Cometh the hour, Cometh the Call for Collaborative Action Against Covid-19
5th May by Sue Adkins
AAW founder Mark Astarita has worked with corporate responsibility leader Sue Adkins for many years to encourage companies and charities to collaborate and engage in order to be better prepared and able to respond to emergencies, following on from the 2004 tsunami.
With a background in business, and social innovation, Sue is a pioneer in creating partnerships with purpose and for over a decade was the International Director at Business in the Community. Sue is credited with establishing Cause Related Marketing in the UK and in markets around the world and is the founder of The Collaborative Action Network, providing independent advice and support to create sustainable strategies and impactful partnerships, through collaborative action.
Below, Sue makes the case for collaborative action by individuals, communities and businesses in the face of Covid-19, highlighting key emerging themes and advice around leadership and creative thinking to help us all focus on a collective shared purpose and future.
Facing unprecedented times globally, this COVID-19 challenge calls for focus, creative thinking, cooperation and collaborative action. COVID-19 is impacting us all, in all walks of life, to the core and dramatically demonstrates our inter-connectivity and interdependence. It is profoundly challenging human health and the human spirit. From a business point of view, this is a defining moment for leadership and action.
Whilst the safety of employees, customers and business partners is paramount, the strength of these relationships will be exposed. Leadership will be tested and commitment to individual and business values will be scrutinised.
Are the businesses' well-espoused values just platitudes on the board room wall and the front cover of the annual report, or are they genuine and do they guide the business‘ actions?
Whatever the sector, a valuable contribution can be made, and is required. Across the national and international health systems, from the incredible NHS and its staff, to the whole health eco system, everywhere, the skills, commitment, and resilience of the individuals and the teams are evidenced, daily. Under these hugely challenging circumstances, where resources are being stretched to their limit, these individuals and systems, are the heroes. They are crucial; they are at the heart of the battle plans and they are on whom and on what we all depend.
Apart from the medical, health and pharmaceutical sectors, corporate leaders are responding across every sector, around the world. From Banking, across Manufacturing, to the food sector, the Supermarket sector and many others, strategies are developing and becoming increasingly comprehensive, as the context develops daily.
From employee support, business model flexibility, partnering through the supply chain, to ensuring product delivery for the consumer, sectors and individual businesses are navigating their way through. With this shared purpose, products, services and relief are being delivered through collaborative action in support of the national and international collective effort.
Are we beginning to see glimpses of the world transitioning into a new world order? Are we seeing a movement from a preoccupation with ‘I, me and mine’ towards a focus on ‘we, us and ours’? Will this current transition introduce a lasting change?
As COVID-19 attempts to take hold, the depth of the impact, and potential impact of the virus, is being felt, and beginning to be understood. In this fast- moving context, which highlights our interconnected and interdependent world like never before, inspiring examples of leadership, creative thinking and collaborative action are being demonstrated daily, by individuals, communities and businesses. Key themes are also emerging.
1. Add Value to your Values
Now is the time, and we are beginning to see businesses demonstrating the commitment to their values and to come together with colleagues and partners, to be the best that we can be. It is time to get creative, to be collaborative and to add value to those values, for the common good.
2. Lead with Purpose and Consolidate Trust
Business leadership and purpose are being tested like never before. Nurturing, building and demonstrating values, consolidating trust and reinforcing purpose are essential. Resilience and commitment are critical. Inspiring approaches and examples of collaboration, cooperation, partnership, determination, appreciation and creativity, large and small, are emerging everywhere. Supply chains, systems and processes are being put through their paces, as together we focus on a shared future.
3. People First
People underpin the success of the fight against COVID-19 whether they be the doctors and nurses, al those within the health service eco system, the production line workers, or the sales assistants on the shop floor etc. Recognising and supporting employee health, safety and wellbeing is fundamental. The impact of the virus on the individual’s physical, financial and health and well-being, is huge. To help enable the success of the business strategies to combat and overcome COVID-19 and its impact, people, the employees must come first.
4. Review, ‘Re-set’ & Re-purpose for a Shared Purpose
COVID-19 is putting untold pressure on existing business models. Collaboration and change are the new certainties. Remote working is the new normal, business continuity plans, the new framework. As companies around the world review the new context, adapt their business models and re-set new ways of working with a shared purpose, to ensure safety, operational resilience and a positive shared future.
5. Leverage the Power of your Brand
Consider the power of the business and the brand and how it can be used to support the collaborative effort against COVID-19. Indeed, according to the special edition COVID-19 Edelman Trust Barometer, 65% of consumers reported that how brands respond to the pandemic will have a "huge impact" on their likelihood to buy their products. Given the circumstances, if the business is currently or plans to embark on an advertising, marketing and communications campaign consider, why. Consider its purpose, whether it is appropriate and if it would be more effective to re- purpose part or all of plan, to support and reinforce the public health messages, in line with the global imperative to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.
6. Deliver and Build on your Community Commitments
The symbiotic connection between business and communities is palpable. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Community investment today has never been more important. Whilst developing additional corporate responsibility and community investment strategies, in relation to COVID-19, it is critical to deliver on the commitments already made. Commitments, small and large together, inspire, engage, and challenge partners, competitors and others in your networks to ‘lean-in’. Together these actions support the local, regional, national and international efforts, to beat COVID-19.
7. Re-use & Repeat
So often the push is for new ideas and solutions. Actually, however, there is often value is to be found in reviewing, re-using and repeating previous solutions, adapted for the current context, whether they be technological or practical. The question is whether and how this previous solution can be adapted and targeted toward the COVID-19 challenge.
8. Show appreciation
The whole world, with a shared purposed is in this race against COVID -19. This is likely to be a marathon not a sprint. Given the enduring effort and commitment required, the importance and power of saying ‘thank- you’ can never be underestimated and given the current context has never been more important. Dealing with what has been described as a ‘tsunami of patients’ and indeed a tsunami of challenges and changes, with many more to come, it is vital to recognise the unprecedented pressure, effort and expectations on everyone. It is essential to say thank you, a message which has been so beautifully communicated by the ‘Clapping Hands for Carers’ campaign, that is taking hold, around the world.
These are unprecedented times. Our interconnection and interdependence are beyond doubt. The impact on lives and livelihoods is, as yet, untold. COVID-19 is the great equaliser. At times like this, we are reminded of the strength and endurance of the human spirit. In the midst of this terrible time, there is a chance to seize the opportunity to transition to a new framework, moving from a world of ‘I, me and mine’ to a world of ‘we, us and ours.’ There is a chance to focus on a collective shared purpose, a shared future, a shared destiny. We have the opportunity to develop a new world order, to build back better and to return the balance between people, planet and profit.
The individual and collaborative efforts taking place in every village, town, country and region around the world, battling against COVID-19, demonstrate that our shared future, is in our hands. These challenging times demand focus, flexibility, creative thinking and collaborative action. Leadership, relationships and the human spirit are being tested to breaking point. There are glimpses of a transition to a new world order, and opportunity to build back better, to embed sustainable development and to create a fairer society and a more sustainable future. The question is, what will our individual and collective legacy be?
Cometh the hour, cometh the call for collaborative action against COVID-19.
Founder & CEO