In a very real and unfortunate sense, the coronavirus pandemic is both symptom and disease — a symptom of larger problems that existed in our society long before COVID-19. To be sure, heroes abound, but the effectiveness of individual actions is limited by the systems that initiate, manage, link, and sustain their efforts. COVID-19 has laid bare both our systemic deficiencies and our deep, structural inequities.
The Burden Borne
The unfair reality is this: when crisis strike, low-income communities – particularly those of color – pay a cruel and disproportionate price. The two in four Americans that don’t have $400 to cover an emergency will bear the brunt of job loss and economic destruction. The inequitable burden these communities pay in a crisis is symptomatic of systems that do not function effectively before, during, or after a crisis.
A Powerful Opportunity
At Social Impact Exchange (SIE), we believe our sector’s imperative is to change the underlying systems that foster inequity, so that the pattern of economic and health disparity does not continue in unending cycles. Until we change these systems, we will not change the inequities.
Successfully addressing our most difficult problems cannot be accomplished by focusing on single parts of an issue in isolation. Holistic systems approaches are complex and long-term in nature, but they are central to broader and more equitable social progress. If COVID has taught us anything, it is that systems ostensibly in place to respond to crisis and help us thrive in non-crisis times – are wanting at almost every level. They are not amenable to simple fixes. But we can resolve to better understand why they fail and how to address underlying causes that impede transformation. That is the opportunity to seize now.
A Systems Response
SIE is responding to the COVID-19 challenge in the following ways:
Direct Response: SIE will publish information on the specific ways that systems initiatives we work with across the country are responding to COVID-19, including direct help to families. We’ll make the information available to funders in our networks so they can provide support.
Systems Transformation Fund: SIE is establishing a fund to support systems initiatives that address the structural inequities COVID-19 has brought to the fore. More information on the fund will be shared in the coming weeks and on our website www.socialimpactexchange.org
Long Term: Over the coming months we will roll out a longer-term systemic initiative designed to equitably shift our systems, so that we stop the insidious and unacceptable pattern of economic and health destruction for low income communities every time there is a crisis and replace it with resilient communities that have equal access and opportunities for all to thrive.
Please look for more information on these efforts and join us in a systemic response.
President, Social Impact Exchange