The escalating toll of the pandemic is forcing us all to make tough choices. Managing this moment well will require balancing a host of competing priorities; urgent versus important, immediate versus longer-term, and so on. To help make good decisions amidst the maelstrom, we would do well to recall the adage; ‘When everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority…”
So, here are three big questions that may help.
These are the three big conversations we find ourselves having again and again, in lots of different ways, with our clients, partners and friends. They may help you make sense of your own priorities, in ways that will help spur collective action on the virus and its many impacts;
- How should we respond differently to Covid-19 in different contexts?
- What must we be doing now to tackle the longer-term socio-economic impacts?
- What kind of world do we want to rebuild beyond Coronavirus?
Question 1 – One pandemic, many contexts: What is the best response to Coronavirus for Africa?
Coronavirus is global pandemic; unlike any disaster in recent history, it is a problem that affects everyone. Yet how people experience it and how countries need to respond to it is not so universal. Across Africa, countries have distinct demographics, economies, vulnerabilities and sources of resilience. These are radically different to those of Europe and Asia. Rushing to import approaches from abroad may bring unwanted and undesirable consequences. We offer our own point of view on the risks and opportunities here. Others share these concerns; for example, MckInsey’s presents useful recommendations for Africa’s response here. We are hearing a growing range of voices ask questions such as;
- What are the most important cross-sectoral considerations that should guide Africa’s response to Covid-19? How should these influence policy?
- Where are the gatherings, mechanisms, forums and platforms for shaping Africa’s response?
- How can African leaders and their institutions best be supported to shape a response that works best for Africa?
Question 2 – Prepare for the fallout: What should we be doing now to address the long-term impact of Covid-19?
The world is overwhelmed by the current public health crisis. Yet, as the pandemic passes, we will see devastation wreaked by the pandemic spilling far beyond hospitals and care homes. The impact of a global shut-down will then be most acutely felt in our communities, our companies and our economies. The second order impact of Covid-19 presents new risks for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. How are we preparing for potentially massive shocks to food security, employment, community security, business continuity, institutional and economic stability? It’s worth referring to the UN Secretary General’s call for global solidarity to the socio-economic impacts of Covid-19 here. In this moment we should all be asking:
- What is the nature of the likely socio-economic fallout from Covid-19?
- Where are the opportunities for preparing for, disrupting, mitigating these risks now?
- How do we balance the urgency of the public health emergency with the importance of the longer-term impact?
Question 3 – Building back better: How do we get ready for the ‘new normal’ after Covid-19?
Though it may seem impossible to imagine right now, this time will pass, and we will move beyond the shock of a global pandemic to find ourselves living within a ‘new normal’. Milton Freidman said that after a shock the very ideas that previously seemed impossible become possible, and so ‘the ideas that are lying around’ become the new normal. Naomi Klein challenges us to ensure that these are progressive ideas, the ones that will help us build better, more just, fairer societies. As we know, the Sustainable Development Goals are a framework for the most important development challenges facing the planet. Yet for each of these, the impacts of Covid-19 will likely present new winners (such as climate change, liveable cities, responsible consumption) and new losers (such as extreme poverty, gender equality, peace & justice). We’re hearing people ask;
- What are the emerging lessons we are learning from Covid-19? How can they be harnessed to shape the new normal?
- What are the ideas we want to dust off, create and ensure are lying around in our organisations, communities and beyond for the post coronavirus normal?
So, when everything’s a priority, it might just help to draw from the biggest, most important questions facing us all. Here then are three big questions that may serve to inform your own priorities – and for helping grow a collective response to the impact of Covid-19.