing people back together in high streets and town centres, in a safe and enjoyable way, with best practice case studies from around the world included throughout.  

Applying Purple Flag principles to Covid-19 recovery

1. Policy envelope: Data, coordination, partnerships

  • Multi-sector partnership working is vital for Covid-19 recovery, with evidence from health and behavioural sciences drawn on to inform place management strategies.
  • Recovery strategies need to be flexible and dynamic to account for the ever-changing pandemic landscape.
  • Strong local communications and multi-stakeholder coordination is vital for future recovery, including a range of voices in decision-making.

2. Wellbeing: Safe, welcoming, inclusive

  • All sectors in the town centre should play a part in creating a safe and welcoming place.
  • High standards of customer care should be delivered, especially for those most vulnerable, with training of employees around how to create an inclusive and Covid-Secure environment. 
  • Care should be taken to understand the mental health of the local community.

3. Movement: Streetscape redesign, pedestrians, cycling

  • Public realm and streetscapes should be re-designed to ensure people can safely move in, out, and around places, meeting physical distancing requirements.
  • More space should be given to pedestrians and cyclists in our centres in the daytime, and safe options for those using centres after dark, where different movement options might be needed.
  • Data gathering is important on issues of movement, e.g. around public transport capacity and different user requirements.

4. Appeal: Innovation, creativity, learning

  • It is important for businesses working in the social business economy to innovate, in order to provide enjoyable experiences safely (e.g. drive-in cinemas).
  • Learning from other businesses and places who have emerged from lockdown is important.
  • Streetscapes can be re-activated in innovative and creative ways.

5. Place: Character, temporary usage, activation

  • With public realm changes, there is potential to reconsider the character and cultural offering of a place.
  • Tactical urbanism and temporary activity can help to (re)activate and generate interest in a place.
  • Flexibility and creativity in both retail and non-retail offer is needed to address changing demands and consumer behaviours.