- COVID-19 has highlighted the interdependence of all people and the natural world.
- The pandemic’s disruption presents an opportunity to rebuild a world in which markets work for the whole of society.
- The COVID-19 Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs will help faith-based organizations and social entrepreneurs enact radical change and rebuild a better future.
In recent months, we have witnessed the courage and sacrifice of so many people delivering healthcare and essential services.
At the same time, there has been a sharp wake-up call about gross inequities in testing, economic pain, even survival itself. For much of the world – especially least-developed countries with only one or two doctors for every 10,000 people – the worst of the coronavirus still lies ahead. If this pandemic has revealed anything, it’s that we are globally interdependent.
It is time to pay attention and change course.
A better world – one that nurtures human potential among the least of us – can only grow from the seeds of honest conversation. As the holy texts of all major faiths attest, we reap what we sow. This is especially true in the natural world, where droughts, fierce storms, accelerating extinctions, rising seas and now coronavirus tell us that we are imperiling our own future.
We can’t simply go back to the way things were. Markets are highly inefficient in distributing empathy, compassion, hope and dignity – or even, as many have recently discovered, assigning true economic value with any degree of accuracy. We must build the world we want out of this disruption, so that markets work for the whole of society, not just a few. For what is the purpose of a free market if the people who make it possible are not themselves free? How we earn, how we spend and how we sustain the world and each other need a radical rebalancing.
For example, why are millions of “essential” workers – nurses, garbage collectors, grocery clerks, postal workers – so poorly paid? Why have companies and markets failed so spectacularly at anticipating, let alone balancing, supply and demand for basic protective gear? And how can one even place a monetary figure on the freedom to walk without mortal fear of a passing stranger’s cough, or to attend a loved one’s funeral?
Markets are not infallible arbiters of value.
We have always lived in a world of kindness and cruelty, generosity and greed, hope and cynicism, love and hate – all in constant tension. But which of these prevail in our countries, companies and communities ultimately depends upon the candour and courage of the conversations we have with our leaders – and the accountability we insist upon from them.
Now, we must embrace the moral imperative of radical change not just because it is right, but because it is the only practical course of action that can save the world from a worse fate in years to come.
Fortunately, recent events have shown us that rapid and radical change is in fact possible on a mass scale. Our challenge now is to channel and build upon it.