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COVID Futures Framework

Reos Partners
October, 2020


Explore the COVID Futures Framework, a tool designed to help stakeholders understand the deep impacts of the pandemic and take collaborative action.

By Mille Bojer and Ravenna Nuaimy-Barker.

Many impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated containment measures are direct, short-term, and starkly visible. Others are indirect, longer-term, and not immediately apparent. How do we build a systemic perspective to understand the deeper implications of how our world is changing because of the pandemic and what to do about it?

COVID Futures Framework

Reos Partners, in the context of our collaboration with the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law working on justice transformation, developed the COVID Futures Framework. We developed the framework to help diverse stakeholders identify and map complex interrelationships between COVID-19 and the issues that are of greatest concern to them.

The framework explores short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19, direct and indirect implications, and identifies strategic implications for action.

This framework is designed for situations in which:

  • Stakeholders know that their system is being impacted directly and indirectly by COVID-19, but the implications and responses are not obvious, and
  • There is a need and appetite for stakeholders to come together to create a collective understanding of these impacts and to respond collaboratively.

We applied the framework in the Syria Justice Innovation Process to assess the impact of COVID-19 on six justice goals, including child protection, reducing violence against women, and access to housing, land, and property. We then applied the framework with the Sustainable Oceans Lab to understand the impacts and opportunities that COVID-19 brings to ocean sustainability. (For more about the Oceans process, see the findings launch announcement in this newsletter).

Layers of impact

The framework explores two layers of impacts:

Direct, short-term impacts (3-12 months):
These are the impacts of the illness itself as well as the immediate precautionary measures and restrictions imposed in light of the public health emergency. For example, in the context of justice needs in Syria, stakeholders noted that domestic violence increased due to confinement, and access to legal and public services decreased due to limited opening hours and transport options. In the context of the oceans, the reduction in travel and tourism is creating opportunities to enable ecosystems to recover while undermining conservation efforts funded by and supported by tourism activities.

Indirect, long-term impacts (1+ years):
These are longer-term changes that can be expected as a result of the consequences of COVID-19 and the actions taken to limit its spread. Examples of this impact include a sustained economic slowdown and increasing digitization. Looking at justice needs in Syria, a protracted economic recession could increase crime, corruption, and child labour while decreasing donor funding. On the other hand, accelerated technological awareness creates opportunities to provide information on rights, violations, and procedures and to digitize justice services. Similarly, increasing digitization could improve cross-border ocean governance by making global conversations easier but also threatens to further exclude vulnerable populations who continue to have poor technological access to important ocean governance conversations.

Sensing a way forward

In addition to identifying possible impacts of COVID-19, the COVID Futures Framework also helps stakeholders identify key factors that may exacerbate negative impacts (such as inequality, political resistance, or lack of capacity) and those that may alleviate these impacts or enhance positive ones (such as cooperation, leadership, accountability, localizing solutions, and community resilience).

Based on the insights gained from these exercises, stakeholders identify key areas in need of action and possible responses. They clarify what they can do in their own sphere of influence and where they might collaborate. They emerge from the process with:

  • a robust, shared understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting their system
  • clarity about what they can do to alleviate negative impacts and nurture positive ones, and
  • strengthened relationships with individuals from different parts of the system.
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