Collaboration: the key to post-Covid recovery
Helping people to acquire key digital skills is vital to the recovery post-Covid as we all know. However, one issue that we are seeing at a global level at People 1st International is just how important it is for the efforts of employers, banks, NGOS, other funding bodies and government agencies to be aligned, so that key stakeholders are in the loop on key initiatives. This will both ensure that there are no unnecessary overlaps between projects, and that funding for skills development is spent in the best possible way.
For developing countries, the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of nationwide business closures, lockdown and mobility restrictions have been sudden and severe. Small and medium enterprises and those working in the informal economy are the hardest hit. For example, the Chamber of Commerce, CAMARASAL, in El Salvador, reports that 88% of SMEs experienced a loss of sales income of at least 75% during lockdown.
Reskilling the workforce for redeployment to other sectors and upskilling and empowering female workers are therefore both critical to recovery.
Training small informal enterprises for the future opportunities and encouraging small-scale, home-grown entrepreneurship is also a priority because NGOs, funding bodies and government agencies can’t simply wave a magic wand and create a post-COVID recovery. According to Asia School of Business Professor, Rajesh Nair, it’s also important to build ecosystems that support innovation and entrepreneurship from the bottom up – initiatives created and run by people on the ground who are both participants and beneficiaries. As he puts it, if you build an army of entrepreneurs, start-ups will follow.
Digital skills development is another key area. Initiatives such as the African Development Bank’s Coding for Employment (CfE) e-learning platform already helps boost the digital skills of young people and has seen an increase of almost 50% in users since the pandemic. In Latin America, Microsoft and the Trust for the Americas have launched 200 centers across 19 countries to improve the digital skills of 25 million people across the world who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19.
One practical example of the impact of digitization comes from the Middle East, where the Handicraft Association in Jordan have moved all their sales to an e-commerce platform to help compensate for the lack of business from tourists. The Jordanian government is also planning to help train craftspeople with IT skills so that they can successfully run their own e-commerce operations in future.
Out of the box thinking, creative approaches and non-conventional learning pathways are key to the widespread dissemination of digital skills. In the UAE, the Dubai Future Foundation has developed the Smart City University, a blockchain-powered decentralized learning platform that sidesteps traditional, offering personalized educational paths that lead to digital certifications.
But whilst helping people to acquire key digital, entrepreneurial and problem-solving skills is vital to the recovery, as is agility and resilience, there is another critical piece of the jigsaw: changing how people think about learning itself. To maximize the ability to gain new skills and to adapt to a fast-changing world, all of us will need to ‘learn to learn’ and to make continuous learning a life-style choice.
It’s clear that we have the opportunity to create a fairer, more equitable world of work based on investment in diversity, good pay, better training and improved job and career prospects. It’s also evident that this re-set can also be used to devise strategies for the future, and to train people with the skills required to help achieve these plans.
But this will require a strategic, planned and coordinated approach with all key stakeholders – employers, governments, banks, NGOs and training providers – working together in partnership.
The same or similar challenges that we are facing in Europe are also being seen across the world. As a result, rather than re-inventing the wheel country by country, it’s important that we all share best practice and learning so as to minimize duplication of effort and ensure that funding can be spent more effectively.
So, what are the practical building blocks for working in partnership post-COVID, and can we devise a roadmap for a new style of more integrated co-ordination between these key stakeholders?
One way to take this to the next level is to create simple but effective frameworks and toolkits and sharing next-stage concept notes based on generic models of best practice and learning that can be tailored locally, so saving time and ensuring that efforts are coordinated and funds are better spent.
In conclusion, harnessing best practice, identifying case studies and exchanging feedback and information are key to improved collaboration at a local, regional and international level. Once this foundation is in place, it will be easier to identify the quickest and most effective ways to develop the capability to address the challenges we face.