Support as one of the unpredictabilities during Covid19 to be tackled

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I am writing my own opinion, not that of any organization.

Recently I read the book “Bruggen naar het onvoorspelbare (Bridges to the unpredictable)” ( Aimé Heene , 2016), and now I don’t know whether to write a review or a blog piece. For the time being I will stick to a blog, because it inspired me together with the previous book that I read (“Handboek Scenarioplanning”, Mario van Rijn and René van der Burgt , 2019) and with the situation of the corona crisis. A review is still possible later.

My personal idea is that we have to deal with a very clear unpredictability that may be turning negative: support from the population.

Let me make a comparison:

In the 1700s AD there was a lot of hunger in England. There was therefore a lot of theft of food. The punishments became more and more cruel, and after a few years the death penalty for stealing a loaf of bread became something banal. It didn’t scare people, many hungry street children died on the scaffold.

Also at Covid 19 , stricter punishment and more original checking will not help to create intrinsic support. (Fines of 4000 € for a party organizer? So why not the death penalty :-)) Moreover, the comparison indicates that extrinsic support will no longer work in the long term. As a result, I had the idea to do stakeholder management by involving stakeholders more.

” How ?” you will ask.

To create a vision for the future in a more scientific way with the aim of exploring how we should tackle the problem with public support. Not so much by inventing new techniques, there are already enough of them. More to make the right recommendations for creating a motivated support base. In the future  that depends on that same future. That can only be addressed according to me by involving the stakeholders.

So ‘how’ is the question . Prof. Heene’s book gave me inspiration in this by reminding me of the possibility of future scenarios. By means of strategic stakeholder dialogue. Difficult term.

Futures explorations with stakeholders are needed in 2 ways: (not necessarily both with the same stakeholders)

  • A stakeholder dialogue in the breadth that explores the wider society.
  • An in-depth stakeholder dialogue that explores the most relevant unpredictabilities and extracts strategic alternatives.

The purpose of the survey is to increase knowledge of the ecosystem in which the target group operates, and thereby to identify key uncertainties and unpredictabilities. As the target part of their own ecosystem within society, they must actively be involved.

In a first phase, the group identifies the key factors that can determine society: trends, evolutions, environmental factors of all kinds.

In a second phase, the organizer of the exercise quantifies the impacts of the uncertainty of all kinds of environmental factors with scores. The key unpredictabilities (potentially greatest impact and with greatest unpredictability) are retained for the in-depth dialogue. This in-depth dialogue continues with these key unpredictabilities from the broad outlook for the future.

Possibly the stakeholder group should be reconsidered now and limited to a relevant group because of a smaller focus in terms of themes to be looked at. The experts who must do the deepening of themes should sit at the table. The target group should also be at the table in this regard. The situation of similar problems in neighboring countries can also be examined. After all, “when it rains in Paris, it drips in Brussels”, etc. Scenario planning is a useful method for this in-depth dialogue .

The two most important key unpredictabilities each form an axis for a total of four quadrants, each with a scenario.

Subsequently, the participants work out the scenarios together based on their background and knowledge. In this way 4 distinct visions of the future arise from the experience and knowledge of the participants.

Concrete recommendations can follow from this.

  • The no- brainers that apply to all scenarios.
  • The thinkers that are scenario dependent.

These recommendations may or may not be implemented as measures.

A possible reason for this approach is the (rapid?) change in the situation of the support base. That support is unpredictable and therefore forces us to look ahead.

“ Wait and see ” is no longer an option. The current social changes also require a more 360 ​​° view of this situation. By involving stakeholders (the target group), the government anticipates the gaps it has (now and in the future) in order to know the substance of this matter.

As an extension of this, any organization that takes itself seriously (and has the resources to do so) could try to set up a crisis anticipation team , which looks further into the future, to explore a number of possible futures so that there are fewer unexpected turns.

One problem I already see after all is that the countries are at times in other phases. Suppose hypothetically that a country gets the problem solved, then the situation in the EU is such that the chances are realistic that the infections will just be coming back from another country.

So we have to look ahead. Anticipate. Collaborate and explore futures.

Hence my motto is “anticipate, anticipate, anticipate!”

Some additional topics for further anticipation are:

  • The economic consequences for society and the state finances of current and future generations.
  • The psychological impact of this crisis on youth and possibly future generations, and those who can give support starting now. Also by analyzing matters scientifically.
  • The restart for the hospitality & catering industry: what drastic measures are further needed for the survival of this sector. What can they do to redefine themselves?
  • The approach to vaccinations and associated (communication) strategy after the crisis, because in my opinion there is almost no other option than to make a regular new corona injection against new variants compulsory in order to keep the disease at bay. So one must think beforehand how to tackle this.
  • Crises in the periphery that can develop further unseen, because all the focus of awareness (too much for many) is now on Covid19. How about drought? Terror threat? Climate in general? Other illnesses? You hardly hear anything anymore.
  • What other themes may be relevant, they must not be forgotten in the aftercare phase. The aftercare phase itself should also not be forgotten and one should start thinking about it now. It may not take that long operationally, because a new normal situation is coming, but it is all the more important to continue to guide the aftercare of the strategic crisis, because we do not yet know that new normal.
  • All organizations must start to see and recognize and use opportunities in the crisis. At the moment there is a lot of focus on the negative, that is human. But that should not be / remain the only thing.

Hence anti-fragility will be the new resilience in the new normal.

In order not to lose relevance, I quote here a quote from the movie “Mr Brooks”:

“… Give me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” (Evans)

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields. Since 2012, he has been working at the Crisis Centre of the Flemish Government (CCVO), where he has progressed in BCM, risk management, and crisis management. Since August 2021, he has been a knowledge worker for the CCVO. As of January 2024, he works at the Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs of the Flemish Government. Here, he combines BCM, risk management, and crisis management to create a tailored form of resilience management to meet the needs of the Flemish Government.

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