What is the best that could come from this crisis?

The Corona crisis is putting immense pressure on societies, economies, and governments around the world.

 

Looking beyond the crisis, the Utrecht University has asked researchers from across the world and different disciplines what good may eventually come from this crisis. Their responses are listed below.

THEME: GOVERNMENT

Global problems are linked directly to local solutions

“How the issue is handled at the moment seems a 'scale mismatch' (Castells): a global problem which is experienced at the local level is being handled at the national level.

Shift the focus to collaborations of cities (transnational city networks) in combination with the UN - WHO. [We can] adopt and adapt the successful experiments which are being conducted in the sustainability domain.”

Karin Geuijen, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Democratic reforms in the United States

"Watching these events unfold in the United States offers precious few opportunities for optimism.

One hope I have for long-term change for the better, however, is the more widespread use of mail-in (absentee) voting. Some U.S. states have, quite alarmingly, restricted access or increased the burden for citizens to vote in recent years, chipping away at the Voting Rights Act.

It’s my hope that this crisis, occurring during a presidential election year, will lead to fewer restrictions on the use of mail-in ballots for all citizens, which should promote voter turnout—a positive outcome for democracy."

 

Mallory E. Compton, Texas A&M University, United States

E-governance strengthening public institutions

“When public safety is at serious risk, individual freedoms can be compromised. There is an emerging consensus that, in a context of a pandemic, extreme, aggressive and draconian measures such as lock-downs need to be enforced to save lives.

The possibility of holding public officials to account and become more responsive  has doubled during this pandemic. But the question is: should this only be possible during pandemics, how about when pandemics are over?

Digital technologies  are increasingly becoming vital in delivering services to citizens. E-governance and e-government initiatives should be streamlined and strengthened in public institutions.”

Jesper G Katomero, University of Dodoma, Tanzania

The power of transparency

“If positive lessons emerge out of this tragedy, they are likely to be about the provision of truthful information to the public, based on the best available expertise, and about swift action, based on emergency powers.

Public acceptance of, and compliance with, radical restrictions on civil liberties require the utmost honesty and trust. The unfolding global tragedy will produce more conservative interventionist government; but governments will get a strict schooling in transparency and in collective action.”

Grant Duncan, Massey University, New Zealand

Government tranform into platforms for collaboration

“The best that could happen is that the public sector was transformed into a platform organization that systematically invite relevant and affected actors to co-create public value solutions.

 

Recent years have seen a growing interest in co-creation as a tool for mobilizing societal resources, stimulating creative problem solving and building a broad-based ownership to public solutions.

 

However, there is still a tendency for public organizations to rely sole on the own ideas and resources when addressing complex and pressing problems. […]

Perhaps the Corona crisis will lead the way. At least, it is crystal clear that no single actor can go it alone when solving the massive health crisis, we are confronting.”

Jacob Torfing, Roskilde University College, Denmark

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THEME: SOCIETY

Shared vulnerability creates a shared identity

“As the virus originated in China, initially we observed an increase in negative reactions towards the Chinese-origin inhabitants of the Netherlands. They were seen as potentially contagious and therefore a threat to the “healthy” Dutch population.

Now that many non-Chinese Dutch people also suffer from this disease or are carriers of the virus, the negative reactions towards the Chinese-Dutch should subside. And perhaps this can even go a step further – we might all get united by the fact that we are just as vulnerable as other ethnic groups are, and this sense of shared identity and shared fate could even foster positive relations between groups.

This would be in line with the common ingroup identity model in social psychology, whereby a common overarching identity helps reduce intergroup prejudice.

Borja Martinovic, Utrecht University, Utrecht University

Cities take care of the world’s most vulnerable people

“Solve the most dangerous situations first, among these the refugee camps in which people live cramped, in non-hygienic circumstances, and without proper health care.

[We can] adopt and adapt the example of cities all over Europe who offer to welcome the most vulnerable people who are now living in irregular camps, for example in Greece”

Karin Geuijen, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Feeling more connected than ever

“In my personal life, I have found that, even though it is hard to balance work-household and home-schooling, I have a lot more quality time with my kids and partner.

Moreover, instead of dividing time between family/ friends in different locations, we can speak to them all easily and, if desired, on daily base online.

So, we feel more connected than ever, and we will try to keep this going in the future.”

Yvonne Vercoulen, UMC Utrecht, The Netherlands

Appreciate professionals, your partner and yourself

“Greater appreciation for professionals that are now deemed vital (health care professionals, teachers, cleaners, truck drivers, supermarket employees, news journalists). Means we start treating these people with respect, in daily interactions, pay and working conditions.

It also provides opportunity for better task division within households. Now that both partners cannot escape the daily chores, they might rethink who is spending how much time on what and appreciate all the unpaid work that is being done.

Last, goodbye to FOMO and greater self-knowledge, more focus on what we find important instead of what we want others to believe about our exciting lives.”

 Fenella Fleischmann, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Reforming the Labour market– towards an unconditional basic income

“Hopefully the current economic crisis acts as a catalyst for an unconditional unemployment benefit as it reveals the problematic separation of the German labour market between standard and non-standard employed.

Most severe affected by the shutdown are the irregular and self-employed in catering and the cultural sector who are often not entitled to the insurance-based Arbeitslosengeld I and need to rely on the tax-funded Hartz IV instead. Regarding the latter, the government already eased bureaucratic obstacles and temporary suspended means tests.

This can be first steps to a permanent solution, perhaps even the introduction of an unconditional basic income.”

Florian Spohr, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany

Eating less, but better animal products

“Zoonosis is the phenomenon whereby animals transfer diseases to humans. Examples include mad cow disease, swine flu, and now Covid-19. The large-scale breeding and consumption of animal products greatly increases the risk of zoonosis.

 I hope Covid19 will accelerate the shift to more plant-based diets. What each of us can do to make this happen is to reduce our consumption of animal products. For instance by shifting to “less but better”. Examples are the EU-protected regional specialty foods I study, e.g. eating a little bit of “Gouda North-Holland” instead of a lot of cheap cheese.”

Martijn Huysmans, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

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THEME: ORGANISATIONS

Stepping-up moral leadership

“I hope that government leaders at all levels of their organization use this crisis to step up as moral leaders.

Now, more than ever before, employees will look to what their leaders decide and do and it will shape their ideas about what ‘really’ matters to their leaders and the organization.

So involve employees in explicit discussions on moral dilemmas and judgments, discuss how priorities are set and the interests of different stakeholders are weighed, allow employees to express their ideas and concerns and make a true effort to connect and relate to them. It will set the tone for years to come.”

Leonie Heres, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

A case study to design online work

What we could learn from this crisis is that ‘mother nature’ gives us a ‘case study’ on how to save the planet by providing opportunity to design good online working solutions.

Perhaps, online working is the way forward to counter problems such as climate change, traffic congestion and resource scarcity.

Because, it enables us to work more efficient. We will spend less time travelling, there will be less cars on the road and consequently there will be less pollution. Furthermore, resources can be used more efficiently. Instead of needing a computer both at work and home, the same pc at can be used for work activities and privately.

Mira Scholten, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Make e-meetings common practice

“The most changing event in work is switching to online-meetings.

When  moderated well, they are more efficient, no distractions, no one is blocking your view, and it saves a lot of traveling costs, both time and money, and pollution. Plus, it makes meetings and seminars accessible to everyone from all locations and backgrounds.

I think that we as scientists, with our ever increasing number of conferences in exotic places, and flying people all around the world, should reconsider this and make e-meetings common practice in the future.”

Yvonne Vercoulen, UMC Utrecht, The Netherlands

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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No694266)