Accelerate the creation of a more fit and resilient tomorrow.
At the speed of lightening, Covid-19 has struck virtually everywhere, and continues to impact everything and everyone in its path. It’s also the biggest wake-up call of the century.
To protect society from harm, entire countries went into lock-down. Safety measures such as social (physical) distancing, self-isolation, and directives to use protective equipment and practices became mandatory.
In spite of accelerated emergency responses throughout the world to flatten the curve and find for a vaccine as quickly as possible, over 4 million are reported to have been infected globally. As of May 7th, there were 272,000 confirmed deaths globally, including 4,500 in Canada.
Domino Effect of the Coronavirus — Beyond Health
The Canadian economy lost almost two million jobs in April, a record high, as the closure of non-essential services to slow the spread of COVID-19 forced businesses to shutter temporarily. Many are on the brink of bankruptcy.
To put this into perspective, over 1,993,800 people lost their jobs in one month. Millions more have their hours and incomes slashed. And, according to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate soared to 13.0 percent as the full force of the pandemic hit compared with 7.8 per cent in March.
Entire sectors, especially Transportation, Hospitality, Entertainment and Retail are temporarily closed for business. Those who can, are pursuing alternative service and delivery options.
As an example, Canada’s $93 Billion Food Services industry, comprised of restaurants, bars, and caterers, hospitals and hotels, is the fourth-largest private sector employer in Canada, and represents 4 percent of the country’s GDP. Restaurants Canada predicts a drop of nearly $20 Billion for the second quarter of 2020 for the Food Services industry.
On the other end of the spectrum, Export Development Canada, says essential services have proved to be the least affected. It doesn’t seem that there will be much in the way of activity reductions in health care. Education has used virtual means to keep schooling going at all levels. And, of course, social assistance is in high gear meting out public support programs. Professional, scientific, and technical services are also better off, as many in this grouping are able to work virtually.
Beyond the stats and numbers: People are Hurting
People are being hit where it hurts the most: financial, food and shelter security. Workers who tend to have part-time or temporary work, or low-paying jobs are particularly vulnerable, and experiencing heavy job losses. To help ease the income losses, the Canadian government launched emergency financial support for qualifying residents and businesses.
When viewed collectively, the effects of the pandemic can be overwhelming. It also reveals the fragility of our way of life. Reinforces the urgent need for social and economic reform. And demands that we seek more resilient and innovative solutions for a just tomorrow.
Of course, that takes time. We know that. It is also critically important that we act now to mitigate the risks of not being ready for future crises of the magnitude of another global pandemic or the predicted economic and social fallout.
The time for action is now. We can do our part.
We can start by re-evaluating the social and economic values, practices, and behaviors we’ve become accustomed to. Ask ourselves: are they normal and healthy? If they are not, what and how can we transform or replace to support a sustainable and resilient future for humanity?
To get the ball rolling, here is a short check list of everyday observations for evaluation and to build on.
Is it healthy or normal?
-To isolate vulnerable citizens in segregated housing communities, further perpetuating a cycle hopelessness and poverty.
-To allow cities to be so polluted that residents can barely breathe.
-To promote financial prosperity, over human value, as the primary measure of business and personal success.
-To continue to design cities for cars instead of creating spaces for people to commune with nature, cycle, walk, socialize.
-To travel pressed together on public transit, face to face with complete strangers always rushing.
-To sit side by side, heads down, with all eyes glued to iPhones and mobile tablets.
-To live in a one room basement “studio” apartment at $800 a month without a proper kitchen or use of outdoor space.
-To encourage people to constantly buy more “things” on credit, that they can neither afford nor need — often tossed out as garbage.
-To overtly dismiss people because of their differences instead of getting to know them as valued members of society.
What can we realistically do about it?
We can ask the critical questions we avoided or sloughed off as unimportant that percolate below the surface of our home life, business occupations and the broader community. In that same process, identify how we can help to discover and devise solutions to the revealed problems.
Here are a few things I’ve been rethinking during the pandemic; and, intend to act on. Each reflects the fragility our social and economic systems.
Elder Isolation. When 92-year old Auntie Mary, who relies on essential support workers for food and basic healthcare, living alone in a small apartment: Why do friends, family and neighbors not visit her during normal times? And why is she not living with others?
Job Vulnerability. When George, a single dad of two teens, gets laid off from his job as a cook at a local restaurant — now dealing with an eviction notice after missing one payment: Why, as a skilled chef, is he not hired to cook healthy meals for families in his neighborhood and teach others how to do the same?
Housing Insecurity. When lack of affordable and inclusive housing, in urban communities, is at an all time high: Why are rows of buildings allowed to remain empty and boarded up for years as a land speculation deal?
When governments and private investors cannot seem to get around to making it a priority to foster healthy communities where people can live, learn, and work with purpose: why is this socially divisive thinking considered normal?
Wisdom loss. When seasoned leaders and experts who have lived through major crises and participated in leading business and social preparedness and transformation strategies and initiatives dismissed because they’re considered “too old and irrelevant” at 60: Why are they not being hired to mentor or partner with younger qualified leaders and experts? It’s a myth that our brains stop functioning at 60. If that were the case, why are retired medical doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals being asked to return to work on the Covid-19? Why did former Unilever CEO, Paul Polman who will be 64 this year, get hired by the United Nations Global Compact as Board Vice-Chair? How about Patagonia owner, Yvon Chouinard, age 82, an outdoor industry billionaire businessman who continues to mentor and inspire business for purpose? Why is German chancellor Angela Merkel, who will be 65 this year, recognized as the leader of the free world, as she continues to set new gold standards of responsible, mindful leadership?
Beyond the public stage, we all know people in our personal and professional circles, over age 60, who have the smarts, desire and for many, the need, to get back to work. And we also know younger workers who could benefit from their valuable wisdom and experience.
Regardless of scale or scope, let’s use the Covid-19 as a wake-up call to create a better future, now!
After pausing to rethink and reevaluate what works and what doesn’t, what actions can we take within our own circles of influence to create a better future?
Imagine this. . . and add your own thoughts.
Personal Health, Self Care. Take time to rethink what adds value to our life. Meditate. Walk. Socialize. Take frequent health breaks, ideally outdoors, and rewrite a personal life plan. Ensure it includes happiness, wellness, and gratitude — as well the security of food, shelter and relationships.
Family and Friends. Sit down with our family and friends to re-evaluate how we can improve the lives of each other and our respective communities.
Neighbours helping Neighbours. Have authentic conversations with neighbours vs. only superficial hellos and hand-waving. Get to know their names, what they do, what they believe, if they need help, or can help. This might even include a local purpose-focused hub for community projects, action learning and networking.
Responsible Leadership to Revitalize Communities. As the pandemic continues to pummel the economy, greater numbers of people are facing job loss, home and food insecurity and the loneliness from being cut off from loved ones and colleagues. Working with community stakeholders, leaders can initiate and partner with others to speed up the discovery and use of solutions designed to systemically address these fundamental life-changing challenges.
Enhanced Food Security. Food Banks are bracing themselves for a surge in demand higher than what they saw during the 2008 economic downturn. The Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto, one of the country’s largest, saw demand at its main location spike upwards of 53 per cent over the last month, according to CEO Neil Hetherington. Sadly, as reported by CBC, some food banks have already been cleared out and can’t replenish.
Bring Nature back to Cities. Lobby for more nature sanctuaries, parks, and outdoor gathering spaces for families, youth and elders.
The Wake-up Bell is Still Ringing — Create a Better Future.
We, as organizations, leaders, families, neighbours and citizens can all do our part to break the cycle of hopelessness for our most vulnerable, and to accelerate the creation of a more fit and resilient tomorrow.
Every person has a role to play, regardless of focus, scale or scope. Let’s take advantage of everyone’s ideas and ensure that we make the critical connections among the players that will be needed.
By working together, we can develop a better blueprint for the world of tomorrow and bring it to life, today!
If you want to share your related ideas and questions, please contact the author at email@example.com and follow @yasminglanville
About the author: Yasmin Glanville is a leading thinker and advocate in the space of innovation, systems-thinking, sustainability and leadership. Founder of Rethink Sustainability Initiatives, connecting leaders to shape the future; and, of Re-Ignite, an innovation focused business and communications consultancy for leaders and organizations in Canada and abroad.