COVID Open Space Community Insights
Click through the insights below!
To gather insights on the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic of the Humanity Hub community, we organised a participant-driven Open Space session (more on the concept at the end), with the agenda set by those attending – giving much leeway to self-organise and express ownership over a topic.
A truly eminent discussion revolving around the impact of adopting and applying digital technology in the pandemic management and response made up one of the first rounds on the self-made agenda. Does technology come to rescue? If so, what are the risks?
Participants offered a variety of personal examples incorporating solutions applied in a multitude of geographical locales. Privacy issues and the question as to whether technology comes to the service of human rights or disproportionally benefits some and disadvantages others led to a multifaceted discussion. On one hand, there is a fear and fact that intrusive technologies and digital surveillance may ultimately pose a threat to human rights if data is used outside of its designated purpose. Yet, while the deployment and assistance of surveillance technology (whether these are drones, AI assisted policing algorithms, GPS distance monitoring, contact trackers, retroactively used historical data to contact trace, or the vast variety of phone applications that are circulating) can be seen as helpful or necessary, we need to ask ourselves if it really is.
Beyond immediate risks of, for instance, data leaks, the long-term normalisation of the digital panopticon and the fear of falling into the trap of technological determinism/solutionism surfaced. Instead of spending copious amounts of investments on the development of technologies, some “gezonde verstand” (common sense) and a more human-centred, collective and collaborative approach can allocate resources – human, material, economic – more evenly and equally to keep us safe and well, together.
The importance of education in human development has a central place in achieving the SDGs and is the bedrock of just, equal, and inclusive societies. Yet, COVID-19 poses impediments to many organisations which are striving for education and learning. Those seem to face a similar challenge: How to effectively and efficiently set up remote and distance learning, specifically in conflict affected areas where the crisis is exacerbating pre-existing education disparities?
While moving instruction online can enable flexibility of learning and teaching anywhere at any time, the speed at which this move is expected to happen is unprecedented. One concern that surfaced during the discussion was that of widening gaps between those are aiming to educate and those who are intended to be reached. Yet, the crisis has stimulated innovation within the education sector in support of continuity despite the pandemic. Along those lines, participants voiced that they had found new opportunities by strengthening data and monitoring of learning and support flexibility across all levels of education and training. Importantly, continuing efforts is better than not doing anything. Thus, participants exchanged experiences with tools that make distance learning/meeting better in general, some of these were Gather, MIBO, and Run the World. Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, as we always do need to be mindful of who the audience is and what their access is.
Having a lot of back-to-back online meetings that are very substantive can cause you to feel very tired in the evening. During this discussion, participants shared their best tips with each other to prevent this fatigue.
- Use wireless earpods/headphones to move away from your screen and walk around your house while still being engaged in a meeting.
- Turn off your self-view, because staring at yourself during meetings is known to cause tiredness.
- Set a timer every hour, to force yourself to walk around.
- Apply the 20-20-20 rule for your eyes: every 20 minutes you should look 20 metres in the distance for 20 seconds.
- Have your one-on-one meetings on the phone while you walk, to allow yourself some off-screen time while still being productive.
- Make your meetings 45 minutes instead of 60 minutes, to avoid having back-to-back meetings every hour.
- Include enough breaks in your meetings, such as energizers.
In unprecedented times like these, it is critical that we work on rebuilding and maintaining trusting relationships – including those at work. Working from home already poses a plethora of challenges (think: lagging internet, blurry lines between personal and professional lines, the “work in your PJs trap” …) and the fact that the absence of shared sidebar conversations and coffee chats which usually build face-to-face rapport and interpersonal trust does not help.
Regardless, some open space participants shared optimistic insights into some of their experiences. Be it starting a foundation during lockdown and having never met most of the team members in real life before without it feeling too distant at all or opening new spaces and seeing equalised relationships between HQs and field offices – those stories shared the common ground of transparency. While often things transpire in a hidden way, being transparent aids in resurfacing them and making work inclusive, even while we are distant from one another.
Without a doubt, working remotely has made it more challenging to create a feeling of community. While you can usually find somebody to talk to around the coffee machine, this kind of incidental interaction is harder to recreate digitally. And it’s not only small talk that follows from these ‘spontaneous encounters’, but also relevant knowledge exchange and the sharing of valuable opportunities. With COVID-19 this space for exchange has been lost.
Online meetings are very substantive, staying strictly with the meeting’s topic, as to avoid looking at a screen longer than necessary. Yet, this takes away the human-aspect and the spontaneity of work, and in that way also from the feeling of ‘togetherness’ within teams and communities.
Participants of this discussion felt that the Humanity Hub’s peer-to-peer groups are a nice way of facilitating connection between people with similar functions and interests However the need for less substantive possibilities for meeting new people was also apparent. From this conversation, it followed that the Hub team will investigate the possibility of hosting monthly informal online coffee-moments for the community.
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