It has been more than a year of COVID-19. A year ago, we were busy pivoting our work and programming online, and fighting the proximate effects of COVID-19. Today, the preoccupation is on vaccination and on the world that we transit to.
What is the new normal? What are we doing at APC during this transition? I will pick up on three themes: existential, flourishing and hybrid.
One, existential. The pandemic has brought attention to the crucial need for us to address existential threats. COVID-19 is not even the most serious pandemic human kind has experienced. If one like Black Death occurs again, it could wipe out half the world’s population. But this is a low probability event. The focus now is still tackling COVID-19, and the mantra that ‘nobody is safe until everyone is safe’ has encouraged nine of our members to support the COVAX facility with a collective US$1.5 Million, matched 1:1 by Gates Foundation. Well done, members!
A high probability and high adverse impact event is climate change. Human-induced global warming is already causing sea levels to rise, a decline of natural resources, and the collapse of ecosystems. We cannot do nothing, if we care about our children and their children. Hence, at APC, we are preparing to launch the Climate Collective, with the aim of finding meaningful entry points to address climate change causes and impacts in the region.
Two, flourishing. The effects on the pandemic has helped focused our minds on what is ‘essential’ in life and what is ‘essential work’. However, we have been too narrow in only including what is essential in the short term, like food, and health. We cannot live by bread alone. What is obvious is that, even while we adapt with new coping strategies, many of us are simply not flourishing.
Hence, our programming has introduced mental health and the arts. COVID-19 has severely impacted mental health, especially among young people. Consequently, a group of APC members in Singapore has been exploring potential areas of action that philanthropy can organise around to build resilience in our young. We hope this work would be used in other countries.
We also held an Arts Salon for APC members active in the space, to affirm why the arts is needed. “The world needs artists more than ever to remind us what truth and beauty and kindness really are,” writes playwright Terence McNally, who unfortunately died last year from COVID-related illness. What we discovered too was how fun and fun-loving our members can be!
Three, hybrid. We all know that life after COVID would not look like what it was before. What would hybrid look like for APC? In February, we held a hybrid Indonesia Roundtable, with six APC Indonesian members in Singapore and two in Jakarta, apart from other staff also Zooming in. Hybrid events and meetings would become commonplace for us as we seek to link members and experts across wide geographies.
APC has also started hiring in-country consultants, starting with Malaysia and Vietnam. We are all likely to travel less post-COVID, hence these consultants can help us drive membership growth and engagement in key markets. We look to expand on this successful experiment.
But hybrid has a limit. It is hard to replace the very intimate connections that being in-person can bring. So, while it was great to host “Build Back Better”, it was definitely an inadequate replacement of venn2020. I definitely look forward to a physical venn2021 in November and seeing you then!
Meanwhile, may you flourish and not just stay healthy!
Image credit: Gavi.org