The battle against Covid is taking place on two fronts – individual and governmental.
Individuals are expected to adopt safe practices and practice social distancing to the best of their opportunities & abilities.
Governments are –
- focusing on the suppression of illness by ensuring that communication of the virus is severely restricted. This has meant restricting all forms of physical communication (travel, work, entertaining, etc.) to the maximum extent possible.
- utilizing available healthcare & testing facilities to the best possible extent to cure those who are already afflicted.
There is a third front in the fight against Covid that must be actively encouraged to play its role.
This third front are the family & community ecosystems in which individuals participate.
It is these ecosystems who will provide individuals with –
- strength to overcome the negative psychological effects of isolation and disengagement from routine.
- the necessary care & support to fight the illness, especially when it is not serious, thereby also reducing the load on health delivery systems
- provide community-level economic support, especially as small/ tiny businesses & individual entrepreneurs see a dip in cashflows & livelihood
- provide quick response support to all individuals & families facing other forms of health & family of crises that have not gone away, but are given little attention in a time of crisis.
These community “ecosystems of responses” are the hidden glue that can help keep society and individuals retain their sanity in times of extreme social stress.
For decades these ‘ecosystems of response’ have been undermined as people have focused on institutional care, allowed families to disintegrate, and disregarded ecosystems like extended families, religions congregations, and local community activities.
Rebuilding these ‘ecosystems of response’, especially in highly urbanized environments speedily, is key to creating strength, positivity & resilience in individuals and in society.
Governments already have their hands full dealing with the crisis. Individuals are trying to make sense of what may be, a sudden disruption of their lives.
It is the ‘ecosystems of response’ lying dormant in society that must wake up and play a powerful, positive role in this crisis.
Religious organizations cannot limit themselves to shut down their places of worship and halting congregations. They must also actively move towards connecting with the members of their ecosystems and provide positive support.
Individuals need to step out of their narrow box comprising immediate family, and reach out and rebuild their large family ecosystems – and find ways to help weaker members of their ecosystem in whatever may they can.
Local community groups must interpret “social distancing” as “physical distancing” combined with drawing closer socially and psychologically. This means organizing community activities through digital and other means.
This is an opportunity for workplaces & leaders to turn the tide on employee engagements by taking positive action not just through a functional work-from-home response, but by building an “extended workplace model” that provides employees with a range of support mechanisms to help them not just function better, but also thrive in the new work environment.
The awakening of “ecosystems of response” may be one of the biggest payoffs of this crisis.
In our search for economic progress these deep and powerful structures of society have been ignored, and even actively disrupted.
On the other hand, focusing on “social distancing” without an equivalent balance from awakening “ecosystems of response” can leave society with an extraordinary human and social cost to pay, over & beyond the economic cost that will have to borne in any case.
The time to act is now.
This article is part of an ongoing series of articles on the Coronavirus crisis. Here are the links:
Part 2 – Fighting Covid: the missing link