This article is part of our Local Week series, a collection of articles focusing on the challenges facing communities as they confront the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find the other articles in the series on our Local Week page.
In World Politics Review, we called for local communities to be given a stronger role in the response.
Never in recent history have governments placed so much collective energy into telling people what not to do: meeting or moving, touching faces or each other, buying too much food or too little. But bossiness alone will not be enough to sustain the public resolve necessary for an effective response. People are desperate to help.
Communities have a practical role to play. They’re best placed to understand local needs and rally to respond to them – even more so at a time when central government is struggling to keep up. But there’s a political imperative as well. Societies must shore up the foundations of collective action that appear to be eroding fast:
To go back to the metaphor of shooting the rapids, we are most likely to survive the COVID-19 crisis if we empower everyone to row, rather than centralizing decision-making, scaling up surveillance and increasing coercion.
Over the next seven days, we’re enlisting the help of prominent thinkers on health, food, local government, community empowerment, and urban planning to examine the global crisis through the lens of the local.
How is the way we interact changing? How do meet the need for healthcare and food in people’s homes and neighbourhoods? How can we establish patterns now that will help us rebuild in the future? What can we learn from the largest accidental social experiment in history, and how will it shape our towns and cities?
This series supports the UK’s Local Trust as it galvanises new thinking about how to “put more power, resources and decision-making into the hands of local communities to enable them to transform and improve their lives and the places they live.”
This week’s articles will therefore be tailored to Europe and North America, though they will have broader resonance. But we are already planning a second series – the Local Goes Global – which will gather local perspectives from around the world. Please get in touch if you’d like to contribute.