Strengthening community ties and supporting each other through the COVID-19 crisis

The coronavirus outbreak has spread to the entire world, taking an enormous amount of lives. During this time of uncertainty, we’re all trying our best to adjust, and protect ourselves, our families and communities. Marina Kovari is the Communication Manager of the Italian branch of EIT Climate-KIC. 

Based in Italy, where over 80,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, this expert in sociology and environmental communication explains how important it is today to strengthen ties in communities and support each other by sharing important information, resources and tools to try to cope with the situation. 

For a little over a month, you have been reaching out to EIT Climate-KIC’s Italian partners to send them important information on the evolution of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, as well as precious resources to support them during this crisis. Where did the idea come from? And why did you think this was so important?  

“One of the most important parts of my role, as an EIT Climate-KIC communications manager, is to provide people with the proper information, at the right time, and when they need it the most. Sometimes, this means anticipating trends or starting something new.  

Since 2018, I have been sending bi-weekly emails to our Italian community, giving them insights about our current activities, collecting inputs from them and nurturing the Italian network.

On 23 February and after a few days of uncertainty, the Emilia Romagna Region released its first announcement on COVID-19. I immediately realised it was only the beginning. So I started to search for a list of official information sources (e.g. the World Health Organisation website) and set up some Google Alerts to monitor the situation. Two days later, I had already gathered a lot of articles, websites, announcements and reports that claimed the situation would be dangerously worsening. That’s when I decided to start a conversation with our Italian community.”

Every two weeks, you are sending this email to about 280 people. Can you give us the latest information and resources you’ve shared with these partners?  

Here are some of the most important resources I found and decided to share with our network:  

I am also sharing the official Italian information:

What are your main goals, in sending these emails and sharing these resources? Can you already see how they’re helping people? 

“The situation is really difficult for many people here, and I think it’s essential to create a common knowledge base in times of crises or emergencies. These data, reports and official statements can limit panic, fear and misunderstanding among the population. We’re a community, as is stated in our name, the least we can do is to support each other and offer solutions. I have reached out to some people from our community by phone, especially the ones whom I know live in red areas, and it has been really helpful to share our thoughts and strategies to cope with the situation. It’s so important to be present and caring today, and we have to take care of our community members like we take care of our families.”

Marina Kovari, Communication Manager, EIT Climate-KIC Italy

 

How did people react when you sent the first emails? What feedback did you receive? And do you feel like you have answered to a need?  

“The conversation around the coronavirus outbreak and governmental measures within our community slowly shifted to climate change because, despite the pain, fear and personal feelings, the political agenda at every level (UN, EU, Italy) is rapidly changing.  

Many people in our community nurture hope that this dramatic situation could be a trigger to boost green policies. They have shared their hope that the recovery strategy could be zero-carbon and it has really helped our team realise many people share these aspirations.”

Have you discovered any interesting resources and tools that you and the partners might continue to use in the future?  

“We were all already digitally connected, using tools like Miro, Zoom, Audible and Notion. But business-as-usual in Italy is to work inside offices, firms, with in-person meetings. Today, it’s clear that what we call “future” is here, that the way we have worked (but also traveled, shopped, paid bills, etc.) is coming to an end and the youth in particular (digital natives, Millennials) are well-trained and happy to share their knowledge with the older generations.”

Have you identified any interesting initiatives from your community, that can help others overcome this crisis?  

“Yes, there are a few very interesting ones! The Bruno Kessler Foundation, for instance, is an educational platform for children, and they’re now online

There is also a special app, by FBK, to inform people who live in the Trentino Alto Adige Region. That’s exactly what we call “innovation in time:” From a problem to its solution! FBK created the hashtag #menoviruspiùconoscenza (less virus more knowledge) and several resources (conference, lectio magistralis, interviews, webinar). They’re all listed here.

Our partner CMCC is really well equipped to shift almost 90 per cent of the activities online and they’re sharing some advice here as well as some internal resources on climate change issues.

Our partner Dedagroup Public Services adheres to the Digital Solitaire programme promoted by the Italian Ministry of Digital Innovation (official website) and offers its Online Payments Portal for free. This service is aimed exclusively at the Public Administration; the application can be easily activated to make new fully digital and remotely accessible services available to citizens.”

How is this crisis changing the way you communicate with partners, and what are you learning from this experience? 

I understand how important a ‘real’ connection with partners is, our first circle of people. Since the beginning, I have put a lot of effort in creating a communications group among Italian partners and then a mailing list of people involved in Italian EIT Climate-KIC projects. This emergency situation shows me this was the right thing to do. And lately, I have added a personal touch because I want them to know that we’re in this together.”

 
Location
Italy
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