Over the past several weeks we’ve all been inundated with information, ideas, and advice around the unprecedented process of adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. At my organization, Maliasili, we’ve had dozens of conversations with partners, dispensing advice on all subjects, and gotten a lot of valued advice from board members, funding partners and other colleagues as well.
So here’s a current distillation of my top five tips for organizations to keep top of mind throughout this period:
1. Take care of your team. Prioritize your team’s well-being above all else and enable your team to manage the stresses of the unfolding situation. Devote more time to connecting (remotely) and to talking about personal challenges, not only work or professional matters. Your team is the support network for your organization and everyone’s well-being is key to the organization being productive and responsive during this period.
2. Agility is key. Now is the time to be adaptive and agile in everything you do. Work plans, budgets, and priorities all need to be reconsidered and reorganized- and you may well have to do that every few weeks for the next 6-18 months. So start evaluating your priorities- what you can do, what is most urgent, what can wait etc. - and don’t stop…Agile organizations will thrive in this situation while those that can’t adapt quickly won’t.
3. Step up for those you serve. For partners, communities or clients- those groups who your organization serves- this will be a time of tremendous stress, difficulty, and perhaps suffering. For any social sector organization, no matter the challenges you are facing, now is your time to be there for your constituencies and support them in flexible, responsive, and perhaps new ways.
4. Communicate. During a crisis, when changes are happening frequently, you need to significantly increase the frequency of both internal and external communications. Teams need to meet and talk more frequently to stay coordinated. Funders and key external partners will want to know what is going on, how you are doing, and how you are responding. Show that you are on top of the situation and thinking and acting strategically about your responses.
5. Crises are opportunities. ‘A crisis is a terrible thing to waste’ goes the familiar refrain. The crisis will create tremendous opportunities for social change and transformation- just witness the scale of behavior change that has already taken place globally in recent weeks ways that were previously unthinkable. These opportunities may take time to materialize, but if you’re in the business of social change, it will be critical to use this period well- and to have the bandwidth and resources to do so.