The coronavirus outbreak makes one thing abundantly clear: we’re interconnected and in this together.
Yet our greatest vulnerability comes from a system in which money, resources, and power have accumulated for far too long.
For those in positions of privilege, here are 10 steps you can take to restore the circulation that all living systems need in order to thrive:
1. Be outstandingly generous to those disproportionately impacted. Consider your privilege and actively support communities that don’t generally have an accumulation of resources, are discriminated against, or are overlooked: the elderly, sick or infirmed; healthcare workers; single parents; undocumented, underemployed, self-employed, contract, gig, low-wage or laid-off workers; Black, Indigenous and People of Color; immigrants; the homeless and displaced; incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals; veterans; people with disability; and LGBTQ+ populations. This helps people understand who is most affected, helps us allocate resources more efficiently and helps to right systemic wrongs. (See here how the coronavirus outbreak affects Black people disproportionately)
2. Reduce rents for tenants and small businesses. Don’t evict. Delay rental payments. Rent vacant properties. This allows everyone to maintain homes and businesses through challenging times. (See here how this landlord is offering financial relief)
3. Freeze or cancel loan and bill repayments from individuals and small businesses. At a minimum, put a hold on accruing interest or penalties, and extend loan and bill repayment dates. Offer no-collateral, zero-interest or depreciating loans to individuals, small businesses, and nonprofit enterprises in need. This ensures that we don’t penalize people and businesses because of unforeseen circumstances. (See here how the U.S. administration has temporarily halted interest payments on federally-held student loans)
4. Support your employees and teams. Provide or advocate for: remote working opportunities (where possible); childcare support; paid sick leave; flextime; early and unplanned bonuses; and an employment guarantee for the coming months. Reduce the top-to-bottom salary ratio. Reject racism and have extra patience with inefficiencies, mistakes, stress and tension with your employees and colleagues. This provides people with security and a better ability to cope with work and family demands. (See here how this company is shutting down its stores but continuing to pay all its employees)
5. Keep your money local. Purchase from nearby businesses, especially those smaller in size. Tip generously. Purchase gift cards and pre-pay for future services. Support people whose activities and events have been cancelled — through online purchases, subscriptions and patronage. Decline refunds or donate refunded money to an associated cause. Move your personal and company’s money to a local credit union or community bank. This keeps money moving within our communities, and services operational. (See here for comprehensive data on why doing business locally matters)
6. Increase your charitable giving. Offer before people ask. Provide support to individuals, families and frontline social services, as well as those working to create a more equitable and resilient economic system. If you benefit from investment fluctuations, use the gains to finance your generosity, and donate stock to nonprofits. This reduces the likelihood of people falling through the cracks. (See here how some leaders are ramping up their giving right now)
7. Volunteer virtually and in-person (where safe). Offer online support to nonprofits and check in via phone or social media with people who might feel particularly alone. Where social distancing is possible, volunteer at your local food bank, shelter or other frontline service provider and pick up shopping, post mail, or offer childcare for people in need. Donate blood (if you’re healthy). This gives everyone an opportunity to take action. (See here for hundreds of virtual volunteering opportunities)
8. Share spare resources. Make an inventory of your supplies and a timeline for distributing what you’re willing to share. Drop off food, essential items, high-end healthcare products, and gift cards to individuals, your local food bank, meal delivery groups and other supportive services. Share excess produce from your land and provide access to your yard or property for a community garden to emerge. This ensures there is enough for everyone, and that resources aren’t idle. (See here how hundreds of Mutual Aid Networks are mobilizing in response to the coronavirus)
9. Support aligned programs and legislative proposals. Champion programs and laws that support tenants, small businesses, workers, and nonprofits, while prioritizing assistance for: the elderly, sick or infirmed; healthcare workers; single parents; undocumented, underemployed, self-employed, contract, gig, low-wage or laid-off workers; Black, Indigenous and People of Color; immigrants; the homeless and displaced; incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals; veterans; people with disability; and LGBTQ+ populations. This helps reinforce the structural changes our system needs. (See here how Twitter has banned hateful speech around age, disability and disease)
10. Lead by example. Inspire others with privilege to follow you. This creates a snowball effect. (See here how this woman’s coronavirus campaign is inspiring #viralkindness)
With thanks to the following people, from around the world, who helped crowd-edit this article: Dien Vo, Natalie Holmes, Crystal Arnold, Katia Sol, Tía Laída Fé, Victoria Saint, Claire Sommer, J’aime Powell, Alexa Bernard, Bonnie Cohen, and Kokayi Nosakhere.