Making a Difference during COVID19. Stories from China and Italy

April 6, 2020


During these difficult times, what can you do to make a difference? How has the world changed and how do we believe it will continue to change? On Wednesday, March 25th, Amani Institute CEO Roshan Paul, held a discussion to explore these topics and more with Amani Fellows Jerry Zhu, who lives in Shanghai, China, and Francesca Folda, who lives in Milan, Italy. Jerry is the Founder of SimpliCity, a Shanghai-based Think Tank. Francesca is the Director of Global Communications at Amani Institute.

How can we decipher not only what news is real and what news is fake, but also manage our panic with facts?

Francesca, a journalist, shared that we are in not only a pandemic, but also an infodemic. This means that we are immersed with so much news that is not necessarily fake, but it’s overwhelming, often shared out of context and shared with the incorrect audience. She noted her concern about publications which either caused panic or downplayed the message of coronavirus.

She says “For years, we’ve talked about the word viral in the context of digital communication. Now, we’re in an actual virus situation. We can all take part in bettering this situation by sharing the correct information for the correct audiences at the appropriate time, mentioning the verified sources. Or not sharing at all, if it’s not appropriate.” Francesca adds “We can also look to other countries and try to understand their situations to learn from their results. For example, assessing whether it seems more effective to have a lockdown or to give people more independence and how the situation is managed accordingly.”

What can we all do to make a difference?

At Amani Institute, we exist to develop leaders in the social impact sector. Many Fellows, partners, and others in our network are working to find innovative solutions for their own companies, and programs. Jerry shared how he is seeing innovation take place in China.

He shared “In terms of technology, in China, Rokid, a leading augmented reality company, added a feature to their AR glasses that enables security guards check the temperature of hundreds of people in minutes to help identify Covid-19 patients. Pudu Tech donated hundreds of robots to deliver food and supplies to help medical workers and volunteers avoid contact with Covid-19 patients. At my company SimpliCity, we turned a lot of our explorative learning programs into virtual and engaging contents. There’s always something you can do to help fight against the Coronavirus.”

What positive things are we seeing that could go beyond the pandemic?

A key lesson in Amani Institute’s Social Innovation Management Program is reframing. Reframing involves looking at problems in a new light to find solutions and shifting our mindset if necessary. Frankly, we can also see the negative during this pandemic, but what positive things do we see happening right now, and foresee potentially happening in the future?

In Italy, Francesca noted that pollution has dramatically reduced because of lockdown and less driving and emissions, showing that each of us can make a difference in a magnitude we would have not believed before. She hopes that this time will remind us to come together as communities like we’re seeing all over the world. In China, Jerry explained that a restaurant chain was going to have to lay off 20,000 workers. So the e-commerce giant, Alibaba, stepped in and invited these workers to become their temporary employees. This solved both the workers’ unemployment situation as well as Alibaba’s labor shortage, due to rising demand for food delivery. He says “We’ve dreamed of a world for so long that involved all types of organizations incorporating social initiatives into their work. Now, we’re seeing public, private, and social sector organizations working together for the common good. Hopefully, that will continue.”

This is just a snapshot of our webinar. You can watch the full webinar, which dives deeper into these questions and much more, here.

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