How citizen movements knew how to organize themselves during the pandemic

The pandemic weakened us without borders, although it may not be fair to call it a pandemic, because what happens to us did not treat all humans equally. Once again, inequalities were decisive.

The imaginaries of the pandemic gravitated around PCRs, antigens and vaccines, but they could not completely silence the relevance of the country, the neighborhood, the profession and the social origin of citizens. The pandemic multiplied the problems of the most unprotected. That is why we need the word syndemic to visualize the many synergies between the social and the epidemic.

The revival of the citizen

In addition to doctors, economists and politicians, there was also room for other actors. And we’re not just talking about nurses, stockers or carriers. Citizens also appeared. People wanted to help and countless proposals arose. Slow the curvethe most visible of all, was an innovation initiative capable of channeling civic resilience in times of pandemic and of organizing what Rebecca Solnit I call a paradise in hell.

On March 12, 2020, the LAAAB Open Government Laboratory (promoted by the Government of Aragon) assumed the need to launch a tool that would maximize the wave of solidarity. The next day, Las Naves (Valencia), collaborate (Bilbao), TeamLab (Madrid), Impact HUB (Zaragoza), together with Coordinator volunteer state, among other entities, had expressed their willingness to join; and on March 14, with the help of the company Kaleidsthe website of Slow the curve it was operational.

Slow the curve It has been an experience of open innovation and amphibious cooperation which involved more than 2,000 activists, including volunteers, public employees, entrepreneurs and professionals, from more than 300 social organizations, innovation laboratories, companies and universities, creating 18 national nodes that replicated some of the original tools , such as open repositories of good practices and Stop the Curve Mapsbased in Ushaidi.


Curb the Curve, 2020

Citizen initiatives in Europe

In Europe, as in the rest of the world, many people did not stay at home waiting for instructions from the government. There is an admirable project, Solidwhich is inventorying all the citizen initiatives around the world and which has recorded in 2020 more than 1,300 solidarity projects in Europe.

Slow the curve, for its part, mapped more than 900 self-help and local action initiatives throughout the Spanish territory. And, among the many volunteers, no group was more early riser and generous than the community maker that from the first moment it was proposed to provide masks and respirators at a time when everything was scarce.

The care then was not only a matter of nurses, merchants and carriers. An opportunity was also given to other less (re)known groups that deserve our admiration, such as the hackerswho created the platform that articulated everything, helped by designers Y journalists.

Awarded and replicated

Slow the curve accumulated 10,000 pins on a map that geolocated the specific needs of the people. For example, requests for company, medicine, food, walk or hygiene. In our world there are many more dependent people than we imagine and all those people were at risk of being abandoned.

Slow the curve then it created the space that articulated the demands for help with the offers of solidarity, allowing numerous entities (NGOs, innovation laboratories, civil associations or food banks) to act efficiently. Of those 10,000 thumbtacks, we know that 7,000 were an expression of the voluntary action offered by ordinary people who knew, amid so much anxiety, that it was time for empathy and mutual help.

Slow the curve It has been replicated in more than 22 countries, facilitating a form of collaboration capable of harvesting talent and time regardless of the artificial borders of gender, race, nation, language or education that divide us. More than 800 people made this exemplary initiative possible. It has recently been awarded the #PoliticsAwards21 delivered by The Innovation in Politics Institute.

Other examples

There were, luckily, more examples to mention. beat the viruspromoted by the Community of Madrid, organized a hackathon gigantic during the month of March 2020 around these questions: how can we help alleviate the negative effects of covid-19? How can we create community and care for people in the face of epidemics? And how can we create, maintain and improve employment and business in this situation?

Y the response was also massive and innovative: 8,000 registered, 244 projects, 50 mentors and 49 countries.

The list of initiatives is impressive, but we are only going to mention two more: one with a Latin American scope and the other designed to be deployed in Europe.

every day counts organized by various networks in Latin America in March 2020, with 877 proposals and 3,600 registered.

And finally, EUvsVIRUSESa hackathon organized by the European Commission between April 24 and 26, 2020, which mobilized 20,000 people, 2,235 promoting entities, 1,500 work meetings and 2,164 multidisciplinary teams from 40 countries that required 2,235 agreements with 500 partners , public and private, to provide support to the 120 selected projects.

All these memorable initiatives belong to the world of what some academics call humanitarian engineering or civic technology.

All, in short, were aimed at creating bonds of trust, learning spaces and, of course, networks of distributed, open and recursive collaboration. They all teach us that technology should not only be efficient, but that it can also take care of us (tech for good).

How citizen movements knew how to organize themselves during the.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip
Food collection in Seville in May 2020.
Shutterstock / javi_indy

The unusualness of the situation

Not only were we confined, but also nobody knew what the needs were, because intuiting them is not knowing them. It was also not known who the other people with whom to coordinate would be. Those who wanted to collaborate would have to invent the objective, the methodology, the teams and the context.

Helping did not imply following the well-known path that, more or less, consists of signing up for an NGO that tells us what to do. Helping in times of pandemic forced us to experiment with the unknown.

Altruism knew how to find answers and, consequently, transit between eras, since the new situation created by covid 19 required the intensive use of new technologies, the implementation of new forms of organization and the formation of communities with less identity (stitched by shared beliefs) than singular (articulated by a common interest).

Originality and horizontality

The originality of the forms adopted deserves recognition among those of us who are attentive to new developments in social innovation. Suddenly, initiatives appeared, wisely structured, that were born without knowing what would have to be done, aware that whatever it was they would have to do it quickly and neatly.

Efficiency, speed and success were a matter of care. The makeshift ecosystem functioned without bosses, and as a result, there was no one to complain to. There was no use lamenting the precariousness of resources, which forced improvisation and, rather than inventing problems, it was necessary to find solutions.

we learned from E. Hutchins and its inspiring Cognition in the wild: When the ship capsizes in the middle of the storm, there is no instruction manual, and no one to give orders. The crew takes advantage of the experience and acts to minimize the negative impact that a “bad” decision of the closest colleague could have.

Such behavior requires that those involved know that we cannot always choose the best response, but rather the one with the lowest cost. In the storm there are no right decisions but convenient ones. There is no first class knowledge, no indisputable actors or decisive roles, because everyone collaborates and no one shows off stripes. It’s called a distributed organization: a mode of organization without an oval office.

A storm is not an exam, but a test of coexistence, complementarity and cooperation. There is only one sure rule: since we all improvise, our behavior must serve to lessen the negative effect that the (supposed) perceived errors could have. If we operate in another way, the ship sinks.

The Reclaimed Commons

There is a neighborhood relationship between the word common and the terms ordinary and collaborative. We are intrigued by this complicity between what is within everyone’s reach and what can only be achieved by joining efforts. The pandemic had revealed to us the importance of commonsof all that, according to the Nebrija dictionary, is done for the benefit of all.

A common world, then, is something under construction, that we are doing and that is open to collaboration. A common world is something that is composed, as in jam sessions, adding pears with apples. Things as different as a flute, a cajon and a cello can produce something unique and unexpected, without any of them giving up their own singularity. Algebra forbids it, but the heart demands it; and, finally, conviviality demands it.

The difference as an asset

A common good demands the assembly of heterogeneities: it requires peculiar forms of organization that convert the difference into an asset.

But it’s not enough to lock up musicians until they compose something beautiful. Common goods often cannot be isolated. In fact, it is not uncommon for the environment to be hostile and even powerful. In such circumstances, the sustainability of the good requires a great deal of collective intelligence.

No one explained it better than E. Ostromthe first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, when she rejected G. Hardin’s theses on the inevitably tragic fate of the commons. For Ostron, the cause that ruins a common good is its mismanagement.

A thesis that taken to the extreme tells us that a common good is only a particular way of managing resources and of articulating the relationships between the good that we want to preserve and the community that supports said good and is sustained by it.

What does it mean to manage the common good?

And, without a doubt, managing well requires processing a large amount of information, contrasting the different points of view, creating the conditions for validating reliable knowledge, disseminating the findings among those concerned to be sure that the solution adopted is not going to create more problems. of those we already had and, finally, be open to rectifying any measure based on the circumstances of the moment. It is not enough to be collaborative, we also have to be recursive. If we want to preserve the commons we will have to be wise, open and resilient. Or, in other words, you always have to be ready to make the right decisions, including those that involve modifying something that has already been decided.

A common good, then, has to be an experimental space for the production of knowledge. And it is better for its promoters not to settle for vulgar, capricious or upstart knowledge, because, if they do not work, if they fail to properly interpret the signs they receive from the environment, they will end up being the cause that destroys the property.

It is not viable if the information they process is wrong, incomplete or out of date. It is not viable, due to poor management. Therefore, any community that does not also function as a citizen laboratory assumes a tragic destiny.

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How citizen movements knew how to organize themselves during the pandemic