Many people have been saying that the COVID19 pandemic will change many things. But is this the case? Has there been any real or substantial change in our behaviours, our relationships, our communities, how business operates or in government practice? As much as I had hoped and believed a change would come, I don’t see much evidence that this is the case. That doesn’t mean it still won’t happen but I sense we are returning to the old normal when we could head to an exciting new normal.
Change takes commitment and ongoing effort. The behaviours and belief systems developed over a lifetime or generation are entrenched and will take substantial effort to change. For anyone who has tried to change a bad habit or develop a new behaviour know it is hard work that takes a high level of commitment and dedication. Consider giving up smoking or starting a routine of daily exercise or meditation. It isn’t easy and takes more than saying things must change.
I don’t see evidence of the hoped for change in many situations. People have already made a significant reduction in mask wearing; physical distancing is reducing at a rate of knots and even shops don’t seem to be refilling hand sanitiser stations with the commitment they had only two or three weeks ago.
I’m not saying that some things won’t change. I would hope that those neighbourhoods that have started meeting together online or in a safe manner will continue to do so and deepen their experience of community. This would be a positive change in our towns and cities. But I am convinced that many other things, that really need changing, will stay as they were or even be more entrenched.
There is a Management theory that is relevant in this discussion of change. There is a decision point. If you pre-empt or miss this point you could miss the whole opportunity for change, or at best, wait until another opportunity for change has arisen. Have we missed the decision point COVID19 has presented us with for change? Only time will tell but from what I see from government actions and business operations I fear we may have missed this point. But it is not too late. We can still make significant change and create a new normal that is beneficial for all of us and not just the few.
Change starts with questions. And moves in the direction of the questions. If we want change to occur or to continue, we will need to ask questions. Let’s think about some of the questions we could be asking.
Change comes from the community and can work its way up. Starting with our conversations with neighbours we can reach out to build stronger community and then have a louder voice to reach out to government and others.
These questions might be relevant:
Do I want to get to know my neighbours?
How do I get to know them better?
Would they be interested in a picnic or party or afternoon tea together?
How do we go about caring for our local park?
Is there anyone who would like some help?
Is there anyone isolated? Could I reach out to them?
Are there any community groups I could join?
Does Council have a community committee I could join?
Could I write to my local Councillor or politician about something that needs their help?
It really seems most levels of government have returned to the same manner of operating as they had in place before COVID19. But, is this the best way to operate? Sometimes all levels of government could be reminded that the community are not consumers, clients or customers but citizens with rights and responsibilities that reach beyond the ballot box every three or four years.
Let’s think about the questions we or government could ask:
What role does the community want to play?
What is it that government is currently doing that it could hand over to community?
Should Councils seek community representatives for committees?
What infrastructure needs to be brought forward in recovery?
What infrastructure does the community want brought forward?
How do we engage with community better?
How can community gain the same level of attention that business and developers receive from Council?
How do we build resilient economies?
How do we look after the whole community, including the most vulnerable?
Business is in a perilous position. Innovation is needed for them to survive and grow. Perhaps something like the following could be asked:
Have I reviewed my business plan?
Do I need to change how I am operating?
What is it that is strong in my business and how can I grow this strength?
How can my employees and stakeholders help me with growing my business?
It is never too late to change but the longer we leave it the harder it is to achieve. We are at an important point in our history…a decision point. Let’s make the most of the opportunity and ask the questions that send us in the direction of positive change.