The Power of Federalism, Plus 2 Tools

» More articles

Saturday, February 29, 2020

This official US Government tweet shows the level of professionalism and calm we are going to get from the federal government in this crisis: obviously very little, if any.

"Seriously people - STOP BUYING MASKS!  They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!" - US Surgeon General verified Twitter account

When the US government is putting out stress-tweets like this, they're certainly not well-positioned for when this thing is widespread. It's going to be all kinds of messy. We're probably not going to be able to stop that, and there will be damage from it. More damage than there has been already.

One thing that we have in the US but can help when the federal government falters, which it is, is a structure called federalism. It means that we have incredible strength and authorities in state and local government. In fact, much of the public health authority lies in state or local government, depending on the state's Constitution.

This state and local strength + capacity gives us extra resilience that not all countries have in their governance structure.

In China, some of the capacity to contain the epidemic occurred because of a heavy top-down structure.

In our country, we can be more bottom-up. We have the capacity to organically react and problem-solve as a collective from the ground up to a huge, evolving, fluid threat such as this. The work here called "Shift the Country" is designed to help facilitate organic civic engagement. At scale. The team behind it are disaster resilience professionals.

One key to that organic grassroots action will be empowering people to take action, even while the federal government is melting down. Also, for various reasons people will have trauma responses and not be able to function. That's okay, and we won't be able to change that. Those of us who are capable to function and lead can step forward.

That's not to say that everything will be great. It is really, really bad that the federal government is going to be such a cluster and has already taken counterproductive action in this emerging pandemic. Some of the federal government is still functioning as it should.

We can anchor to state and local government however. They have power, and they can flex it. One of the things we can do is to help them do it. For example, if you are worried about price-gouging, don't look to the federal government to solve it. Look to your state and local governments to take action. Come up with ideas for them that they can use. We CAN create community action.

If you are dealing with very deep panic right now, you are not alone. You're in good company. Clearly so is a lot of the world.

What Can You Do In This Moment?

Let's start with the fun stuff. Watch the LEGO Movie. Note this takeaway at the end of the movie: in the end, the point is that we all have to bring our own unique skills - the things that only we can build - to the bigger problem. That's what we're going to have to do with this coronavirus. This framework helps us do that at scale.

Breathe. Don't forget to breathe. And eat.

Two Quick Tools

Two quick tools you can use right now to help keep yourself sane + productive as this unfolds...

1) Take a look at your sphere of influence, and what you are doing with your time. Is what you are doing going to do any good for you or others you are worried about... or are there other things you would/could rather be doing? Is the thing that you are spending time on something that is within your sphere of influence? Will it have an impact? Do you want it to? Sometimes we need to vent and find solidarity. Not everything we put our time into has to be an action that has a clear impact. Part of getting through this will be dealing with our own emotional processing. But part of it is also consciously making decisions about the actions we do take. Which leads to the second tool...

2) Apply the concept of triage to your life, and use of resources like time and money. Triage is about prioritizing in an emergency. Think of a mass casualty situation where some people have injuries that need treatment and are bad, but others have life-threatening injuries. So medical people make decisions to focus limited resources to save lives. You can do this in your own life and with your own time. You can do this in your organizations and family. You can do this with the time you spend on the internet. And is so on.

Part of dealing with a crisis is making conscious, strategic decisions about what to do with our limited time and resources.

Triage, priorities, and resource allocation are a key to dealing with any crisis.

I'll say it again. Triage, priorities, and resource allocation are a key to dealing with any crisis.

That's not just true for you or me. It's true for every level of this.

Resources & Capabilites Are & Will Remain Limited

One of the greatest challenges to facing this pandemic as it's shaping up to be is that we have limited capabilities and resource allocation approaches in this country - as everywhere. Limited capabilities and resource allocation challenges.

There will be a lot of tough decisions, competition for scarce resources, and freaking out.

Knowing some of this up front, you may be in a position to take an active role in helping with decisions that need to be made. Some of what the work we are rolling out to Shift the Country can help you do at the state and local level. But for today, it plants a seed. You can start looking around and see how decisions are being made about critical, limited resources. What action is being taken at the state and local level.

Find Ways Through

Part of countering fear is acceptance. Acceptance that this will be bad. Acceptance that there is risk.

Part of countering fear is also being able to make decisions in persistent overwhelm. The work we are putting out as structured to help.

More to come. This is going to escalate and evolve. Escalate and evolve. Knowing that going in can help us be ready to make decisions through the entire process.

We do it together. That's how this virus spreads. We can operate that way, too. There's a way through.


This website was created for this kind of moment; for a great transformation.  We have free tools + info that can help people + organizations.  We hold virtual events.  We do coaching at inclusive pricing rates; we do consulting & training for organizations.  We help each other navigate disruption & find ways forward.
How Can I Help Make Shift Happen?
I'm In!  Sign Me Up
Shift the Country
Coaching & Consulting
25 Focus Areas to Help Navigate Disruption
The Blog
The Toolbox
This post was originally published on the founder's personal Facebook page here.

2020 posts assess situation & resources assess, accept, & address risk be the change / lead coronavirus / covid-19 counterfear tools (in blog) disasters & emergencies disruption & transformation find a way forward manage incidents & events opposition / resistance plan security / homeland security / national security shift the country - general take action think critically & solve problems

Leave Your Comments

We welcome your comments. Please leave your ideas and opinions below.

Will not be displayed on the site