Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the widest and fastest-spreading public health emergency for a century and has thrown our worlds into unknown territory. In countries where the virus has taken hold, health systems have been overwhelmed, and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to die. Companies are going bankrupt, many immediately, some being kept on life support by government intervention with the resulting loss of millions of people’s livelihoods. The very fabric of our society is being torn apart, with our freedom of movement and social lives restricted in ways most countries have not seen outside of wartime. Assumptions about the very nature of the relationship of business, society and the eco-system, must all be re-examined.
The highly interconnected nature and complexity of our societies means that the required response to COVID-19 is way outside the purview and capacity of government on their own. An all-of-society approach is imperative: every sector of society – whether public, private or ‘people’ – must respond, adapt and bring their unique resources to the fight. Coordination of efforts and innovative collaborations within and across societal sectors are essential – at every level – to maximize collective value and make the most of the resources we have.
We are already seeing a number of partnerships developing, for example DFID and Unilever with a £100M collaboration around handwashing with soap, aiming to reach 1bn people. However, we need to very quickly scale up the number of partnerships and, importantly, we need those partnerships to be as effective as possible, even if they have had to move too quickly to go through typical ‘good practice’ partnering processes.
In response to the crisis, TPI’s global network of Associates and sister organisations, came together for a rapid response programme made up of three elements:
- TPI offered a free helpdesk providing direct support to anyone who needed assistance in setting up a COVID-19 partnership or to those in an existing partnership that was struggling and having to adapt within the current reality of COVID-19;
- A ‘rapid partnering’ research programme to develop effective practice on partnering under pressure that can be used, for example, around climate change;
- Advocacy and thought leadership:
- Advocacy around the use of multi-stakeholder partnerships to tackle COVID-19 as well as an all-of-society approach to redesign a society that is more inclusive, resilient and sustainable #BuildBackBetter’
- Thought leadership through a series of blogs and think pieces (Framing think-piece by Darian Stibbe: Fighting side-by-side against COVID-19)