As governments struggle to safeguard public health and shore up the global economy in the face of COVID-19, public sector leaders are in the spotlight as never before. Yet while local and national governments bear the heaviest burden for protecting our collective health, nonprofits and civil society are playing an essential supporting role informing and preparing the public for how to respond to this virus. In addition, nonprofits and think tanks are indispensable in helping decision makers act wisely in a rapidly changing context.
The need is enormous. Due to the proliferation of online communication, and a fragmented media landscape, it is harder than ever for democratic governments to command citizens’ attention and direct their actions—particularly when collective trust in public institutions is at its lowest point in decades.
At this important time, we are seeing mission-driven organizations serve the public interest in three vital ways.
Role #1: Addressing the Acute Needs of Professionals on the Front Lines
Fortunately, many nonprofits are uniquely positioned to support public officials in their immediate response to COVID-19. They’re leveraging their knowledge and strengths to inform operational decisions, shape public messaging, and strengthen the work of the professionals on the ground. Two interesting examples of PTKO clients currently serving in this capacity are Save the Children US and the American Chemistry Council.
ACC’s Center for Biocide Chemistries is disseminating valuable information to local authorities, including this list of 100 household products that are known to kill viruses like COVID-19.
As schools and communities implement precautionary measures, Save the Children offers sound advice on how to talk to kids about health scares like the current pandemic.
Role #2: Influencing Changes to Public Policy
Think tanks and organizations with relevant areas of policy expertise – including public health, international security, and fiscal and economic policy – are helping governments understand the many levers at their disposal to limit the negative effects of COVID-19. PTKO is proud to support numerous organizations that are busy identifying needs, analyzing the social impact of policy options, and recommending paths forward. Just a few examples:
United Nations Foundation:
Despite coronavirus alarm bells, global health security remains underfunded
Memories of earlier global health threats – from SARS to H1N1 to Ebola to Zika – come to mind as the international community deals with COVID-19. Yet while serious progress has been made, the UN Foundation reminds us that consistent underfunding has left the world less than fully prepared to handle the current COVID-19 threat. Follow-up investments in systemic change will be just as critical as immediate actions.
The Brookings Institution:
What can US fiscal and monetary policy do to limit the economic harm from COVID-19?
Brookings continues to educate policy makers on sound fiscal and monetary policy responses to the public health emergency – and the limits of policy in addressing the negative impact on the US economy.
The Center for American Progress:
Lack of Paid Leave Risks Public Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak
More than 32 million workers in the US lack access to a single paid sick day to recover from COVID-19, or care for a sick family member, without losing their job or their paycheck. These workers — who are disproportionately low-income — are forced into an impossible situation that endangers public health. CAP is forcefully advocating for a national paid leave policy to address this risk.
Washington Center for Equitable Growth:
A coronavirus recession is a real threat that U.S. policymakers must address now to avoid it becoming reality
In order to address the next recession, Equitable Growth supports strengthening existing federal programs like unemployment insurance and SNAP, as well as boosting funding for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Role #3: Sharing Clear, Credible and Important Information with the Public
Mission-driven organizations with voices of public authority are sharing reliable information on COVID-19 and its impact. This includes not just breaking news updates, but also critical legal, policy and economic issues that might otherwise escape the public’s immediate attention. A pair of examples:
Through its ongoing news coverage, PBS is sharing essential, timely information about the virus — critical to combatting the public’s tendency towards panic, and to diminishing misleading claims and false information.
As usual, think tanks are serving as voices of authority in the mainstream media on topics of national importance. For example, New America’s education policy team is covering the “vast unplanned experiment in mass home-schooling” that may result from COVID-19, lending its voice and expertise to the New York Times and other interested outlets.
In the midst of this pandemic, the government has its hands full responding to the immediate needs of health professionals, while simultaneously managing the broader social and economic “ripple effects”. This is difficult but essential work. We are so grateful for the tireless nonprofit leaders who are busy supporting this effort to keep us informed and safe.