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Person to person: unity that builds resilience

CSR

04/01/2021

Transformative resilience is essential to overcome the public health emergency

Social cohesion

The Covid-19 pandemic has toppled those seemingly unchanging bulwarks of our contemporary society. We have rediscovered the enjoyment of taking our time, having time to ourselves and also the importance of being in the company of other people. Coming to terms with Covid-19 has retaught us the importance of connections: with the past, the present and our future and that of the future generations. We have paid dearly for this understanding which makes it all the more precious.
Social cohesion is key to dealing with the crisis situation. Confinement within the four walls of our homes has stimulated emotional connections, an empathy capable of overcoming physical distancing and channelled into concrete actions to proactively help others. Never before have there been so many projects to support the community and return some sort of the normality lost as a result of the pandemic as in this historic period.

Sharing emotions is the basis for initiatives aimed at the common good

In this crisis scenario the social cohesion is the main factor: the sanitary insulation stimulated the emotional connection, an empathy capable to exceed the physical distance and to become concrete actions of help towards other people. Now more than ever social initiatives are increasing trying to restore the lost normality.

Between tradition and innovation

The coronavirus has significantly affected our society, its structures and its members. This has driven a change in our habits and the pre-Covid-19 normal and not even tradition was spared. An interesting case in point is the Neapolitan “caffè sospeso” (suspended coffee, when you buy a coffee for someone who can’t afford it), which came about to avoid discussions between friends at the bar over who would pay for coffee to become a tradition and a small example of social responsibility.
To avoid the problem, some customers paid more than they had to and asked the barista to use the extra money to offer a coffee to another customer. This “suspended coffee” paid for by a stranger became very popular after the Second World War as a gesture of solidarity with the homeless and in general towards all those who could not afford the luxury of a hot drink. This Italian custom spread abroad to places like Spain, Canada, France and Ireland, extending to various items like books, food, tickets and a place to spend the night.

The public health emergency has redefined and reshaped social patterns

In Italy, the tradition of the “caffè sospeso” was followed by the “suspended swab”. The association Sa.Di.Sa. - Sanità, Diritti in Salute and the Comunità di San Gennaro Onlus di Napoli foundation have launched a Covid-19 - screening campaign that allows people in less well-off categories to undergo testing at a cost of €18, which may also be covered entirely by donations. People interested in supporting the project can donate a suspended swab to someone who is unable to pay for it. This initiative has proven very successful and other Italian cities have adoped it as well. For example, the Brigata Soccorso Rosso provides free swabs in its marquee tent in Milan’s Piazzale Baiamonti that are funded entirely by donations.

Solidarity initiatives: from corporate to individual responsibility

In order to be successful, a social initiative requires a group of people to do something for the common good. This concept underpins the “Back the Bars” project promoted by Heineken Italia, the leading Italian beer producer. Its slogan speaks for itself: help your favourite bar to reopen in the future by complying with today’s restrictions.
Heineken channels a message of responsibility: respect the rules and laws issued to cope with today’s pandemic as the only way we can raise a toast tomorrow.
This concept is also promoted visually at some of the shuttered bars in Milan (the city selected for the project) that have joined the project. The bars’ exteriors have posters bearing the project’s slogan accompanied by the text #SocialResponsibly to reiterate the importance of individual responsibility.

The pandemic has given life to a community network that crosses physical and generational gaps

Other solidarity initiatives require greater involvement than people’s responsible conduct. The “Scatole di Natale” (Christmas boxes) project, which started in Milan, has spread to many other Italian cities and relies solely on people’s donations. Marion Pozzato is the mind behind the initiative to bring some Christmas cheer to those most in need, especially at this challenging time. All you need to participate is a shoe box or something similar to be filled with:
- Something warm (gloves, a hat, scarf, blanket, etc.);
- Something sweet (sweets, biscuits, chocolate, etc.);
- Something to pass the time (a book, magazine, pencils, playing cards, etc.);
- A beauty product (bath bubbles, a fragrance, etc.);
- A card, with a heartfelt message inside.

Then you should wrap up your box indicating who it is for (a man, woman, boy, girl) in a corner and drop it off at one of the designated collection points before the established deadline.

Transformative resilience as the key to our future

The term resilience originated in the metal sector and indicates a metal’s ability to withstand force. It expresses the ability of a material to absorb impact energy, temporarily change shape to then return to its original state. Applying this term to our society, if the material is people, it means their ability to absorb a shock and develop the most suitable strategies to adapt to the change.

A development model is needed that considers the interrelatedness between social value and environmental sustainability

The collective resilience strategy has been adopted by most communities to cope with the global emergency. Everything is underpinned by an emotional connection from the public to the private sector, from far-reaching initiatives to small gestures of solidarity. The interdependence and hyper-connectivity that made our world vulnerable to the virus are also our weapons against it. Moreover, our desire to overcome the public health emergency implies that we cannot return to how it was before Covid-19, to those patterns that helped the virus spread. Our new watchword must be transformative resilience: resilience based on not returning to the pre-existing conditions but bouncing forward learning from our experiences. The pandemic has made us rethink our financial and production-driven development model, which leaves little space for concepts such as societal or individual wellbeing. We have learnt that, if we do not give them their due, they become our Achilles heel and can negatively affect social, economic and environmental progress and trigger the fragility (or even the collapse) of an entire system.