Like every other organization globally, we’re working hard to adapt in the face of the unprecedented public health and economic crisis we now face. Of course, our plans for the next 2-3 months, and possibly longer, have now been transformed dramatically- and we are working with our teams to find the right ways forward. Here’s what we’ve done operationally:

  1. Guidance– provided detailed guidance to all staff on ways forward during the pandemic including advice on adapting policies, regulating behaviors, providing emotional support and re-thinking approaches and programs. We have also shared this guidance in a variety of fora online, and on social media, to help inform the work of other organizations within civil society.
  2. Parental Support– Recognizing the gendered nature of childcare responsibilities, now that many schools are closed, we have put in place a series of policies to ensure necessary support for our team members- particularly women- working from home, who have children. We’ve also updated our health policies and reviewed our health insurance plans to make sure we’re all covered.
  3. Learning– Begun the process of re-thinking work-plans, budgets and timelines with all Country Directors, and a process of shared learning across country teams as to how they are adapting and thinking-through these changes. We are also collaborating around how they are role-modeling work-from-home behaviors for their teams; and finding thoughtful and innovative ways to maintain team cohesion and support while we all adapt to this new configuration.
  4. Information– Collated a variety of materials from around the world on how best to deal with the outbreak personally and organizationally into a Google Drive folder, which we have shared with all staff and have encouraged them to read.
  5. Coordination– Begun a series of daily calls with the management of the organization to ensure shared understanding of ways forward and to plan changes as they take effect. We have also begun a series of organizational webinars to bring team-members together, share lessons, brainstorm ideas and create a shared sense of solidarity during the outbreak.
  6. Thought Leadership– Written a widely shared piece in the Washington Post about the lessons we can learn for this outbreak from our experience with Ebola in Liberia, as a starting point for amplifying learning around this crisis. We have also participated in a variety of webinars over the past week with other civil society organizations to share ideas and brainstorm about how best to respond to current realities.
  7. Safety and Security Fund– Re-iterated to all staff the existence of our Safety and Security Fund, a facility we put in place two-years ago with the support of the Tecovas Foundation to provide immediate, emergency support to any staff member who may need it, at any time, in relation to an emergency. We are underpinning this with daily risk assessments with our teams; and daily team check-ins.
  8. Duty of Care– Accelerated our Duty of Care implementation to ensure that our staff globally have the physical, digital and emotional support they need during this crisis, including training on relevant security issues; safe access to all Accountability Lab documents and tools virtually; and 24/7 access to phone counselling from well-being professionals.   

Meanwhile, programmatically, this is what we’ve started to do: 

  1. Fact-Checking– We’ve launched a multi-country grassroots team to collectively fact check and curate content related to the coronavirus, to push back against fake news and ensure that citizens are well informed of the risks. We are coordinating with other efforts in certain contexts where we can help (we are contributing to Animal Politico in Mexico for example);
  2. Debunking Rumors– building on our experience after the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal in particular, we have developed daily bulletins in local languages that are debunking rumors, fighting negative feedback loops and providing validated information to communities in Nepal (Nepali), Pakistan (Urdu), South Africa (Afrikaans); Mali (Bambara) and Niger (Hausa). These bulletins collect verified information for citizens to help them navigate the crisis in local languages in specific places- and address not just the health issues themselves but the concerns around the response that people are worried about. The bulletins are shared widely on social media, e-mail and with local community radio DJs on a daily basis, and are used as the basis for radio shows and Q and A sessions with listeners.
  3. Positive Storytelling– We have begun a new social media campaign (#coronaheroes)- in keeping with our Integrity Icon campaign- that is focusing on positive story-telling and “naming and faming” around the corona virus. Every day we will be posting stories of people taking personal responsibility during the crisis, lifting them up during the bad news and explaining why overcoming COVID-19 is a collective effort.
  4. Creative Engagement– moving beyond webinars and repurposing our dedicated Whatsapp channel to community-build through a series of interactive accountability events on Whatsapp, including virtual film showings and discussions in Nepal and Pakistan; concerts with our Voice2Rep musicians in Nigeria; the development of popular songs to encourage safe anti-corona virus behaviors in Liberia; and “Meet the Integrity Icon” conversations across all countries.
  5. Imagining How To Rebuild Public Trust– once corona virus comes to an end there will be lingering suspicions and issues of isolation and distrust among individuals and between individuals and those in power. We are beginning to think in a longer term way about the impacts the pandemic might have on accountability, engagement and conceptions of community. We hope to reactivate public spaces and continue to build unlikely networks- online and offline- as quickly as we can to allow for collective sense-making, idea-generation and problem-solving.  

Lots more to do, but this is a start. Stay safe and let us know if you have ideas or would like to collaborate- this is, of course, going to have to be a collaborative effort. Feel free to reach out at: [email protected]