.
T

hrough the human tragedy of COVID-19, we learned quickly what we do not know. The virus literally stopped us in our tracks. Trust became elusive. Anxiety, fear, frustration, and confusion whittled away at public trust. People came to understand that governments are not omniscient nor fully prepared for every variable that may arise during a period of crisis. Instead, we saw world leaders as humans who were grappling with limitations of their knowledge as well as a virus that no one seemed to fully understand. Seemingly contradictory statements were seized upon by media. When combined with a frenzy surrounding the U.S. 2020 presidential election and the death of George Floyd, trust continued to erode not only in the U.S., but created doubt in the mind of friends and allies.

Yet slowly during the spring and summer of 2020, we watched massive resources be adapted and adjusted to meet reality. We learned that the definition of a “first responder” is defined not by a job function, but by what is the front line of response during a moment in time. COVID-19 showed us that traditional heroes like soldiers, policemen, doctors, nurses, and firemen aren’t our only “first responders.” Instead, they were grocery store workers, truck drivers, delivery personnel, lab techs, factory workers, and others who stepped up to lead as everyday people put themselves in harm’s way to help others. Thanks to a litany of movies, we feared that society would unravel quickly in large part driven by the need for food. However, thanks to the diligence, creativity, and commitment of unlikely heroes, many in the U.S. ordered online with consumer staples delivered to our doorsteps or curbsides.

As leaders, we study history of warfare, business, and economic fault lines, so that we can garner ideas from those who have gone before us. What to do. What not to do. Policymakers quickly defined our future scenario planning by building out systems to meet the deficits we discovered during our last challenge. The tendency is to lay blame, which leads to rigidity and locking in to plan to “make sure we don’t do that again.” However, what we needed and where we saw advances were when governments allowed industry the flexibility to adapt and adjust to the unanticipated. The pharmaceutical industry and scientists collaborated across geographies and disease categories, sharing data and ideas. Consumer product goods manufacturers used novel channels to deliver toilet paper, cleaning materials, and food. Associations and nonprofits stepped up to fill important gaps.

The need for collaboration became even more important for private, patient-centered organizations like FARE, the organization I lead. Our job was to ensure the community we served had the information they needed to make decisions about their health. Our teams served as the trusted voice for patients struggling to find safe and affordable food as well as a provider of credible, medical guidance about COVID-19 and later the vaccines. 

Partnerships amongst trusted allies were critical to providing a sense of stability in an unstable world. It was pertinent that doctors who are part of the FARE Clinical Network spend the time understanding the risks of treatment for a specific patient profile, and they did this by working collaboratively with their colleagues at the US National Institute of Health and the Federal Drug Administration. We relied on each other for knowledge and appreciated opportunities to problem solve as we managed complexity.

The extraordinary efforts of ordinary people are demonstrating the ethos of a nation. Our COVID-19 experience may enable us to be more nimble and innovative. If we focus on rebuilding an agile health system, we can allow for real-time adaptation of processes that allow us to be transformational in the moment. We do not know the nature of the next challenge, but we do know that a pioneering spirit combined with ingenuity and transparent collaboration between governments, institutions and industry will enable us to meet the next crisis head on.

About
Lisa Gable
:
Lisa Gable is chief executive officer at FARE, the world’s leading non-governmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy and the largest private funder of food allergy research. She is also the author of Turnaround (IdeaPress Publishing, October 5, 2021).
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

How We Rebuilt Trust During The Pandemic

Photo by Zdenek Machacek via Unsplash.

September 29, 2021

While the initial shock of the COVID-19 panic wore away at society's trust in public institutions and leadership, the extraordinary efforts of ordinary people on the front lines of the pandemic and of institutions behind the scenes should win some of that back, writes Ambassador Lisa Gable.

T

hrough the human tragedy of COVID-19, we learned quickly what we do not know. The virus literally stopped us in our tracks. Trust became elusive. Anxiety, fear, frustration, and confusion whittled away at public trust. People came to understand that governments are not omniscient nor fully prepared for every variable that may arise during a period of crisis. Instead, we saw world leaders as humans who were grappling with limitations of their knowledge as well as a virus that no one seemed to fully understand. Seemingly contradictory statements were seized upon by media. When combined with a frenzy surrounding the U.S. 2020 presidential election and the death of George Floyd, trust continued to erode not only in the U.S., but created doubt in the mind of friends and allies.

Yet slowly during the spring and summer of 2020, we watched massive resources be adapted and adjusted to meet reality. We learned that the definition of a “first responder” is defined not by a job function, but by what is the front line of response during a moment in time. COVID-19 showed us that traditional heroes like soldiers, policemen, doctors, nurses, and firemen aren’t our only “first responders.” Instead, they were grocery store workers, truck drivers, delivery personnel, lab techs, factory workers, and others who stepped up to lead as everyday people put themselves in harm’s way to help others. Thanks to a litany of movies, we feared that society would unravel quickly in large part driven by the need for food. However, thanks to the diligence, creativity, and commitment of unlikely heroes, many in the U.S. ordered online with consumer staples delivered to our doorsteps or curbsides.

As leaders, we study history of warfare, business, and economic fault lines, so that we can garner ideas from those who have gone before us. What to do. What not to do. Policymakers quickly defined our future scenario planning by building out systems to meet the deficits we discovered during our last challenge. The tendency is to lay blame, which leads to rigidity and locking in to plan to “make sure we don’t do that again.” However, what we needed and where we saw advances were when governments allowed industry the flexibility to adapt and adjust to the unanticipated. The pharmaceutical industry and scientists collaborated across geographies and disease categories, sharing data and ideas. Consumer product goods manufacturers used novel channels to deliver toilet paper, cleaning materials, and food. Associations and nonprofits stepped up to fill important gaps.

The need for collaboration became even more important for private, patient-centered organizations like FARE, the organization I lead. Our job was to ensure the community we served had the information they needed to make decisions about their health. Our teams served as the trusted voice for patients struggling to find safe and affordable food as well as a provider of credible, medical guidance about COVID-19 and later the vaccines. 

Partnerships amongst trusted allies were critical to providing a sense of stability in an unstable world. It was pertinent that doctors who are part of the FARE Clinical Network spend the time understanding the risks of treatment for a specific patient profile, and they did this by working collaboratively with their colleagues at the US National Institute of Health and the Federal Drug Administration. We relied on each other for knowledge and appreciated opportunities to problem solve as we managed complexity.

The extraordinary efforts of ordinary people are demonstrating the ethos of a nation. Our COVID-19 experience may enable us to be more nimble and innovative. If we focus on rebuilding an agile health system, we can allow for real-time adaptation of processes that allow us to be transformational in the moment. We do not know the nature of the next challenge, but we do know that a pioneering spirit combined with ingenuity and transparent collaboration between governments, institutions and industry will enable us to meet the next crisis head on.

About
Lisa Gable
:
Lisa Gable is chief executive officer at FARE, the world’s leading non-governmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy and the largest private funder of food allergy research. She is also the author of Turnaround (IdeaPress Publishing, October 5, 2021).
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.