4 Ways Changemakers can Turn Covid Crisis into Opportunity
Among the hundreds of Covid-related jokes doing the rounds on social media is a photo of medical test results, supposedly taken by the sender. At the top a line says “Coronavirus results: negative”. What you don’t spot, at first, are lines underneath saying “Dengue: Positive; Hepatitis: Positive,” etc…
I’ve found this a useful metaphor for this surreal situation as a whole. Covid-19 provides such a powerful attention magnet that all other problems are temporarily disregarded.
This is a vulnerable time for global society. And of course, the vulnerable of society — marginalised communities — are suffering more. While governments’ repressive measures might control the spread of the virus, many of us worry that curtailed rights will be hard to recover. There’s a long way to a just, sustainable future for humankind, and this pandemic must not set us back.
Without minimising the deep insecurity and anxiety many are feeling right now, this imposed period of quarantine can provide an opportunity, as any change does, to evaluate our ways of working and try new things. To that end, here are four ways in which ethical brands, NGOs, institutions, and activists might take advantage of the situation.
In our normal breakneck working lives, few of us have time for proper reflection. Who are you, what do you stand for, who are you trying to engage? These are the most important questions we can ask ourselves but so few teams find the time to do so. I’ve seen time and time again in our clients how scarcity of time, personnel, and budget often means frantic dealing with urgent, reactive problems. Communications therefore are piecemeal and lack coherence, resulting in less impact. During our enforced isolation, there’s plenty of time to ask these questions to ourselves and to each other. Consider it like carrying out necessary repairs to your engine, so you can zoom off when the gates open again.
Quarantined people staring at screens present an opportunity, but also a challenge: Content overload plus short attention spans. Meanwhile those caring for children as well as keeping work going are often exhausted by the time they have a moment to themselves. So how can we meaningfully engage with the right people? Innovation of message and delivery is key. Take some time to think about the kinds of people with whom you are trying to engage. What apps and websites are they using? More fundamentally, what are their needs and frustrations? How can you speak to these? With so many online tools providing seminar, meet-up, volunteering, and creative possibilities, now could be the time to try something different.
One thing is certain, the coronavirus will continue to dominate news cycles for a long time. But that doesn’t mean people’s curiosity ends there. With saturation from the main topic of the day already rife — and none of the usual distractions like live sports to read about, for example — other forms of mental stimulation are sought. Beyond your normal content marketing, this can be the time to really explore the topics behind your work and educate around your cause. Perhaps a series of interviews with worldwide members of your network, or some think pieces that take a longer view. Many of the beneficiaries of impact actors are seeing situations worsened by the pandemic as the world economy contracts and normal activity ceases — so let’s make sure to keep the light shining.
Our working lives have changed unrecognisably over the last decades, and this virus is proving a catalyst to further eliminate old patterns and hasten new trends. Many clients have told me how liberating it feels right now to hop on a video call or conference with people around the world as well as with those from your former office. Though our interpersonal distances have become immeasurably large, with everyone encased at home, at the same time global boundaries have shrunk. Atomisation can foster a new sense of community. Based in Brussels, I’ve seen the entire Eurozone cancel in-person meetings, reducing time, expense and emissions of constant flights back and forth. This is just one environmental boon of the pandemic. Let’s work to enshrine some of the more positive by-products when this is all over, so that the “normal” we go back to is a better one.
Of course it’s challenging in this atmosphere of pressure and uncertainty to calmly carry out steps of personal and work improvements. We’re all going through a massive change in the way we are existing and working from one day to the next. But if you’re feeling less than confident about how to proceed, reach out to colleagues, mentors and friends in the same space. We’re all developing our online social skills massively at the moment. And we’re all in it together.