Adapting to COVID-19: Sharing, learning, and supporting

Alan Hudson
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Over the last few weeks, the Global Integrity team has been coming to terms with the emerging crisis around COVID-19 and the implications for us personally, for the communities and countries where we have connections, for the partners we work with, for the issues we focus on (open government, integrity & anti-corruption, and public service delivery), and for our overall organizational priorities. 

We thought it might be helpful to share a bit about how we’ve been handling things; not because we think we have the answers, but because we think that sharing experience, learning together, and exploring collaboration, might help us and other nonprofits in similar situations to address the emerging challenges.

Four weeks ago, we were making the final revisions to our strategy and were excited about the next phase in our evolution: providing tailored support to governance reformers and change agents to strengthen their ability to address complex and fundamentally political challenges relating to corruption and the use of public resources. As the reality of COVID-19 and its potential impact hit home, things changed rapidly, although we believe our strategy—which we will adapt in the light of new realities—remains highly relevant, particularly given its focus on complex and systemic challenges with important governance dimensions.

We shifted to full teleworking as of March 16, and immediately focused on four areas that we felt were essential to organizational effectiveness in a time of crisis and a shift to remote working: providing clarity about organizational priorities; establishing norms and guidelines for communication amongst team members and our partners; ensuring that staff felt individually heard and supported in adapting to the new situation; and maintaining accountability for progress toward our organizational priorities. The transition to teleworking has gone well so far, although many colleagues are facing the additional challenge of looking after family members at both ends of the age spectrum.

We kicked things off last week with colleagues sharing their reflections at an all-staff meeting around the question of what living and operating with integrity — individual and organizationally — might look like at this current time. This values-focused discussion provided a useful means of encouraging individuals to reflect not only on how they were feeling, but also on how they, and we, should operate moving forward. The contributions were rich, touching on issues including the systemic consequences of individual actions; doing as much as we can to address the emerging challenges while operating with humility (we are not suddenly epidemiologists or public health specialists!); offering support and solidarity; being open, inclusive, and vulnerable; communicating carefully and kindly and not sharing misinformation; and, maintaining connections and strengthening community.

To take forward this discussion and think through its practical implications, we then moved to systematically consider how COVID-19 might impact the things we do, setting out the various questions we need to address and then delegating responsibilities to various staff members to dig deep on each question in turn.

Fig. 1: Priorities, resources & planning – Thinking through Global Integrity’s response to COVID-19 (click to view)

chart Priorities, resources & planning - Thinking through Global Integrity’s response to COVID-19

In some ways, this is little more than basic management, but the current context puts an even higher premium on getting it right. We have been making good progress exploring the key questions, and have appreciated the substantive and supportive conversations we have had with various partners and funders about the challenges that they, and we, are facing. This week, we will make further progress in regard to partners’ priorities, implications for projects, new ways in which we might deploy our skills and experience, and funders’ flexibility.

In thinking about new ways in which we might deploy our skills and experience, we have been inspired by Panthea Lee’s post, “We Need to Stop Waiting for Someone Else to Solve This,” and by the high bar that Accountability Lab set in their approach to COVID-19, including through their Civic Action Teams initiative. We also plan to give some serious consideration to Dave Algoso’s very practical advice about planning in a time of peak uncertainty in which he suggests considering implications in three domains (operations, programs, strategy) and with three time horizons (now, next, and later).

We’ve also appreciated the mutual support provided through the Open Gov Hub, including through the revitalised “Vegas Collective” that—convened by Global Integrity—brings together the leaders of Hub member organizations to share how they are handling things, learn from each other, and explore the potential for collaboration. We had a great discussion involving 14 member organizations last Friday, with weekly calls now planned. This week’s discussion is set to focus on two things: how organizations can find their niche, identifying how best they can contribute to efforts to address COVID-related challenges; and exploring potential collaboration amongst Hub members, for instance around following the money in regard to investments in tackling COVID-19, listening to communities’ feedback, and applying open government principles (see examples crowdsourced by the Open Government Partnership).

We are in a fortunate and privileged position, with teleworking a good option for us and sufficient funding to give us a degree of financial security. Our hearts go out to those individuals, families, organizations, communities, and countries dealing with acute challenges and with few resources to address them. Our minds are focused on how we should live this moment, leveraging our position, our skills, and our resources to strengthen connections and offer support to those at the sharp end of the crisis.

We look forward to staying connected with friends and partners near and far, asking partners about their priorities, listening to understand others’ needs, offering support where appropriate, and learning together along the way. If you would like to discuss whether and how our support might be helpful, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line, and do consider checking out a discussion on  “Adapting to COVID” to be hosted by Emma Proud and Jamie Pett on Thursday, April 2, at 11:30 a.m. (Eastern).

Alan Hudson
Alan Hudson
Executive Director

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