4+1 takeaways from the #socialentrepriseday2021 panel discussion “How to foster civic engagement in the context of a pandemic?”, which I had the honour to moderate with the great speakers Friedrik Ahsberg, Liene Reine-Miteva and Daniel Vaarik
TRUST AND COOPERATION. Although the debate on trust does not address the issue of building trust, a comparison of concrete examples brings us back to these keywords. As our experience shows, during the pandemic, civic activism in the Baltic countries was triggered by a lack of trust in the authorities or their actions. People, businesses and NGOs mobilised and tried to temporarily plug the gaps through self-help activism.
Meanwhile, in Sweden, which has the highest level of trust in public institutions (including each other), business, NGOs and public institutions have been even more tightly knit during the pandemic and have acted together. This posture and experience not only builds trust in society and increases civic engagement, but at the same time can help in the long term to alleviate the social challenges facing humanity as a whole, e.g. in the areas of education, mental health.
HUMAN RIGHTS AT THE EPICENTRE. The pandemic has highlighted the needs of vulnerable groups and provided an opportunity to tackle long festering social problems. Putting human rights or the needs of people at risk at the centre of crisis management (pandemics, migrants) would help us to deal with the long-term consequences of future crises. This is an opportunity for social business and NGOs, but it is not clear whether we will take this step forward.
MEDIA AND COMMUNICATION TOOLS. Trust in the media has perhaps declined most during the pandemic. Add to this the influence of social networks on the formation of radical social bubbles and you have a good ‘cocktail’ of information, radicalising attitudes and rampant anger and aggression. And while no one has yet invented a “silver bullet”, initiatives that promote critical thinking and reduce anger or aggression are welcome. A good example is from Estonia : https://www.levila.ee/ (www.nara.lt – analogue?)
LESSONS FROM ONE CRISIS FOR FUTURE CRISES. Can the lessons learnt from crises be useful in the future? The Swedish experience shows that the initiatives and policy decisions taken during the handling of the migrant crisis in 2015 have been put to good use during the pandemic. In the face of rigid and strict procedures and bureaucratic obstacles, will we learn lessons and develop a crisis management plan and strategy for the future?
CREATIVITY AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY. Sweden. The aviation industry has reoriented its workforce as part of its contribution to pandemic management. Stewardesses were retrained as nurses and assisted in the health system. There have also been strong, creative initiatives in the Baltic countries, and in the face of today’s migrant crisis, we are again seeing sporadic, strong business and NGO action. Is creativity and social responsibility already in our DNA? I hope so.
In preparation for the discussion, I read some excellent studies on forms of civic engagement: https://carnegieendowment.org/…/civil-society-and… and trust: https://www.edelman.com/trust/2021-trust-barometer