Coronavirus (COVID-19) has created two crises for individuals, families, communities, cities, regions and nations. Both threaten the short and long-term happiness and wellbeing of us all.
Firstly, there is the public health crisis of containing and then eliminating the virus.
Secondly, there are the economic and social crises caused by disrupted patterns of working, investing, consuming and saving that have already led to a precipitous decline into widespread recession and that potentially threaten longer-term, deep depression and social unrest.
Thomas Pueyo has suggested that there is a phase of action to ‘hammer’ the virus and reduce and reverse infection rates and then a longer ‘dance’ to ending and removing the threat of the virus.
Beyond that lies a future which can be characterised as a ‘rethinking and reconstruction phase’ in which social, economic and policy structures for the future might be altered, both to deal with post-crisis circumstances and potentially shifting beliefs about the roles of individuals, communities and governments.
What’s needed and when
Governments have been looking to individuals and institutions to help attenuate and then reverse the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Universities, and in particular the University of Glasgow, have been at the forefront of measures to support the health service in responding to the medical crises.
The economic and social crises also need urgent insights and innovative ideas for the ‘hammer’, ‘dance’ and ‘reconstruction’ phases.
Beyond insights for health behaviours, there are urgent demands to understand the implications of large-scale fiscal and monetary policies – e.g. what do they mean for livelihoods, for local communities and for inclusion?
There are immediate imperatives to help policymakers understand and mitigate effects on businesses, jobs, unemployment, reduced asset prices, depleted savings, and disrupted mobility patterns. It is critical to get to grips with the challenges faced by children and their families living in poverty, particularly those in neighbourhoods with the highest levels of disadvantage.
We need to better understand the impact of school closures and the wider reduction of public and third sector provision on a diverse range of outcomes, particularly on health and wellbeing. What does it mean for the homeless, the increasing numbers of evicted tenants, and the young and old homeowners running out of resources to pay their mortgages? How can we abate and reverse these effects of the crises, now?
There is also the shaping of the ‘reconstruction’: investing and planning for the longer term in the wake of the lessons and consequences of coronavirus (COVID-19). This will be a second phase of university-based support in mobilising policy relevant innovations and knowledge stemming from the economic, social and governance understandings within universities’ research communities.
What we are doing
Policy Scotland will serve as a conduit for policy relevant knowledge, mobilising insights and evidence from Glasgow and using our contacts and networks to connect colleagues in Glasgow University with policymakers, while also bringing ideas from the best experts elsewhere in the UK and internationally about what might work to deal effectively with the public health, economic and social crises we face.
The key audience for this work is those who are wrestling with the problems that coronavirus (COVID-19) and the disruption caused to normal working have created but we also see the website as an opportunity for policy discussion between academics and policymakers.
We will initially focus on developing urgently needed insights for the following policy areas:
- Community resilience and addressing disadvantage
- City economies
- Education, children and families
- Housing and infrastructure
Policy Scotland has the connections and expertise in these areas to support the rapid mobilisation of knowledge between academics, the state and the third sector working in these fields. We will work with a network of academics and practitioners to accumulate expert evidence and comment, and get these insights to policymakers at local, Scottish, UK and international levels. As more colleagues get involved, and as the needs of governments, agencies, voluntary sector bodies and communities become clearer, we will expand the range of topics cover.
We can share key discussions and conclusions in blogs, policy advice notes and short papers on the Policy Scotland website to extend impact and support public access to social science research about policy responses to the pandemic and planning for the recovery period.