On Wednesday, March 11, I was finalizing plans for a trip I was to be taking the next day to visit some friends in Connecticut. Despite the developing coronavirus situation, when I woke up in the morning and checked the news, I decided that it was likely still safe to travel as long as I took all the necessary precautions (travel-size hand sanitizer, small bag of Clorox wipes, maybe even a hula hoop to ensure that fellow travelers respected my personal space). I was unprepared for how fast things would unravel that day.
By the evening, the NCAA announced that its beloved March Madness tournament would be played in arenas without fans (they later canceled the tournament entirely). The NBA announced it would be suspending the remainder of its season indefinitely after multiple Utah Jazz players tested positive for Covid-19. Wall Street entered a bear market for the first time in over a decade. President Trump announced a 30-day European travel ban. America’s sweetheart, Tom Hanks, shared with the world that he had his wife, Rita Wilson, had tested positive and were quarantined in Australia.
All of that in a matter of hours.
It’s amazing to me now that it seemed like a difficult decision to call off my trip. With each subsequent day, it has become clearer that I made the right call to stay home. The global situation has only grown more dire, with daily announcements of mounting confirmed cases and deaths, shelter-in-place orders, and an unprecedented spike in unemployment applications. Not to mention the overburdened and under-supplied hospitals where healthcare workers are putting their lives at risk to fight an enemy that can’t be seen by the naked eye.
With so much uncertainty, the collective question so many of us seem to be asking is, “what will be the impact of all of this?” On our economy, our schools, our healthcare system, our cities, our dating lives (That last one is mostly a joke. Or is it? I don’t know anymore.).
While it’s clear that the impact of all of this will be widespread and that asking that question is important, I realize that my borderline obsession with thinking of potential repercussions of this crisis means I haven’t made enough room to think about the impact of potential solutions that come as a response to this disastrous situation.
When we at SIC talk about, write about, and research impact, it’s largely in the context of the positive social sector interventions that individuals, governments, non-profits, and foundations can make. We explore the impact of innovative ideas and creative solutions in the areas of early childhood education, criminal justice, homelessness, higher education, and many more. Our work, and that of the organizations we partner with, has infused me with a brighter sense of optimism. It leaves me knowing that when things get bad, there are many people working tirelessly to solve the problems.
I made a conscious decision this past week to find ways to think about impact in a way that I haven’t been. Not in a “silver linings” sort of way, or to say that we will be better off because of this global crisis. No, it is apparent that the world will suffer greatly as a result of the pandemic. But I believe that the world will also see the positive impacts of individuals and organizations innovating in the face of this crisis, together. We are already seeing this.
Communities are coming together to assist those that have lost their jobs.
There seems to be a greater sense of awareness and commitment to support local and small businesses that had to temporarily close their doors. Family and friends are using technology in positive ways to host virtual dinners, concerts, game nights, and streaming parties to socially connected during physical isolation. Companies are pivoting production lines to respond to the shortage of masks for our healthcare workers.
I’m not suggesting we turn away and tune out. But if we only focus on the unfavorable, we deny ourselves a sense of hope and optimism that comes from acknowledging efforts being made to respond to this crisis. Some of them show the best humanity has to offer.
By Jolyn Metro, Senior Associate