Since the end of winter, most everyone on Earth has had to put up with varying degrees of lockdown restrictions in order to contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the Covid-19 disease, and in order to “flatten the curve” of this pandemic. This has, of course, affected us at SenseTribe as well. In this blog miniseries, we’re taking a deeper dive into each core team member’s experience of this.
For this week, we spoke to Ângela. She has a unique perspective in the team, having been in Asia herself at the beginning of the outbreak and witnessed the first measures over there.
How did you find out about SARS-CoV-2 and Covid, and what was your initial reaction?
Well I found out because I was in Thailand, and that was the first place after China to have been infected, and my reaction was… I found out in December actually, end of December, beginning of January, and my reaction was, “Oh, that’s a worry, but that’s OK.” I didn’t realize it would attain the proportions it’s attained, or that it’s still getting, it’s still spreading. For me it was something serious but that wouldn’t become a worldwide problem, that it would stay between China, Thailand, Asia, something like that. Local.
How did you first react when you heard of the lockdown measures that would be implemented? Did you understand the idea of “flattening the curve”?
It was a completely different atmosphere, because I was in Asia, so all this conversation was already happening before it happened in Europe. I wasn’t scared or anything. The way they started taking measures against Covid, I felt much safer there than in Europe, because they were taking people’s temperature everywhere, and all the sanitation things were happening. But as for where I was, it was an island, it was still OK. In January I was flying to Vietnam and traveling inside Thailand, so it was still OK. We were afraid, but not that afraid. And the lockdown happened where I was, an island in Thailand, at the beginning of March. And it was OK, because we could still go to the beach. It was more a matter of restaurants, but we could get takeaway. It was OK, we were just waiting to see when it was going to end because they were tracking all the cases, learning from Singapore, who did very well. So it didn’t scare me. I said, “if we have to do this, let’s do it.”
And about flattening the curve?
Yes, yes, I understood, it was very clear. The communication there was very good, it was in the local languages but also in English, so it was very clear to us.
It didn’t scare me. I said, “if we have to do this, let’s do it.”
How difficult was it to stay inside, not go out to see your friends, to have to work from home? What has been the hardest to deal with?
About working from home, I’ve realized that I’m on “lockdown” since I started working with SenseTribe, because I always work from home, so it didn’t change anything. But about staying inside, while I was in Thailand it also didn’t change much because I had a nice garden and nice surroundings, I could go to my swimming pool just across the garden, and so on. I could have my morning walks on the beach, so it wasn’t a problem, and in fact, about not seeing friends, again, I was in Thailand. I had some friends there but we weren’t seeing each other much. And when we did meet it was with takeaway meals and keeping our distances, it was OK. It didn’t scare me. I think the main problem on my side was when I came here in mid April, when I came to Europe, the fact when the measures are not as restrictive as we had in Thailand. It scared me then, because I said to myself, “How are these people controlling the spread?” because the people don’t realize how serious it is. In Thailand I think it was more restrictive. The people respected what the authorities were saying and how the police were running things there. Or at least they showed more respect than here in Europe. There was definitely more respect. Here (in Belgium) it was a little bit scary for me.
What tricks, if any, did you use to deal with the isolation?
I don’t know… It’s not a trick, but I think what changed is I got closer to people than before, when I wasn’t so close. It started happening in Brazil, so the relationships there started to become online. With these people it was always offline, but now that it was online it gave me the opportunity to join things that, if it weren’t for Covid, I wouldn’t have been able to join. Like birthday parties, even my birthday party! After six years I had my family at my birthday party. This was very new, and it was nice. I didn’t really have any tricks.
How has the lockdown impacted your personal and professional habits?
It gave me more work, since the beginning in Thailand. Since February I’ve been working much more than I expected. It’s crazy, because in the beginning, in February when it arrived in Europe, we already had this strategy for the flu campaigns we’re working on so we had to stop for a bit and rethink it, and create specific content for that. So it was a bit overwhelming because I had to readjust all the campaigns and review content, and comments were coming in with a lot of questions and we didn’t have the information. So far we still don’t have all the information. There was an impact because we needed a bit of clarity on how the things were going, and they were changing very fast. On the communications side it was like this.
On the personal side, I’m just afraid, and it’s very difficult to trust that everybody’s clean. I think it’s going to take a while, when you see somebody, even if you have a close relationship with them, if you don’t live with the person, to hug or kiss them. So far anybody could be infected and contagious. That’s something that’s very weird, you know the people, you are close to them, but you don’t trust them anymore. I’m so afraid to pass it to somebody, but I don’t have it. So far I don’t have it. But it can also be asymptomatic, so maybe we have it. At the personal level I think that’s the main concern that I have. We cannot trust anybody anymore, in that sense.
I’m just afraid, and it’s very difficult to trust that everybody’s clean
To what extent did you get used to lockdown conditions? Was it hard to open up again?
I don’t know if I would say it’s hard to open up. Because here I really don’t trust the way it’s managed in Europe. Maybe in Spain they did it much better than here in Belgium. I came back here from another level of measures where they were tracing the cases. But I’m also not comfortable going out because people don’t realize it, they get close to you and you say, “No, keep your distance”. And people don’t even know. People that we know understand and keep their distance, but not people we don’t know, in the supermarkets for example. You have people in line, and when it’s your turn you move, and they don’t do it, so for me it’s difficult. It’s not difficult to open up, but it’s difficult to realize that you still need to be careful with your behavior. And people aren’t. It looks like in Belgium people don’t care at all about it.
As of now, have any adjustments you’ve made in your life outlasted the full lockdown?
I didn’t really make any adjustments, because as I said before, my life was already on lockdown and I didn’t know it. I work from home, so… Ahh, there has been an adjustment. I’m not traveling as much anymore. And this is something that was hard because I had flight tickets to Brazil, and I was very excited to go back, to visit and do some things there. I had classes I already scheduled, and I couldn’t do it. And I have no idea when I’m going to be able to. But that’s the biggest adjustment, I can’t travel. It’s a very white-person problem, I know, but it’s still something I’m feeling. But on the other hand, I had scheduled a one-month trip, but once it opens up and I can travel again, I’ll definitely stay there for five months. I’m going to extend the trip and adjust some more to what I can and can’t do to have a proper holiday, which I haven’t had in a long time. That’s the main point, travel.
How have your fear and understanding of Covid evolved over time?
I was never really paranoid about Covid. I trust in science, even though I understand that the information may change. Now it’s something new, so there’s a lot of stuff that may be true today but no longer be true tomorrow. So I trust in the science and wait to see, if I get infected, I’ll just trust the doctors. I myself am not a doctor or a scientist, I can’t do anything. I just trust in that. We have to get used to living with the virus. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure it will not simply stop so we can get back to our normal lives. No, I think the adjustment is long-term.
I was never really paranoid about Covid. I trust in science, even though I understand that the information may change.
What are your expectations for the future? Will there be a second wave and another lockdown?
I think there will be a second, third and fourth wave, until we really have clarity regarding how to treat it, regarding whether once you’ve had it you’re immune. I definitely think there will be more waves. Regarding another lockdown, I’m not sure because in the current situation most companies and governments are starting to be more flexible. They see that people can do much more from home than they were doing before. And they’re also saving on a lot of costs because people aren’t traveling for work, electricity bills are lower, and so on.
If there is another lockdown, do you expect to deal with it in the same way? What lessons have you learned from this one and how would your approach change? What would you do the same and what would you do differently?
I would definitely be in a place where I have the beach nearby. I would definitely not experience a lockdown here in Belgium. I’d run off, because I feel more comfortable in other places than I do here. Even though I feel comfortable here because it’s easier to travel in Europe. But if we have another lockdown in Europe and other places are still open, I’ll definitely run away.
In this context the main goal was to co-design a conference in a more participatory manner with the aim of compiling the lessons learned during all previous conference cycles held in other European countries through the Design Thinking of the cycle: Land Management in Western Europe .
The events involved academics and policy makers from various countries, as well as experts and other parties interested in the subject.
What did we contribute?
Design and collaborative creation of the event
Facilitation of the participatory part
Graphic facilitation and materials for social networks.
Co-design of the event
We started a collaborative process by consulting the project team with the ORATE managers and the ORATE regional contact points in Western Europe in order to clarify the purpose of the event, its different interests and its needs.
We designed a one-day participatory process and involved the different actors in the preparation phase. We formulated the purpose explicitly following Sociocracy 3.0’s driver format:
During the different ESPON conferences, a collective understanding of the current challenges in land management in Western Europe was generated, which is incredibly valuable. We need to consolidate this collective wisdom to clarify the key knowledge issues where there is a gap and capture ideas that will be of value for ESPON’s future research agenda.
During the ESPON roadshow, an invaluable collective understanding of current challenges in spatial planning in Western Europe has been generated. We need to consolidate this collective wisdom to clarify knowledge gaps and capture insights that will be of value for ESPON’s future research agenda.
With our team we designed a collaborative process using the proposal formation pattern of Sociocracy 3.0 and the Pro-action Café format of participatory leadership.
The facilitation part
80 people participated in the event. We welcomed them with a check-in and by sharing the main purpose of the event. Then they were invited to listen to the part of presentations and to ask generating questions that were collected in a panel on the wall.
After lunch, we divided the participants into 5 groups (each covering one of the following areas: energy and climate change, well-being and inclusion, housing management, sustainable urban development, green planning) in round tables. The purpose was, in three rounds, for them to explore these issues in the context of the organization of territories. After each round we invited them to change tables, and a facilitator at each table was responsible for collecting the ideas. During the last round we shared a template to collect the lessons.
At the end of the session, each group’s results were presented to the director of ORATE and the Interior Minister of the Netherlands. All sessions were facilitated by Mira Bangel in collaboration with representatives of ERRIN and INOVA.
Marina Roa, our graphic facilitator, was present during the event to capture the key concepts and lessons learned during the event and synthesize them in a visual way.
It was not easy to find the common purpose of the event as there were different actors with varied interests. It was something we had to work on several times in order to go as deep as we needed to.
The collaboration between the three organizations involved in the development of the event was very fluid. Their openness to our ideas during the participatory and innovation parts made our work a lot smoother and allowed them to trust our work enough to let us guide them through the process. The collaboration of this new team worked and was even a pleasure, like a meeting of old friends.
Quote: “We can’t solve problems using the same way of thinking we used when we created them”.
The result of our collaboration with the Wellbeing Alliance to encourage alternative management models is now available
One of our main goals as a company is to help develop and encourage other ways to run businesses, which reflect or incentivize alternative business cultures based on new conceptions of the relationship between people and the services or products they deliver as well as the relationships between the companies and all their stakeholders. So when we were asked by the people at the Wellbeing Alliance to facilitate the development of a guide on alternatives to traditional business, we found this project to be very much aligned with our mission.
In this context started by developing a collaborative process aiming to include many stakeholders including a steering group of business and wellbeing economy experts. The purpose was to determine the scope, target audience, structure and content of the guide. Based on the input gathered we defined 7 key business dimensions, developed a self-assessment tool and a solutions framework, and carried out interviews with representatives of the organisations whose case studies are featured in the document. The idea behind the guide is to inspire decision makers of mid-sized organizations to explore the Wellbeing Economy space. This innovative document is a constant work in progress and will be regularly updated based on suggestions, recommendations, examples etc.
The guide begins with the observation that business today is at a crossroads between maintaining the traditional top-down structure and approach to labor, production and resource management on the one hand, and more humane and ecologically attentive approaches to business on the other hand.
The first risks leading to more burnouts, overworking and general misalignment of the companies’ priorities with those of their employees, and perpetuate a chronic overuse of resources and other types of impact on the environment.
The second aims to realign the priorities of the management with those of the staff by including the latter in the decision-making process, and with the needs of the environment by incentivizing a reorientation to more sustainable business and production practices.
But perhaps the most important aspect of this guide is to encourage companies to ensure that such transitions remain compatible with flourishing businesses and a functioning economy. Indeed, taking the wrong path toward human and environmental sustainability could cause the economy as a whole to incur costs it cannot afford.
The guide proposes to build a bridge between the two models at play, and highlights the importance of building it from both sides and with incremental steps, in order to both preserve the necessary underlying economy and not shake up the entire ecosystem, which might go too far, lead to several nefarious consequences such as pushback or resistance from the existing systems, or the transitions themselves getting out of control and causing negative side-effects or backlash. But mostly the guide stresses the need for a collaborative approach to such transitions, including every member of the company in the transition and striving for a model that integrates all aspects from labor to production and resource management.
In order to achieve this, seven general principles are outlined that aim to cover every aspect of business and its impact on employees and the environment.
The first is a recommendation for companies to redefine their business objectives to include not just stakeholder satisfaction but employee well-being and environmental sensitivity. These are important because such aspects have short, medium and long-term effects on everything from consumer demand to producer costs and regulatory frameworks, which will then in turn affect the conduct of the business.
The second principle involves ownership and governance, and recommends determining what the ownership structure of the company should look like. Companies nowadays are usually owned – and their priorities are therefore decided – by a small number of actors who are incentivized by shareholder satisfaction and dividends. But these incentives often end up at odds with the wellbeing of employees and with objectives of environmental impact.
The third principle, linked with the previous one, promotes participatory leadership. Traditionally companies are run through a top-down structure including the top stakeholders, heavily incentivized by corporate profits and dividends. So the idea here is to include employees not only in the ownership structure but also in the decision-making processes, in order to give them a say in their own work and their own objectives. Several tools exist already to develop this kind of participatory leadership.
The next principle mentioned is the potential of the community surrounding the business. Many modern companies forget that their activity affects not only their usual stakeholders (shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees and local authorities), but these people’s families, neighbors, and even sometimes entire local economies. It then becomes important to integrate the well-being of all those groups into the equation. A company needs to find its proper place inside its local community and acknowledge its role and impact in that wider circle.
Next the guide touches on the issue of product and service design, which aren’t always best suited to the wellbeing of people or the environment. The recommendation here is to embrace a more circular production cycle. This is one where resources are recycled as much as possible, where important parts of the products themselves can be reintegrated into the manufacturing process, with a view toward achieving a completely environmentally neutral supply chain.
Another crucial aspect of such new models of management is the bottom line. Indeed, whatever the business model a company chooses, that will ultimately be its main incentive. Redefining the corporate objectives is a crucial step toward solving this issue, but there will always be aspects that are difficult to quantify and therefore incentivize. As such, the next principle recommends including social and environmental impact in accounting and ROI calculations, so as to motivate the entire business to actively pursue and achieve these objectives. Indeed, if financial success is linked to social and environmental impact, it is in the company’s best interests to take on and implement impact policies.
The final principle detailed in this document is that of learning together.Indeed, there is no single path to success, and some of them are bound to fail. But in order to truly take note and advantage of such issues, they must be noticed and addressed in the best way possible. Not just at the scale of a single employee but at the scale of the entire company. The economy is a vastly complex animal, after all, and it’s normal that not every single factor can be considered in every decision. It therefore becomes important to make decisions based on incomplete information and adjust course later. But the best way to learn from these mistakes is to include everybody, allow them to fail on occasion and encouraging them to learn from such failures.
Of course, no substantial change is possible without some way or other of measuring said change. For this reason the guide also provides a self-assessment framework for a business’ progress on these fronts. It’s not completely equivalent to an external assessment and should be understood as such. But it is a way to subjectively measure it and, if handled honestly, can nonetheless provide valuable insight. In short, it involves evaluating the company’s performance on seven different axes and plotting the status of the company’s transition on a radar chart, with the center point (all indicators at 0%) being the purely traditional business aspects, and the points along the outer edge (indicators at 100%) representing fully transformed aspects. This tool has its limitations, of course, being subjective and open to interpretation, but it can give an indication of how the company feels it has come along. The dimensions to be plotted on the radar chart reflect the seven dimensions detailed in the main part of the guide. Of course, one single measure is pointless with such a tool. So the most important thing is to plot the perceived status of the company’s transition at various stages in order to get an idea of the change over time.
The guide finishes with a selection of possible solutions to address the question of this transition. It is by no means exhaustive and any solution adopted by such a company will need to be adapted to suit that company’s context, environment, staff and other factors. The list contains, for each of the dimensions addressed by the guide, some existing tools, processes, consultancies, guidelines or regulatory frameworks that any business can choose to adopt. For example, one solution proposed for the dimension of leadership and participation is Sociocracy 3.0, a series of participatory decision-making processes and tools aimed at ensuring more agile, flexible, effective and yet still democratic management practices and choices.
This guide aims to help provide businesses with insights, ideas, principles and tools to ensure an effective and successful transition to a more humanly and ecologically sustainable mode of action. It is targeted at managers, decision makers and change makers within companies around the world who are committed to pursuing such alternative business processes. It provides an analysis of the principles involved, case studies to illustrate each of them, a self-assessment framework and a selection of tried and tested solutions to choose from. Remember, though, the guide remains a work in progress and will be updated regularly. It is not intended to serve as an absolute guide and in no way guarantees successful transitions or significant increases in impact, but as a guide to help people reflect on their companies’ status, aims and progress. It is in no way intended to be the sole solution and its precepts do require adapting to each business according to the specificities of its activity or sector. But if adopted properly by sufficiently committed and motivated people, there is no reason why this can’t be a first step toward a more sustainable, humane and ecologically respectful economy. And those who adopt its recommendations may eventually become the pioneers and role models upon which the future economy will be built.