What comes next? Flourishing Futures in the Pandemic and Beyond

by | Apr 22, 2020 | Blog

Originally published by Capita, an ideas lab harnessing the power of big ideas to ensure that all children and their families flourish. Listen to the complete panel discussion on their website here.

Hosted by Innovation Edge’s Head of Marketing and Communications, Nicole Biondi, we convened a conversation with global experts focused on how the current pandemic is already changing policy and investment around supporting young children and their families, and about what might both be coming and be needed to support the well-being of young children after the pandemic.

Recap: Flourishing in the Pandemic and Beyond

Capita convened a global conference call of experts on April 9, 2020, on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting children and families—and how it could shape the future for many of us our societies and communities.

Our panelists were:

·       Nicole Biondi of Innovation Edge, South Africa, our moderator

·       Elliot Haspel of the Robins Foundation in Richmond, Virginia, and the author of Crawling Behind: America’s Child Care Crisis and How to Fix It. (See one of his earlier pieces for Capita.)

·       Lyman Stone of Demographic Intelligence, based in Hong Kong

·       Shikha Goyal of Imaginable Futures, based in London, but whose work focuses on Africa

How was everyone coping? Goyal said it’s tough being in a confined space with two young children, a mixed bag of reflection, frustration and joy. She liked “how everyone is coming together and cheering for people on the front lines.”

In Hong Kong, Stone said it’s powerful “seeing a community of people really band together” in the absence of a strong government. But like others worldwide, there’s also much fear and anxiety: People can’t just catch a bus anymore for basic errands, changing local life dramatically.

Haspel was at home with 3- and 5-year-olds, with no playgrounds or museums. The “disproportionate impact on historically disadvantaged populations here” in the U.S. was especially striking, he said. His foundation was taking the unprecedented step of providing $1 million in direct payments of $500 to each low-income family referred by social service and community organizations.

This is “not something our foundation has ever done before,” he said.

Impact on child care

While surveys indicate that about two-thirds of Americans report adequate child care, Stone said, many American children already are cared for at home, not the norm in many societies. In Sweden, state and private child care is the norm, he said, and few parents stay at home with children in Hong Kong.

Because of the crisis, the world may see an era of fewer pregnancies and resulting births. These types of crises, “they’re not real turn-ons,” Stone confessed.

Haspel pointed out that when most Americans return to work, child care may be far less available if some small, independent providers are no longer available. The crisis could prompt the public and more leaders, however, to recognize the dire child-care crisis and consider more substantial solutions, Haspel said. The U.S. is one of the few economic powers with no family leave policies and little publicly funded child care on a mass scale, he said.

Changing this situation could help “build resilience within our families,” Haspel said. He hopes for less of a dependence on “workism” that impacts children’s lives at homes and increases stress on adults who often face high-pressure jobs, low wages, long commutes, and lack of health and family leave benefits.

Greater solidarity among all

In Africa, Goyal said that communication is critical to help families find care and information during the health crisis. A severe drought in east Africa has proven the lack of savings among most families, prompting Goyal’s organization also to provide cash payments straight to families. “Inequality is more vivid than ever before,” she said.

Working with Harambee, a youth employment accelerator in South Africa, a peer-based network, Goyal’s organization is supporting the dissemination of accurate information about preventing the virus. Integration with others is “needed more than ever now,” she said, and many South Africans need better options for caring for children and finding employment.

“Trauma can keep children in survival mode for life,” she warned.

In Hong Kong, churches and others are supporting people during the crisis, Stone said, signaling a move toward greater reliance on institutions and “an opportunity to bridge social capital” and map a better future across sectors for all children and families.

Listen to the complete panel discussion on Capita’s website here.