Transforming Our Future: What the Pandemic is Making Possible


In-mid March, I went into my house with my children and began this long, confusing time of isolation and change. Almost daily, I learn of friends and family who have gotten sick, who have had to isolate from their children, who are struggling to pay their bills or buy food, who have been denied life-saving care for other illnesses, and who have lost someone they love.

I know I’m not alone in this. And I find myself thinking not just about the trauma of what is happening right now today, but also about what will happen tomorrow.

One of the strange things about the COVID-19 moment is that tomorrow is quite suddenly here. Even as so many of us are isolated and alone, massive systemic shifts are happening that were unimaginable only weeks ago – changes in how people work, how people care for others, how government supports individuals and businesses, and even how counties, cities, states, and countries work together and compete with one another.

Some of the changes are inspiring and I wonder what it will take to sustain them. What is now politically viable that could not even be considered before?

Some of the changes are disturbing, and some of the most disturbing changes are happening in hidden ways that make them even scarier. What has our collective fear made possible that we simply cannot allow to continue?

“If there is one thing history teaches us, it is that moments of shock are profoundly volatile. We either lose a whole lot of ground … or we win progressive victories that seemed impossible a few weeks ago. This is no time to lose our nerve. The future will be determined by whoever is willing to fight harder for the ideas they have lying around.” 

Naomi Klein, Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker

Collective impact initiatives are uniquely placed to be the ones that fight the hardest amid this massive shock to our society and world. A mature initiative has already agreed on the problems that need solutions and can take that knowledge, reflect on current context, and adapt to act with purpose in this extraordinary moment.

Collect impact initiatives are also uniquely placed because they have done the work to build trust, they have backbones that can help enable action even during crisis, and they are committed to shared values and beliefs that can protect and advance equity, justice, and a healthier, safer world for us all.

The capacity and strength to act is already present in our initiatives, even amid crisis. What may still be needed are tools to help frame and shape our action. Here are a couple tools being used right now by funders collaboratives and initiatives who recognize the future has arrived, and it’s our job to transform it:

  • A COVID moment Journey Map: A straight forward process of mapping from your past priorities through the crisis moment to the immediate, transformed future. This tool will help you to ask bold questions about what is possible now that wasn’t before, without losing the connection back to where your initiative came from and what you collectively agreed to prioritize. It also helps you to balance responding to the crisis with responding to the larger opportunity to drive change. Both are critical and it’s the balance of work in each area that we need to figure out.
  • COVID moment Strategic Planning Questions: While the quicker process of the Journey Map will help in this moment of rapid transition, it is likely many of our initiatives need a deeper discussion, one that will take time. This tool offers a variety of questions to inform a refresh of your strategic thinking, asking about how the past contributes to the present crisis thinking and helps us seek a transformed future. The questions will challenge you and your partners to find ways to be bold amid this moment of crisis and transformation. It will acknowledge your past work and help you adapt it in the current context.

COVID-10 is a moment of shock, a moment of volatility that demands we act to protect our communities and the environment and challenge the world to become a better place. I’m excited to see what role collective impact initiatives will take in shaping the emerging future.


Sign Up to Download

You will also receive email updates on new ideas and resources from Collective Impact Forum.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Confirm Your Registration

You will also receive email updates on new ideas and resources from Collective Impact Forum.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.