Opportunity statements and identification and COVID-19

Author: Manu Steens

Anyone who takes himself seriously concerning risk management knows that the definition of risk according to ISO roughly amounts to a cause that gives rise to an uncertainty in the achievement of objectives. That uncertainty can have a de facto positive effect, so that the objectives are achieved and more, or have a negative effect, namely that the objectives are not achieved or worse.

A risk can then be written as a risk statement, which consists of a cause, the actual risk and the ultimate effect. This suffices as a one-to-one cause-to-effect statement to follow our reasoning, although real risk statements can give rise to many-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many statements.

Having a negative effect is due to threats, having a positive effect is due to opportunities.

Since a risk, despite the ISO definition, is linked by most people to threats rather than opportunities, we need to use metalanguage to focus.

Metalanguage in these are ‘templates’ in which risk statements, including opportunity statements, can be included.

This one is based on the principle of a risk statement:

  • “As a result of , may occur, which may lead to .”

And for opportunities based on SWOT, this becomes:

If we apply this to the European situation regarding Covid-19, we get, for example, statements like:

  • Through a policy culture that allows for a firm response, we can limit a new flare-up of the virus, which gives the development of a suitable virus vaccine more time and thus more chance of success.
  • If we can limit the number of human contacts at work, on public transport and in public spaces and to the extent of the realistically possible also in private life and at all kinds of events, we may be able to reduce the virus sufficiently, which gives a chance to the world of making work of economic recovery.
  • If the global expansion of human activities is intelligently restrained , allowing the pandemic risk in the future to diminish, biodiversity can stabilize, the natural balance can restore, fewer people come into contact with wild animals that are no longer dislodged from their habitat so that new pathogens are no longer transferred, transmission can decrease internationally, citizens in the future will be more forgiving and tolerant of a mistake in policy.
  • If clear communication is used, the right experts are heard, and transparency is created about the relationship between cause and effect, the most decisive policies can be discussed in open forums, providing insight into necessary and perhaps sufficient reforms to support a sustainable recovery.
  • With this premise, there may possibly be brought forward new and better institutions, with improved basic infrastructure, better regulation of key economic sectors and investment in public services that create and protect human capital and render in the long term, not in the short term, which can shape the economy and the world of the future. For example, by opting for a low-carbon basic infrastructure as a result of an open debate without group-think or tunnel vision , which enables growth for new developments, but which can also provide an answer to climate challenges.
  • By organizing flexible technology in Europe, and building strategic stocks of raw materials, it is possible to switch quickly between conventional production and the production of necessary goods in a pandemic time (e.g. personal protective equipment), thus reducing Europe’s dependence on Asia, and which also makes it possible to test such a system in collaboration with regular customers (eg hospitals, rest homes,…).

Support for provincial measures during Covid-19 – a case

Author: Manu Steens

Corona times are special times. Nobody can deny that now, except for possible total deniers. And in English they say: “Desperate times call for desperate measures ” (Said to be words of Hippocrates). When this is said, it means that actions that seem extreme may (under normal circumstances) be appropriate in times of adversity and calamity.

The real problem is in the word “may”. After all, even in times of calamity, support is needed. And how do we measure support? I previously wrote about a tool that I created to make a visual assessment of the support for actions by governments, namely at the GDPR and at Brexit .

See also: http://www.emannuel.eu/en/artikels/risicomanagement-strikt-genomen-succesfactoren-van-gedragenheid/

However, these were only two cases, so now I am trying out the (now adapted) tool on the measures for the population of the province of Antwerp . Actually it is wrong from the beginning what I am doing, because for a balanced answer I would have to conduct a survey among a relevant number of citizens . But I avoid this error by stating that this is my opinion, a personal assessment of the situation. Based on indicators that I created based on other cases. That presumption goes as follows:

Legitimacy: The province of Antwerp makes use of the legislation and works together with jurists from various government agencies. The legitimacy of a number of actions is disputed, but the complaints do not currently seem to be of the heavy caliber and appear to be rebuttable. Score: +

Cohesion of the target group by proximity of the issue to the target group: The actions are strongly felt by the population. People ask themselves whether that ban on fun shopping really should be, because shopping should still be fun … In the street scene, I hear various sighs. But most seem to think negative when someone has no intention of wearing his on the bus, but there is no one reprimanded by fellow citizens. When does the wrong thing, it remains a matter for law enforcement. Score: o

Effectiveness : With the latest results viewed day by day, it seems to be going in the right direction in Antwerp hospitals. The fact that the measures are largely the same throughout the province also seems to prevent population shifts. As well as preventing the potential infections that go with it. Score: a cautious + subject to the trend continuing.

Targeting: There are of course entirely – deniers even the existence of covid-19 deny yourself. There are also machos who do not take the advice of the elbow strike seriously, and who absolutely want to shake hands. It turns out that quite a lot of Bart De Wever’s also eat in the restaurants and taverns. However, the majority of the population takes the measures seriously. Measures such as testing and tracing will be fine-tuned further. But is there more to be explored than enforcing the rules, or are there also alternative options? Score: o.

Efficiency: The PCC Antwerp (Provincial Crisis Center) runs on very flexible people, and the population has also shown itself to be largely flexible. For example, there was an emotional urge among citizens to want to wear a mask, despite original dissuasion. Now a mask is required all over the province, and citizens have agreed. Score: +

Perseverance: The PCC Antwerp team ‘goes for it’. The members contribute topics themselves and give their opinion freely. This criterion is more difficult to assess for citizens. But with the slightest weakening of the measures, a whole lot of freedom was taken. As a result, by wanting to be too social as one of the factors, it could be that this flare-up was increased. Score: –

Leadership: People should look up to experts. And there are indeed many (types of) experts involved. Not only masters in their field, but top people from universities. Some of them have been burned in the eyes of a number of the civilians, but the same citizens seem to be looking for whom they do want to trust as experts. Furthermore, the governor himself is being looked at: we have to wait and see how she will come out of this battle. Score: ++

Internalized: There are things that have been shown to work in the past. However, is the citizen motivated to comply with the measures, or are loopholes to be found quickly in the new measures ? That is still unclear at the moment. That is why I leave this score blank: blank.

Reputation: The question here is whether the citizens has a good or bad feeling in this situation in all its aspects and whether they are on an individual level involved. That also seems unclear to me at the moment. That is why I leave this score blank.

 

In summary , the score in the tool will look like this:

Conclusion: I feel that the situation is largely supported by the population of Antwerp, although much may depend on the results in the coming weeks. The situation should be reviewed anyway after the period of 4 weeks that has been set, or after serious interventions that would occur.

The need for civic engagement and clarity at Covid-19

Author: Manu Steens

Two articles on the website of the VRT appealed to me. They block the seriousness of the situation:

– Microbiologist Herman Goossens: “Insufficient Security Council measures, we are heading for disaster if we don’t act quickly”.

– Antwerp governor pleads: “Please limit your social contact to your family or choose two regular friends”.

The governor also said in the interview, “Be tougher on yourself than what’s allowed.”

This is not simple: it requires engagement and participation from the people.

Then, of course, the question arises: “What is engagement?”. And what are decisive factors at the government that demands engagement from the citizen?

According to John C. Besley (in Chapter22: ‘Public Engagement in Risk-Related Decision Making’ in ‘The SAGE Handbook of Risk Communication’), the fact that public engagement can involve a huge variety of activities is a stumbling block to transform available information into knowledge.

According to Creighton, public engagement is “the process by which public concerns, needs and values are incorporated into governmental and corporate decision making. It is two-way communication and interaction, with the overall goal of better decisions that are supported by the public”.

There may also be mechanisms whereby citizens have some degree of control over decisions. This then is a continuum that goes from agreeing with what the government wants up to becoming citizens who have a meaningful voice, and are recognized for this by the government.

An important parameter, according to the literature, to get participation is the confidence citizens have in the decision makers, as well as the more they know about the situation in which they have to participate. For the latter, a pervasive communication with press conferences and much more than that is a permanent necessity.

In our country at the moment, it seems that it is mainly the citizens agreement with what is decided that takes place. There are very few citizens initiatives. This seems to indicate that the citizens look to the government with the question “tell us”. But also with the question “save us, because we do not know the solution ourselves”. Decisions can therefore be tough, and as long as they are made authentically and offer the solution in the long term (if necessary), the citizen will continue to agree.

The solutions must also be clear.

This implementation of measures always requires clarity. How do you do this? Goal: defeat the virus. Operational measures are therefore necessary. How do you clearly describe the goals and actions operationally and why do you want to do that? In his book “Your Best Year Ever” Hyatt writes about a well-known method: SMARTER. How can we apply that to the actions we want to roll out?

SMARTER stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Risky, Time-keyed, Exciting, Relevant.

The idea is that we first have to write down the goals. In this crisis, there is only one goal. To defeat the disease. But that in itself is not SMARTER.

This could be a proposal:

Specific: get the number of infections to zero to prevent a third wave. We do this by complying with the six golden measures and limiting our social contacts to our own family and otherwise to a maximum of two friends a week. The intention is to get the R-value back below “1”. However, all this is not specific enough. Therefore, to make things operational and specific, there are the MB and the FAQ. Unfortunately, in the past it has already been shown that these will always be incomplete, because one cannot summarize the lives of 11 million people on about 40 pages of paper. But the rules are there, both in the letter and in the spirit, and people are asked to take their own responsibility with common sense when their situation is not literally described.

Measurable: through testing and contact tracing, no new infections are detected. This is a criterion that clearly states when the downward tail of the new infections reaches zero. This is only possible if indeed we get the R-value under “1”. This is also measurable, through the numbers of for example hospitals that are passed on to the government. But measurable also means that the police must be able to check compliance. Such as leaving your details when visiting a cafe or restaurant. An example of what is very measurable here is a name tag.

Actionable: I translate this here as feasible and useful: it’s about what we do. Here the FAQs are useful again. The six golden rules are not difficult to follow. But the question was asked whether it would not be better to limit ourselves to much smaller bubbles. That in itself is not actionable: it is not useful, for example, to measure your social contacts. Better is “Find a maximum of 2 friends per week instead of 15”. This is useful because it is based on a useful verb: search. Not more generic, often unclear statements with verbs like “are” or “have”. So choice of verb is very important in communication.

Risky. Ugh. Normally it says something like “Reasonable”. But using the word Reasonable makes that we often do not challenge ourselves enough to set the bar at a high enough level. Reasonableness encourages you to make it easy with quickly achievable objectives. A bubble with 15 friends is easily achievable. It seems reasonable. But it’s not. It’s certainly not a challenge, but more than that, it’s a number where people stop counting. 15 seems infinite, so we’ll do whatever. And before you know it, you’ve got a lot more contacts than 15 and the infections are rising. Meeting just two good friends is much more challenging. You have to make choices, decide who you prefer and why. It’s more confrontational, the bar is much higher to realize it.

Time-keyed: the measure of the bubble is the clearest example here. Two friends, who are allowed to change per week. But it doesn’t always have to be time intervals. They can also be frequencies. This concept also divides the goals into “achievement goals” and “habit goals”. An example of an achievement goal is that you buy name tags to leave behind in a café that you visited to be available for testing and tracing. An example of a habit goal is that you always put on a mask when travelling by train. The goals should become a habit as much as possible. Then for many people it goes by itself.

Exciting: “What in God’s name is exciting about such goals and measures?” Actually, internal motivation is meant here. It is an important characteristic that people are intrinsically motivated to make them achieve their goals. Good health is an example of this. I assume that everyone loves themselves enough to find their own health important enough to be motivated. So contrary to what the word suggests, it is the feeling of concern that is important here. Worrying about your neighbor and yourself. Let that concern inspire you to take good care of yourself, your family, and your friends and neighbors.

Relevant: this is here with regard to the crisis situation (including other people) and also your personal health interests. This criteria is the bottom line. Effective goals and measures are relevant. It has everything to do with giving direction. This gives you the opportunity to check your gut feeling before committing to the measures. It is here that everything can go wrong if we are not careful. There are four criteria for measures you can check here: is the measure proportional, prudent, efficient, and effective? Note: what is “proportional” doesn’t necessarily have to be easy, it’s more in the sense of “necessary”. This criterion of relevance gives the necessary pressure in a crisis like this: the pressure can be social, financial, professional, … whatever. This helps to explain why challenging a crisis like this is no easy task. It is therefore essential not to oppose each other. Be stricter on yourself than what is asked for.

More information:

Covid 19 – Discourse for innovation and lessons learned

Author: Manu Steens

Roughly the last 5 months our country has been under the spell of Covid 19. All kinds of things happened, and as in every war (but now against an invisible enemy) we get to know people from their most beautiful and ugliest sides.

To curb the pandemic in our country, measures were taken during the first wave of the disease. But the virus spreads quickly and smoothly over the results we have achieved. Today we can roughly say that we are at the beginning of the second wave, sooner than we originally thought it would occur. Has it been for nothing then? Or can we learn what we need to do from the past?

The first lesson we identify is that the lock down had an effect. But was the way this happened optimal? Are other formulas possible? And should we pretend to start from the same initial situation during the second wave, or is the experience of the population important if the given signal is strong and clear enough?

A second lesson we can see is that there is likely to be a shift in the target audience of the disease. It is no longer especially the elderly in the retirement homes that are the target of the virus, but more and more the younger people. A question that arises here is whether this is because of the so-called super spreaders , and possibly because of edge workers , of which I spoke in the previous blog. The population would then be split into two groups: the common man and the risk-seekers. The common man will let his actions be guided by the measures taken by the government, not so the risk-seeking edge workers . Punishment does nothing to them. Perhaps one can teach them how to do the things they want to do safely rather than make them renounce it, for example through punishment . Because the latter does not work. But then the question arises: how can we teach them to do it safely, because (for example) safe partying is actually a very useful concept for the whole of society. For example: do events need to be adjusted, or is a new concept of events needed? Like the virtual neighborhood party was one.

So we can still identify some lessons. The question is whether we should identify the lessons through a “wild brainstorming” and “ implement quick actions ” or whether we can use an existing framework to make the necessary change (from the lessons identified ) work.

Such a framework exists (Timothy L. Sellnow , The SAGE handbook of risk communication , Chapter 20: ‘ Crisis communication ‘ and references therein ) . To maintain a discourse with an impact on innovation and improvement, an organization must want to learn from each crisis (the lessons identified ), reflect on ethical responsibility and liability, develop a forward-looking vision, and present that vision rhetorically. This may also apply to society in the current crisis.

A society that engages for renewal will then want to change and improve as a result of the crisis. After all, the lessons identified only make sense of the crisis if we turn it into lessons learned . Only when these lessons become part of society do they penetrate their culture and change the way decisions are made. But if the memory of the society regarding these lessons fades over time, eg. because euphoria after the first (small) victory , then this society is again vulnerable to the same crisis.

We saw the latter after the measures were lifted: many people seemed to think that the crisis was over, and the lessons learned quickly “faded”. Result: the R-value quickly rose back to around value 1, according to one source its calculation method just below (0.98) , according to another just above (1.1).

That is why reflecting on ethical responsibility is paramount: a thorough handling of innovation has a strong value orientation . Ethical violations can be things like stinginess, hubris , injustice, context-sensitive rudeness (such as shouting at someone that causes aerosols to spread widely) that are more likely to contribute to a crisis. A society which has a values-structure that is not centered around any of its citizens , has it harder to get into a new normal. It is as if citizens feel as if something is not right, they are tired of it more quickly , which is why some of them will be opposed to it all. To permanently motivate them, purity of spirit and authenticity in the positioning by the policymakers is important. It provides self-protection for the leaders. So making concessions through social or other pressure is not always a good idea. There is a real chance that this will return to the decision-makers like a boomerang afterwards .

A foreseeing vision is important to avoid this boomerang: in the aftermath of the crisis, people are quickly tempted into a “blame, shame and denial game”. That never leads to a solution, it is only a waste of energy, time and resources and it only leads to a deviation from the goal. A foreseeing vision is needed to shift the focus to building a more resilient society that can deliver again its mission with respect to itself, as well as any citizen facing any other citizen. Good communication is central to frame this vision. After all, the fact is that there is no real script in a crisis. Plenty of plans exist, but any pre-made plan is worthless. Over and over again, one has to discover how the crisis at hand ‘works’. Moreover, “The devil is in the details” is true time and again. That is why there should be no one to throw the first stone. After all, casting the first stone does not make a positive contribution to the development of an ethical responsibility. But working out a vision well can help you parry those stones.

This vision must be presented rhetorically: commitment and vision can take the form needed to put the society back on track. After all, the rhetorical activities create a reality of their own for the citizens , to inspire them to remain loyal to themselves and each other during the crisis, and to rebuild society better than it was before. The message must be about all the previous things: the lessons learned, the value structure and the hope for the future.

If society effectively learns of the crisis in the aftercare phase, it can have a ” fresh sense of purpose and direction ” experience. This will enable it to evolve into a new-normal situation after the crisis. The pre-crisis phase thus separates the crisis recovery and – aftercare phase from a new start with the regular risk management (whose strategies are also subject to change themselves). Policymakers must then enter into dialogue with citizens about risks and risk tolerance. This dialogue then makes them respond to change. It means that everyone in the organization is focusing on the new future again. To this end one should also speak with almost everyone . Because without internal communication , people are blind and there is a greater chance of new crises.

But this ‘change effect’ also indirectly provides a criterion for calling the end of the crisis: the crisis is over when the (necessary) change happened, and everyone there finds her place, and picks up the thread again. Note that this does not mean that the wounds are no longer there or have already fully recovered.

Racism and risk management

Author: Manu Steens

Corona has dominated the news for a long time, but now it’s back: racism. The situation in the USA with the death of George Floyd brings the old problem of racism back to life. In this case, the individual situation developed into a national problem to which even high-ranking officials, such as the president, do not seem to have a good response. Meanwhile, there were riots in the EU. France brought back memories of an earlier situation.

But also in the personal sphere of many immigrants, on an individual level, people are confronted with racism of several types such as physical and verbal harassment. The question that then arises is, how great is the risk.

When the subject is raised in the private sphere, it is easier for victims to talk about it in a limited circle of confidants. These testimonies can be very detailed. These conversations are necessary to know the situation well, to assess the risk. The question is then, first of all, how do you estimate such a risk? One possible way to get a feeling for the possible risk is to estimate the possible impact when it is realised. A measure for such a systemic risk is, briefly, the “gap” between the needs and the possible answers provided by the system. In this case, the needs of the migrants who experience racism here, and the solutions provided by society to these needs. If the gap is large, the potential impact in the event of an accident is very large. An easier example of a totally different type of risk is the electricity supply in the USA. The demand side has become very complex, with all kinds of (types of) customers, small and large, while the supply side delivers with a simple and outdated technical infrastructure. So if something happens to electricity in the USA that is serious, the impact will be huge. The solution to such asymmetric risks is to reduce or to eliminate the ‘gap’ between the demand side and the supply side. So we should be able to make the same reasoning for racism, we hope.

The fact that racism is a big problem has been clear in recent days. And apparently, in many places in the world, the layer of varnish of civilized behavior over a rough surface is wafer-thin, and dares to peel off.

But racism has been made illegal. That was one of the system’s solutions. Is that a solution to the verbal harassment that can mentally ruin a human being? Move to the actors in the situation: person x wants to bully person y. Person y appeals to the legislation and sues person x. Person x digs himself into the mental trenches, where he considers himself safer. The case goes to court, and causes further polarization of person x and y and their supporters. Result: the situation has only been good for the lawyers. As a migrant, can you approach it differently? Are “other measures” possible to say it in risk management terms.

Imagine: you are a migrant in a country, you work, you want to integrate, and you are confronted with situations like this. The problem turns out to be huge, as the world shows. So in order to find a good solution, the solution has to be something other than something that triggers further polarisation. But what exactly is the migrant’s possible situation? This is where the concept of “tribes” comes into play. People have a cortex that is hardwired for an “inner tribe” of about 150 people. These are people you know, who know you, for whom you stop to have a chat on the street.

When a migrant comes here, he/she leaves behind a “tribe” and is isolated here in the first instance. It is in human nature to form a “tribe”. That takes time, and therefore at the same time, a migrant is also more vulnerable than a “local”.

How is a “tribe” a solution? A “tribe” can be a solution for the psychological resistance of the migrant. So at the same time we know that it will only be a partial solution. He/she leaves behind a “tribe” and that is a serious price he/she pays. Especially when you know that part of the psychological well-being of the human being comes from being loved in just that “tribe”. So it is best for the migrant to create a new “tribe” in a selective way, by choosing people who also choose him/her. This is called reciprocity. A second psychological reinforcing factor is to use this technique of “tribes” in a conscious way. This can be done by seeing the bullies as from a “different tribe”. They don’t belong there themselves. Because tribes can be competitive when terrain is to be divided. This can be about the most fertile land, but also about more/less chances of passing exams, for example. After all, the results and chances of passing exams are statistically normally distributed and can be influenced.

There are some characteristics of this solution: it is a solution on an individual level and not on a political level. It takes time to implement, and it takes a dose of luck to meet the right people for the “tribe”, people of good will with an implicit outstretched hand. In the best case, this new tribe is multicultural. And it takes an iron will of the migrant not to isolate themselves nor to permanently withdraw in complaints.

Whether the “gap” can then be narrowed further with a political “push”, “pull” or any kind of measure, is not discussed here. Finding solutions, using both types of measures at the right time, is the work of governments all over the world. This requires the nudging of behavior on a large scale. This is on an individual level, and not on an individual level, and for more types of racist-risks.  The news shows that it’s time. The news also seems to indicate that it is possible, when a policeman kneels together with demonstrators, demonstrators protect a lost policeman and bring him back to his unit, soldiers dance the macarena together with demonstrators…. There is hope because there are people of very good will. But the risk is great.