We are experiencing a rare moment. One filled with worry and unpredictability. One filled with an upheaval of emotions. Unfortunately, we do not know how this will all end. No one does. What we do know is that uncertainty fuels anxiety and uncertainty leads to mistrust. We saw trends that were pointing in this direction before the novel coronavirus began spreading around the world. Trust in our institutions, governments, and private sectors were at an all-time low. Depression and anxiety were at an all-time high.
The world, as always, was changing: As the world economy focused on globalization, there was a populist trend in many countries to focus on its country’s national interests over international interests.
As the novel coronavirus highlights our interdependence and interconnectedness, it also shines a light on the importance of local governments, local leadership, and protecting our local communities. It is our towns and our cities that will feel the long-term economic, social, and human effects of COVID-19. Companies will be going out of business. Institutions that form the fabric of our society may cease to exist. Storefronts will close. The unemployment rate will rise. The local bar, restaurant, or coffee shop we have always been able to turn to, may not be there anymore. Uncertainty and mistrust, unfortunately, will continue to be problems we must create solutions for.
Businesses are facing challenges they haven’t encountered before. They are different problems than what they faced after September 11th, during the 2008 Financial Crisis, or following natural disasters. However, like in the wake of those misfortunes, many businesses will innovate and think outside the box, and by doing so, will find newfound resilience and resolve. Companies will need to do more with less. The “more” will need to include the word: “good.”
Companies who are being tested and pushed to their limits will need to do more good for their communities. Companies will need to work with their local governments, community leaders, non-profits, and one another. Some may even become community centers. Why shouldn’t local businesses come together with the community to help save the local bar? Or work together to widen the sidewalks, or expand the public transportation capacity, or build a park, or develop educational programs, or provide meals for the hungry? Why shouldn’t businesses choose to build for good?
Before COVID-19, we, Onward Labs, envisioned a near future where whole communities (local governments, schools and universities, and community members) would come together to think outside the box and build solutions that address current and future problems facing their particular community. We wanted to create a more trusted, more confident, and less anxious world by working within local communities to develop solutions that reestablish trust and allows everyone to feel represented and participate in the economy of their communities. We chose to exist because we believed that building the trust economy had never been more necessary. And today, we still believe that. We are committed to that mission because we see our communities rising to the occasion.
A worldwide pandemic, like the one we are currently living in, can bring out the best of humanity. Medical professionals and first responders are putting their lives on the line every day. Essential workers, like those on our food supply chain, elected officials, journalists, cops, and firefighters, are leaving home each day risking their health, and subsequently, their family’s health. Businesses, large and small, are scavenging the world looking for medical supplies they can donate — or create out of their factories, offices, and homes. Millions more are doing their part to stay at home, which is a statement of love and respect for those serving on the front lines. While they stay home, many are reaching into their pockets to give money, food, and resources to those in need. Hundreds of thousands are cheering outside their windows each night to honor healthcare workers and to feel connected to one another. We, as a community, are coming together and stepping up; ordinary neighbors are doing extraordinary things. We must support them during this pandemic, but we also must sustain that support after. That is on all of us.
We see a community, with courage and bravery, that is organically operating under a belief that we are all part of something bigger than us, rapidly organize amid all this chaos to share valuable information and data to make us all safer. We have always believed in a collaborative world where local communities can access data and information that can benefit their neighborhood. We envision a society working together to restore trust in our communities and each other. Now more than ever, we see a future where people are coming together to impact their streets, their towns, and their institutions to build the solutions they need today and those they will need tomorrow.
We at Onward Labs commit to continuing our mission to restore and build trust in our communities by working together. By working with businesses, large and small, governments, federal and local, and The People, those ordinary doing the extraordinary, to come together to lift one another and build for a more equitable, healthier, and better future.