A lot of us just want things to go back to normal. What does that really mean? Is it just a longing to gather with friends, worship together, or go for a dip at the beach? What will normal look like after all this is over?
We are made up of our experiences, both individually and collectively. Instead of seeking a back to basics understanding of what the new normal will be, I believe we should be asking how we can collectively be better prepared for whatever our communities will face next. This pandemic has taught us the need to communicate, to adapt, and to coordinate in new ways. How can we be more responsive with the things that we have collectively learned in order to mitigate problems more quickly the next time?
Normal Wasn't Working
Especially when it came to the way we communicated and conveyed information within social services. We have an enormous capacity for logistics and problem solving through current technology. But when people enter a mental state of crisis, they often turn to the most familiar low-tech solutions.
Just think about a natural disaster you've seen hit your region in the last five years. How quickly did you see organized volunteer efforts pop-up still using printed sign-up forms on their website? How often did you hear about donations centers receiving too much of one supply but not enough of another? How many resources were only available to people who had cars to drive to the donation site, or to those with the right paperwork?
Our communities have an immense number of resources, but all too often we struggle to mobilize them effectively. There are people with data tracking skills, people with creative problem-solving skills, people with large communication platforms. We need to be able to connect these individuals in larger efforts when our communities are facing a crisis. We need communities to be more responsive so we can rise up and do better.
If We Go Back to How Things Were, We Lost the Lesson
What lessons do you want to hold onto and share from this global pandemic?
Grocery stores have learned new tactics for sanitation and logistics. In future health crises, grocery stores will be more proactive in setting up restricted hours for more vulnerable populations, making aisles one-way, and wiping down all grocery carts. They can expediently put things into motion faster so there is less confusion and cost. Grocery stores haven't lost the lesson.
Churches have learned how to engage more people and adapt to difficult circumstances. From an increased emphasis on online giving, to live-streaming services and drive-in preaching, there have been great efforts on the part of churches to stay connected with their members. Churches are learning how to use remote communication and collaboration tools to reach people they previously hadn't been able to.
Schools are using the tools they have had at their disposal to great effectiveness. Teachers are discovering new online resources to engage the minds of their students. Parents are being equipped through online portals with worksheets and assignments. The next time students have to miss an extended number of days, schools will have strengthened the systems in place to support their ongoing education.
The USDA via Meals for Kids has been amazing in this crisis! They have learned how to identify and connect families with local food resources. WIth the assistance of Baylor University, they have developed a pin map of the United States showing the location and times for food pick-ups across the nation. Every citizen can find a food pick-up site in proximity to their location. They have learned and can apply this approach during the next crisis so that no child needs to miss a meal. The USDA hasn't lost the lesson.
What lesson can you hold onto? As a local business owner, can you create a better sick policy for your employees and use remote collaboration tools to bridge the gap? As a local restaurant, can you use your new delivery models to serve more vulnerable populations throughout the year? As a parent, can you help coordinate with teachers to reinforce your child's learning at home?
One of my personal highlights from watching the response to this pandemic was connecting with local chapters of face mask makers in Alabama. Their efforts and coordination have been truly remarkable. Over 8,000 masks have been made by this group and 5,000 more are pending for local hospitals. In a similar effort, Level Design Company has made 950 face shields for the cause. Hundreds if not thousands are using 3D printers to make personal protective equipment.
Many will look back and say "I made a difference" and be inspired to serve in new innovative ways in the future. And so can you.
May We Rise Up and Do Better
One of the biggest lessons from the pandemic is that together we can find a better way. Harnessing the collective impacts of organizations and individuals alike is THE future of better society. I'm convinced of this. We each have something to contribute, to give, or to offer. We are each uniquely skilled and gifted in different ways. From the earliest days of civilization, mankind has depended upon different people deploying their skills and resources to accomplish bigger goals.
I argue the internet is underutilized in this space. To me the internet is an accelerant, nothing more. It can be used to accelerate both the spread of positive community development or destructive community discourse. We have advanced many vices and dividers. It's time we accelerate problem solving, systemic solutions, and layered approaches to society's greatest needs.
We have the technology available. We have the resources. And we certainly have the awareness - we can't stop talking about societal problems. Let's move from a social (talking) network to a shovel network where we get stuff done. Let's measure our collective effectiveness and pivot accordingly based on our outputs and market demand. Let's accelerate better outcomes for society. Let's use the internet to find modern approaches to age old problems.
We can do better. We should expect better. We should demand better. We would love to have your thoughts if you can think of a better way to do things. Please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here at Village Creed, we are inspired by individuals and organizations who want a better world. Our platform allows for cross-sector collaboration of resources, for event and volunteer management, and for organizational reporting. We make it easy for all citizens to find the resources they need in proximity to their location. We map all the needs, services, events, and volunteer opportunities in one place to help everyone maximize their collective impact.