Monday, May 04, 2020

How Ember is Navigating the Pandemic

About a month ago, I had some ideas about restarting The Ember Cast. Here are some resources and thoughts about why how that may or may not happen. If you are involved in any kind of nonprofit, social enterprise or faith based ministry, I commend you to at least skim these readings. I don't have any answers yet for The Ember Cast, but have lots of questions. More importantly, we have relied on sources that will articulate reality like it is and point to possible trends that will signify the future. The resources below communicate both.

Leading Beyond the Blizzard:
The novel coronavirus is not just something for leaders to “get through” for a few days or weeks. Instead, we need to treat COVID-19 as an economic and cultural blizzard, winter, and beginning of a “little ice age” — a once-in-a-lifetime change that is likely to affect our lives and organizations for years.
The Praxis team also wrote a follow up that is worth reading.

Designing for Uncertainty:
This means that the bulk of organizations are currently executing on strategies that may not work post-COVID-19. And, even if nothing changes for an organization, they are plotting a course into the future with large degrees of uncertainty. In either scenario, organizations are designing in the midst of crisis and chaos, while navigating towards an unknown. So, how does an existing organization manage to see through the fog of uncertainty while also planning for an unknown future? -

Coronavirus Could Set the Church Back 25 Years.:
My grave fear is that this spike in online attendance will be as illusory as the growth of megachurches last century. It will serve to mask the reality that less and less people are devoted to a wholehearted commitment to Christ, and more and more people see church as an event, a shot in the arm, a convenient uplift that doesn’t challenge their everyday life in any way.

After Social Distancing, A Strange Purgatory Awaits:
We will choose our social events wisely. To lure you in, restaurants will mandate temperature screening and reduce the number of tables so that patrons don’t feel crowded in. Servers will wear protective equipment; menus will be disposable. The maximum capacity of bars will be cut in half, if not more; since the Cocoanut Grove era, the number of people allowed in such establishments has been constrained by fire codes, but a fast-spreading coronavirus dictates even more space per person. As stores restrict admission at peak times and long lines form outside, we may find ourselves scheduling appointments to buy groceries.

Covid-19 Trends: Looking Past First-Order Effects:
When will you feel like it’s safe for both you and your child to return to work/school?
When will you feel comfortable flying again? How will you react when someone coughs beside you?
Will you want your next waiter to wear gloves and a mask?
What year will you buy your next festival ticket?
Pets (one of the most recession-proof industries)
Changing behaviors, like the rise of frugality (car repairs vs. new car sales). Car rentals are also surging (most socially distanced way to travel) in places like Japan.
What will be the next wave of apps?
Will schools ever be the same again? (Scott Galloway thinks some won’t re-open)
Searches for "MasterClass" have eclipsed "business school”
Will things like virtual conferences hold onto market share?
eSports will thrive.
This is an incredible slide deck, on the same level as Mary Meeker's legendary annual State of the Internet.

After all that, here is what is on my mind, related to Ember and more:
+ Domestic travel may come back in late 2020. International travel will not come back until 2021 at best. Global travel will no longer be so easy. There may be some kind of immunization cert as well as a property disinfectant cert. Traveling will require bravery [Wendy Perrin]. How do we shape and mold global leaders when you cannot travel? Not to mention, travel has become such a large part of our family's lifestyle. Long time Ember peeps know that most of our international partners have become dear friends in the Gospel. This change in travel is the thing I grieve the most.

+ Revenues for most organizations will fall 60-80%. This is not a direct impact to us since we run with a volunteer staff but is an indirect impact since the economic downturn will affect donors and discretionary income.

+ Education and training changes. College at an incredible price tag was already a question and now that we have experienced distance learning, those schools that were on the brink of survival will not make it. Are there more opportunities for gap years or similar experiences?

+ We always felt like at least some of Ember's interactions with teams could be done virtually. This can rise to another level and won't feel as weird now. Like the time I asked a high school girl if she had a webcam.

+ Mentoring is an age old art, even from a distance. The Apostle Paul wrote 4 of his letters from prison.
"Disciples are made on the road, not in rows." - Kim Hammond
"In digital Babylon, faithful, resilient disciples are handcrafted one life at a time." - David Kinnaman

+ Will power and preference shift from global cities to green/yellow/red global zones based on immunity? [Mark Sayers]

+ There already is a great shift in the ethos of volunteering. This pandemic is the second world altering event that Gen Z has experienced.

+ "What Christians in the West who are experiencing this don't realize these pandemics are a normal part of human history." - NT Wright

Granted, in all of this, we are still very, very fortunate. Our family is safe, we have not lost anyone to Covid and my day job is stable for now. Reach out if you would like to chat about what we are learning, like on my whiteboard.