By Ma. Verónica Moreno -Head of Solutions Mapping AccLabUNDPArg
A storm in the middle of the ocean
It was 2020 when we were in the midst of a strict lock down phase and someone made me think about the perfect image that could illustrate our reality. The pandemic feels like going through a storm in the middle of the ocean. However, we are not all on the same boat. The most privileged sail safely on their own yachts, while others navigate in simpler vessels, and others still try to row their rafts with all their might. Among the most vulnerable, chances of survival are also uneven: some have lifesavers, but others swim against the current. Several of them are sinking. And many have already drowned.
With the Global Network of UNDP AccLabs, we work to answer how the most affected try to cope with problems arising from the pandemic. What decisions do they take to tackle their challenges? How do they manage their resources? Which are the best practices (considering both replicability opportunity and learnings acquired)? However, I asked myself if the ship where my colleagues and I are navigating limits our view of the whole ocean. Indeed, we were not capable of finding answers on our own.
The only way is Co_Lab (orative)
A few weeks before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Co_Lab – the UNDP AccLab in Argentina - had won a United Nations Volunteers project to create a blueprint about volunteering. Among other objectives, we aimed to work with people in their communities to identify and map solutions regarding financial inclusion and socioeconomic recovery.
However, the measures of social, preventive, and compulsory isolation made us rethink our strategy. The new context demanded a digital mapping scheme from us and, therefore, new allies too. At first, there was a lot of confusion on how to do it. But the solution was closer than we expected.
At Co_Lab we had decided to expand the work done by “Territories in Action” (TeA). Its objective is to make visible —through a collaborative map— the efforts and actions developed by civil society organizations to tackle the crisis. At present, this digital map has more than 900 organizations identified throughout the country. It has also guaranteed its sustainability and has been adding public partners such as the Undersecretariat of Relations with Civil Society, which belongs to the Chief Cabinet of Ministers, and to the CENOC (National Center of Organizations with the Community).
One solution in focus and two needs: support and connectivity
Moving forward with this collective mapping exercise, at Co_Lab we felt that we had something valuable on our hands: some of the solutions that were being identified throughout the country had also been mapped by us before the pandemic.
The most noteworthy example was the case of digital public tasks. The physical isolation measures exposed, more than ever, the need to be able to manage procedures for the payment of services, the collection of social security benefits such as retirements, pensions, social programs, or the Emergency Family Income (IFE), among others operations.
What did the people who traditionally suffered the most from the digital divide and financial exclusion do? They looked for close solutions, provided by trusted people, but materialized in multiple ways. For example, in some places local networks were set up, and "social managers" gave free guidance to carry out the procedures for their neighbors. Certain social organizations, dedicated to food safety, also incorporated Wi-Fi to facilitate connectivity to their communities. In other cases, some offered this type of service for fluctuating prices, either in domestic or commercial spaces.
The way in which this solution has replicated in different parts of our country makes us want to experiment with it. For this reason, the Co_Lab in partnership with the Municipality of Concepción del Uruguay, Province of Entre Ríos, set up the Network "Con Vos", which provides support for digital procedures at small shops.
Beyond this case, many of the mapped solutions share two fundamental characteristics. First, they are implemented by women who, thanks to their work, contribute to their families and communities. Second, they entail bonds of trust and closeness, as with the solution for digital services.
A twist of fate? It seems so. If —despite the preventive isolation and distancing measures— the solutions need others to work, so do the mappings.
Would you be interested in knowing more about this Co_lab(orative) mapping strategy and other solutions identified? We are organizing a seminar with TeA to share this experience! We will communicate it through our social networks.