What can we learn from COVID-19 about Global Wellbeing?

It’s a strange, bewildering and anguishing time. We try to cope by talking about lockdown and social distancing measures as the new normal. Quite rightly, people and organisations have been focussing on how to maintain personal wellbeing and resilience in the context of isolation.

This common experience has certainly heightened our consciousness about the importance of relationships. As we find ourselves trying to relate 6 feet part, through masks, without touching (even of our own faces), with hands raw from washing and disinfectants, via online technologies and through windows – we realise how much we have taken visceral, social connections for granted.

Interestingly, we are also seeing, in real time, how our lifestyle has been damaging our world. With the lockdown, we are seeing clearer skies, healthier lungs, cleaner seas, louder bird songs – all as a result of less air, noise and chemical pollution.

As a keen amateur photographer I have been taking photos of flowers from my garden for years. The following were taken yesterday. In previous years, these images would be covered in dust and brown stuff. I know because I would have had to fix this in post production. However, these latest ones,  in photography speak, are straight out of camera. I am amazed to see how clean the flowers are! I’m sure that the fact that we’ve had no planes, trains and automobiles in the last few months has something to do with this.



My former tutor, Ken Gergen, referred by some as the doyen of social constructionism, has been reflecting on this existential event, in particular, the consequences of hitherto dominant discourse of bounded thinking. In a recent op-ed, he writes:

“We generally understand the world in terms of bounded units – individual persons, families, communities, organizations, nations, and the like. Isn’t it common sense that such units are chiefly invested in their own well-being? Caring for the other is applauded; caring for the whole is exotic…

Let us then abandon the logic of bounded units. Let us instead pursue the vision of a world of relational process, a world in which there is no fundamental separation between persons and environment, but a communiverse responsible for the very possibility of life itself. Whether this possibility is realized depends on our care for the communiverse.”

According to Ken, global well-being hangs in the balance. There is an urgent need to transform our current institutions of governance and to foster new institutions for the ultimate care of the whole, the communiverse. In this connection, I am so proud to be part of an, ODI, an organisation that has, and continues to work for this paradigm shift! This is my ‘socially distanced’ shout out to my wonderful colleagues who are continuing to do this work from home. Keep on keeping on!

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