The preparation phase ensures a successful, effective and efficient execution.
Build cross-functional teams around specific issues and give them distinct names
No one person can do this alone, no matter how much time and effort they dedicate. Teams are essential in this crisis. The sheer magnitude and complexity of tasks, from communicating with many community members, outlining the program strategy, and collecting data (to name a few), require cross-functional teams to accomplish thoroughly. Upon distributing responsibilities, teams should name themselves: this offers a spirit of cohesiveness, a common value to find meaning in, which is crucial for sustainable progress. While the entire program is operating under the guise of one team, these embedded teams will be the ones achieving domain-specific projects.
Identify needs in the community, including those who are vulnerable
To best understand how a program is to be implemented in a community, conducting a community-needs assessment would offer you insights on how to achieve progress. This would involve collecting information through individual/group interviews pertaining to their livelihoods (education, employment, income, access to vital resources). Ensuring that systemic community-needs are addressed would empower communities for the current program, but also for the coming future! Creating robust communities starts by listening out for our neighbors’ needs. For example, local businesses can be involved by catering to vulnerable populations.
Create a bond across multiple teams by creating a shared identity and shared experience
Individuals coming from shared experiences are in a better position to build efficient and lasting relationships with one another. Teams can use this fact to strengthen intra-community bonds, whether it be forming weekly traditions or creating repeated forms of celebrations to mark milestones.
Set measurable and firm goals and dynamic action plans
Teams should adopt practical frameworks when outlining the series of goals that must be reached to achieve the final goal, zero COVID. Your goals should be simple enough where a time-frame can be set confidently, and precise enough to the point you can measure the degree of success. Moreover, these goals should be nested, where the completion of one aids in the completion of other, often broader goals. Strategies such as delineating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) offer a framework that can guide programs at multiple scales: a broad OKR for the absolute goal made up of smaller OKRs that guide day-to-day functions.
Secure needed resources, including financial and mental assistance
The problem of securing vital resources, whether this be living amenities, food/water, or pharmaceuticals, will be a significant problem for a majority of communities. Here, the power of support groups and partnerships with local representatives/leaders goes a long way. For example, projects should work in-conjunction with landlords to waive/lower rent during the most sensitive phases of the program. Another example would be to arrange a continuous crowd-fund to supply food and other necessities for vulnerable populations. With their leadership and direct influence, local representatives are integral for pushing these projects. It is recommended to create mental support programs, especially as a preventative measure. Faith leaders in the community could also take a bigger role in this regard.
Establish diverse communication channels
The key for this program to work is to be successful in communication, between teams, but importantly between those guiding the program and community members. Creating a universal communication platform where the overwhelming majority (if not all) of the community members can be both informed about initiatives and provide input is essential; this does not have to be one single medium of communication (common messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook) but all of them, if and only if the same message is being transmitted and the availability for community input is being received to one point. For example, some community members may opt to receive information and offer input through their landlines or telephone calls; the receiver would take note of any added information and add it to the central data pool of information being gathered for the entire community. Simple flyers with infographics need to be accessible in public places. An incredible resource would be to incorporate local TV programs into the communication strategy. Define your accredited channels to limit the spread of misinformation.
Keep people engaged and informed
The less the nature of this program is divided into two factions, those working from the program and community members, the more successful the program would be. Community members must be kept engaged throughout the lifespan of this program: from the outset, their needs should be listened to and addressed; their efforts should be appreciated and any critiques and initiatives should be welcomed. The series of projects being orchestrated by the teams will necessitate community participation. It is best to approach this a service-based relationship, and not a transactional one.
Communicate frequently and share good news and best practices
Ensuring that there is continuous information being relayed to community members not only keeps them informed, but it also leaves little space for rumors and misinformation to arise. Achieving specific project milestones should be celebrated not only by the teams but by the entirety of the community. Given the gravity of this program, community members should be updated as frequently as possible. Everyday new information about SARS-CoV-2 is being discovered and it is important to keep your community informed. Share your concern, honesty, and do not lie to people.
Track the outcome of activities
The team in charge of examining the progress of activities should make a dashboard available open to all teams. In doing so, all people involved in the program can see the progress of goals. Transparency is key for keeping teams accountable to the objectives they set; systematic advancements or wanes in progress can be identified and addressed early to better use resources maximally.
Adjust your actions if needed
Often when setting goals, teams have the tendency to be over-ambitious in their capacity to achieve; this risks a recurring source of discouragement when objectives are not met. Realizing your stretch goals are just a conglomerate of smaller goals not being focused on can be one reason; or, there may be necessary steps being overlooked. It’s more likely the case that the action steps, and not the goals themselves, are what can be improved upon; independent and third-person perspectives are a useful tool in such cases. Similar to the OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop method practiced by many institutions, the spirit of this work is to judge feedback from your teams and adjust the actions accordingly: it is, importantly, not implying a continuous change of objectives. Depending on the course of action, the observation process can take 4-5 weeks until results become tangible for an intervention to be better guided.