Making Sense of Pandemic Recovery

This is a guest post from our partner, The Little Think Tank. View our ‘Good Ideas for Cities’ newsletter on this topic here.

Across the country, people are looking to local leaders to help manage the stress and fear of this new and unknown disease.  Leaders are called on to craft a recovery strategy that not only opens up the economy but protects lives.  As social distancing disrupts our schools, jobs, the economy, and recreation, communities seek information and action from decision makers to better meet these new realities.

Despite deep uncertainty, leaders can use this time to retool conventional thinking and decision-making, opening the door for transformative change to a more resilient future. Local leaders from all sectors can instill a sense of solidarity in their citizens and offer hope for what can be accomplished together despite differences. Leaders can also boost recovery by guiding local enterprises and businesses to make smart and safe choices as society begins to open.  Tapping into the strengths and cultural character of a place enables all members of the community to participate in positive change for their future.

A friend of the Mayors Innovation Project, The Little Think Tank has prepared Twelve Tips to Accelerate Community Recovery. This one-pager distills leading edge research and practice on transformative disaster recovery. 

Ground comprehensive community recovery planning in shared values.

In Portland, Oregon, the City Council adopted a Resolution asserting the values that guide and coordinate the City’s COVID-19 response. “The Resolution reaffirms that our hardest-hit community members will continue to be prioritized through both immediate relief work and longer-term recovery actions – with the goal of emerging from this crisis more resilient.” 

Define recovery as bigger than government services.

Cedar Rapids and Linn County, Iowa use lessons learned from catastrophic floods in 2008 to embrace a holistic, people-centric approach to recovery. Local leaders and residents meet weekly in a virtual town hall to share information and resources on the many facets of community well-being in the pandemic.

Earn trust through regular, truthful, meaningful and widely broadcast communication.

Mayor Miro Weinberger, Burlington VT, has been providing daily, live, virtual briefings since early March. The briefings often feature other speakers from public health and other city departments and have covered topics from current public health data and notices, to COVID resources for businesses and individuals, to city business and decision processes. The live aspect allows the Mayor to respond to questions, and the recordings are posted each day and shared via social media so people can access them afterwards. These and more are collected on a dedicated web site via the city’s web page. 

Give parents and guardians the extra support they need. 

Virginia’s 132 school districts mobilized to offer emergency meal distribution programs for children. Montgomery County teams distribute approximately 9,000 meals per day. In Roanoke City, over 300,000 meals have been prepared since schools closed in March. Local governments can and are supporting these efforts by providing distribution sites, communications support, and direct financial support. 

Please realize: our next future is emerging, and whatever emerges will be impacted by our next steps. Leaders of all types must recognize the need to act in the face of an unknown future, spurring their communities to create a more resilient, fair, greener, and equitable world. What we do now can set the stage for revitalization guided by bedrock values that we share.

The Little Think Tank consists of academic and public policy experts focused on resilient recovery action for American communities. Convened during the 2020 Covid-19 shutdown, TLTT’s seven members review, curate, and develop transformative solutions for today’s public, private, and community leaders. Their cumulative, multi-disciplinary experience brings together the best of leading edge research and practice.

Submit your guest blog ideas to