The COVID-19 Recovery Framework offers a model to support places through crisis, pre-recovery, recovery and transformation.


Developed by the Institute of Place Management, the COVID-19 Recovery Framework is being adapted for use at national, regional and local levels.

The four stage process offers a model to support places through crisis, pre-recovery, recovery and transformation.

The framework draws on the years of knowledge and expertise the Institute has gained in working in partnership with government, local authorities, Business Improvement Districts, Town Centre Partnerships, other professional bodies and extensive work in places, to develop a coordinated and systematic approach to the management of places to drive their recovery and improvement.

Each stage of the Framework includes recommended activities that have been identified by the Institute research team working with our members engaged in local place management over the last month.

COVID19 Recovery Framework


This first stage ‘crisis’ is where towns and cities across the world are starting, and where many will remain, for the foreseeable future. With lockdowns and closures of all business premises apart from essential retail, and with the majority of the population working or learning from home, many town centres, like those in the UK, are currently deserted. The crisis stage focuses on how town centres and place managers act immediately, supporting and helping stakeholders through the initial stages of the crisis. Some businesses can switch to online trading.

Ramping up communication attempts via all channels, reassuring businesses and residents that protective measures and support mechanisms are in place, and slowly discussing the next steps of action, including ideas that can provide some short-term relief and normalcy, especially for small businesses, are crucial. Place managers and their teams should encourage innovation and make it easier for these to be adopted across the town, initiatives such as selling pre-paid vouchers and gift cards in exchange for services in the future are already proving popular. At the town centre level, data is also important. Footfall is an important baseline for recovery. Likewise, other data, such as having accurate information on the type of businesses in the town can help to guide the type of support that is needed in this crisis stage and model what the likely impact will be of various lockdown scenarios (3 weeks or 3 months etc.).


Second, it is important that place managers and leaders, as well as dealing with the current crisis, start planning for recovery. The ‘pre-recovery’ stage is a crucial step towards building collective capacity and moving towards more reflexive forms of place governance and coordinated leadership. There is a need to work together now on good ideas and plans to encourage people back to our high streets – recovery will depend on building more local capacity for action and effective mechanisms for coordinating this. During and after lockdown, it is anticipated that our town and city centres will undergo a period of change, during which many businesses are not expected to survive. Some towns will be more resilient than others and it is unlikely that businesses that do not have, at least, some online presence and way to communicate with customers can survive. However, with the appropriate prioritisation of problems and solutions, town centres can develop place specific recovery plans to adapt to the impact. Moreover, it is an opportunity for reimagining town centres. By using the lockdown as time to assess and imagine new possibilities, place managers can - in collaboration with stakeholders - develop capabilities and skills for recovery and transformation through learning and training.


Third, the framework seeks to provide guidance on the tasks that should be undertaken once the lockdown measures start to be lifted in order to get businesses and people back to places. There will be no one-size-fits-all solution, however; collating stories about how places across the UK and internationally are recovering will be crucial for town centres to learn from each other and adopt suitable approaches or new remedial action. Data collected regarding day-to-day indicators such as footfall, sentiment and spend will be crucial to establishing what the ‘new normal’ for town centres is looking like, and how to best manage social distancing in public spaces. The widespread dissemination of case studies illustrating adaptable solutions for businesses and retail centres can also boost the recovery process in localities. We have already seen, at the crisis stage, the enormous creativity and ingenuity of individuals and businesses – and we must ensure this is nurtured in the recovery stage, and not side-lined in an attempt to go back to how things were. However, there will be an immediate need to react quickly in order to revise plans that do not work. Together, measures undertaken will hopefully drive footfall back to our town centres, safely.


Finally, the lessons learnt from the three previous stages will contribute to assisting town centres and place managers in leading the long-term transformation and evolution of their places. The ‘transformation’ stage points at the conscious attempt to improve the place – to do more than recover but to innovate and address new challenges, such as climate change, decarbonisation, economic inequality, social justice etc. We may witness new and strong public-private partnerships attracting investment and funding, and the emergence of more grassroot projects can be expected as a result of the pandemic. At this stage, transforming town centres must also aspire to offer a good range of goods and services for visitors, a good trading environment for businesses and a good quality of life for their residents. It is the stage where IPM can support place managers with their range of professional products which ensure members lead the evolution of the sector. Continuing Professional Development, accreditations, qualifications, conferences, research and thought leadership all helps place managers support the transformation of the places they serve. In many ways, the transformation stage will be about adapting to the ‘new normal’, which will reflect both the economic and social impact of coronavirus in our towns and cities and mitigating measures.


Using the Framework

The Institute is running a series of five webinars for its members to explain the Framework and demonstrate how the structure can be adapted for places. We have produced an editable version of the Framework that allows it to be adapted to suit individual places. The first webinar attracted more than 140 members with a strong international representation. If you are an Institute member you can register for the webinar series.

Support for Business Improvement Districts
We have run separate webinars for The BID Foundation, adapting the Framework so it is focused on the circumstances of Business Improvement Districts and the vital role they will have in supporting their business levy payers and involving them in the recovery process. Scores of BIDs in the UK and USA have been using the Framework to rethink their business plans and in discussions with levy payers. More information for The BID Foundation members.

High Streets Task Force
The Framework is being used by the High Streets Task Force to prioritise its work in supporting local authorities and developing place leaders. A series of resources available to all are being posted on the High Streets Task Force website and you can access them here.

The Framework exists to help place managers and other relevant audiences not only to start acting immediately towards combating the crisis, but to do so in a structured way that will enable places to respond to the ongoing challenges and reinvent themselves for the post COVID future.