24 Mar How to be socially responsible in the time of coronavirus
The crisis in Serbia of any kind is not something unusual that has happened. In cycles of 3-5 years, we have some kind of crisis – the bombing, the murder of the Prime Minister, the floods, the migrant crisis and now the Corona virus or covid-19. It should be certain that we have learned how to act in times of crisis by now. However, it takes a period of adaptation to a specific situation, in this case to the isolation, discipline, personal hygiene measures and household hygiene measures. All this is explained in detail on the official site dedicated to the corona virus: covid19.rs
When we adapt our business environment, company, employees, people to the new circumstances, the first week has passed and we are entering the second week of the crisis. Then there is a basic human need – to help others, the most vulnerable … but we have no idea how.
HOW CAN I HELP?
As I have taken an active part in at least two of these crises as an individual or through organizations where I have worked, I can give some practical advices that can be used by companies that would like to be socially responsible or civil society organizations dealing with citizens, maybe local governments or individuals. I will try to organize these tips into several sections and explain them through examples:
1. “HELP IN YOUR SEGMENT OF EXPERTISE BECAUSE IT WILL BE THE BEST HELP”
What it means in practice? Focus on your own resources. Good examples are Porn Hub and SBB Internet Provider, both companies unlock and make premium content available for free, museums open free online tours, bookstores offer online content free of charge, coach sent me a list of exercises and home training links. “Ok, it’s logical”, you say. But this is not always the case, I will show you the example of Hackathon, an event that brought us together, people from the NGO sector and IT developers to create cool applications for citizens in 2014. While we were at Hackathon we were overwhelmed by the news of massive floods in Serbia. Our colleague, the young IT developers immediately wanted to be in the front line in order to prevent rivers from spilling out by doing physical work!!! We managed to convince them that it is much more useful to stay where they are and engage their smart heads to create applications for mapping the most vulnerable areas affected by the floods. Simply give your maximum in your domain. Outcome was great. They made applications that proved extremely useful during whole period of floods. Also, this situation was specific in a sense that we all found ourselves in the same circumstances and just adjusted our task to the situation. However, it is not realistic to expect from us in everyday settings to come with brilliant ideas just like that while we are sitting at home.
2. CONNECTING, ORGANIZING AND LEADING
Although the first step is to get connected. Fine! In this moment there is Facebook group “Assistance to persons in quarantine” which has couple of thousand members so far. The group was created to connect on the one hand people who are able to help and on the other the most vulnerable elderly fellow citizens who needs help. This group was launched right after the state of emergency was announced, many people including me, offer their help for a particular part of the town. The first step which is “get connected” is solved. Still, nothing further happens. There is no coordinator who would actually connect volunteers and those who need help, articulate resources and set clear rules for implementation. I saw on the group today that unprotected volunteers (without masks and gloves) brought bags from supermarkets to the older people’s apartments. That’s why leadership is necessary. Experience has taught me that in times of crisis clear instructions are significant which means that only matters what you write down (for instance, coordinator gave clear instructions on the meeting, but people on the field have different ideas of the realization during the crises because of the panic, lack of time…etc). Here’s a practical example: while I was working as a coordinator for the organisation that provided medical assistance in Greece during a migrant crisis, scabies outbreak happened in the largest camp. First what we did: organizing a meeting for all camp staff, including medical team and presented clear protocol that consisted five simple steps to follow and share that written instruction with everyone. Although, supervision was necessary in order not to the entire community in the camp became infected. In this case also: discipline, isolation and hygiene were crucial. Main factor to ensure that were clear instructions and coordination.
It seems that in the Facebook group “Assistance to persons in quarantine”, it is necessary to train the coordinators first because they are the most important link in organizing citizens. Self-organization does not exist. In this context, I would heartily recommend this online Leadership, Organizing and Action: Leading Change course to anyone interested in community organizing.
3. RIGHT AND TIMELY SHARE OF INFORMATION
During the crisis, one of the most important factor which is a precondition for successful functioning, handling and leading crises is the development of a reliable and credible channel for transferring information. As soon as you establish your channels, you should think about your target audience. Starting point is the internal audience – your management team, the decision-makers (board of directors). Ideally first step would be to make a viber group for the management team, then by industries or departments – sales team, creative team etc. I suggest viber groups as a quick solution to circulate information and notification. Of course, it can be emails or some other internal channels. Just remember that nothing is implied in a crisis and instructions and information must be accurate. Secondly, let’s move to the general public – your website, social networks, Instagram, Linkedin, FB pages and groups. The same rule applies – precise, timely and accurate. You have an admin who is responsible for content placement, and it is possible to you can have more editors, but your admin is responsible … In this case, we are not discussing the most beautiful photo of our product or brand but being conscious regarding every word and source that the information comes from. At the beginning of the crisis, the Internet was flooded by information about corona virus that were not grounded in the profession, nor could it be found on respectable sites such as the World Health Organization
So, there is no fear of sharing and posting news (this is necessary), but you need to check your source 3 times, do not share fake news on your channels because it is the way to lose credibility, and thus the audience, or your customers or clients. On the other hand, you cannot be invisible in a crisis (let’s cover ourselves with a blanket and wait for it to pass). Not at all. Again, focus on your segment of work (eg, if you are educator then focus on the online courses that are available) and be fast and accurate in that segment.
I insist on the speed and precision in times of crisis because of the following reasons that I will give through an example. At the beginning of the refugee crisis in Belgrade, we founded Refugee Aid Serbia and invited citizens to bring help in Miksaliste, we informed them via the FB page Refugee Aid about what was needed at that moment (canned food, clothing and footwear). We also used the national media extensively to inform citizens and they responded in large numbers. We were quick, but not precise. At the moment, we found ourselves overwhelmed with women’s wardrobe, heels, men’s shoes that are not practical for long walking, while on the other hand we were missing blankets, comfortable shoes and baby food… not to mention that we had a bunch of meat cuts and pates that our target the group does not consume. Consequently, it was the hard way to learn why it is crucial to be precise, not only fast. From that moment, we communicated on a daily basis to the citizens what was needed that day and in which quantities.
“THE ROAD TO THE CORONA VIRUS IS PAVED BY THE BEST INTENTIONS”
These are also the tips that seem important at the moment. As it says, “The road to the corona is paved with the best of intentions” :). It is necessary to think carefully about how we can help, benefit the community in the period of Corona virus, without endangering the people we help, our colleagues and the household.
If you have any idea how to help the community and you are not sure how to implement it feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be more than happy to advise … the same applies to crisis communication. It turns out to be my specialty.