The current situation may still be vastly dynamic, but this could be a great opportunity to think of creative solutions, strategize for the best use of resources and facilities, and eventually evolve and adapt to the needs of the public.

Innovation and development have been the lifeblood of companies and organizations alike. Providing a new solution for a current problem has long been lauded and valued by many, and at the heart of these initiatives are two important pillars: community and collaboration. These two salient factors work hand-in-hand to catalyze and jumpstart an innovation — from idea to reality.

With the COVID-19 pandemic gravely affecting the whole world as we speak, not only are we forced to face a new set of issues to deal with, but to also adapt to a “new normal” in the months to come, far different from our status quo.

Regular temperature checks, physical distancing, and wearing face masks will soon become the norm in the world that we live in. As remote work and blended learning will become the way to go, we might also have to say goodbye to our regular meet-ups at cafes or group gatherings at the malls for the foreseeable future.

In times like this, efforts from different industries are needed in being able to develop innovations to combat the issues brought about by the pandemic. When we are limited to the four corners of our homes, how could we continue to perform such efforts as we are shifting to online means of communication and collaboration?

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Damarillo compared the community to that of a startup where different teams work closely to package each project and initiative in the best and most efficient manner possible, while focusing on their own fields of expertise.

Tech for social good

For Winston Damarillo, founder of DevCon Philippines, the helplessness that we feel as we are locked in our homes should not stop us from creating and being of help to others, as opposed to possibly becoming “victims of the circumstances” ourselves.

DevCon Philippines, a non-profit that supports Filipino developers, formed DCTx or the DevCon Community of Technology eXperts—a group of volunteers from all around the world working together as a digital COVID-19 response team.

“When the pandemic started, we had a lot of opportunities to help, in addition to the problems that the government faces, such as the lack of digital infrastructure to help manage the people through and out, and because of that, our frontliners and [those in] food delivery systems, are having a hard time. We formed DCTx in response to the government’s request for systems and digital infrastructure in helping with the pandemic,” said Damarillo.

Among the projects that the team has worked on since its inception in March are RapidPass.ph, a verification system that eases the flow of over one million essential workers and frontliners through checkpoints and facilities in Metro Manila, and ReliefAgad, a digital platform created in partnership with thUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the Social Amelioration Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), serving over 18 million Filipino families nationwide.

The community of over 1,000 techies are composed of people from various fields and professions, not just developers or programmers. Damarillo compared the community to that of a startup where different teams work closely to package each project and initiative in the best and most efficient manner possible, while focusing on their own fields of expertise.

“[Interdisciplinary collaboration] was completely required. Aside from developers, we have people from UI/UX design [to make the interface look good], marketing & communications [to effectively communicate the project in the current time of emergency], government relations [to secure the MOAs], legal, and cybersecurity. It’s really like we built a startup,” Damarillo explained.

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[Bantay Bayan] evolved into something where the volunteers themselves help out and empower each other, and I believe that’s the importance of the community in itself

Local action and youth engagement

Just like DCTx, Bantay Bayan was created during the early days of the community quarantine in the country. Spearheaded by GoodGovPH, a youth-led non-profit driven by its mission to advocate good governance in the Philippines, Bantay Bayan aimed to ensure and advocate for good governance amongst LGUs in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through Bantay Bayan, more than 1,000 members of the youth were able to act as citizen-watchdogs in their own communities by sending transparency reports from their LGUs and assisting in information dissemination initiatives with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, all within an online group.

Bantay Bayan was also able to help address legal issues & implementation inquiries of the volunteers and the general public through their helpdesk composed of over 100 legal volunteers.

Dexter Yang, founder & executive director of GoodGovPH, said that engaging citizens at the local level is the thrust of Bantay Bayan.

“We realized that we need to tap the citizens since they know the real status of their LGUs and communities in terms of their COVID-19 response. We didn’t want people to stay passive about it while they see that inactions and incompetencies are becoming rampant at the local level,” Yang explained.

Building and maintaining an online community of citizen-watchdogs proves to be difficult, especially during these trying times, but Bantay Bayan brought together volunteers from different parts of the country to open various opportunities for collaboration and local action.

“After a while, we had a hard time managing [the community] on our own, so we appointed regional coordinators. And from there, the volunteers created their own online communities, and we found it very motivating that these people who don’t know each other are discussing local issues, comparing the responses of their own LGUs, and helping each other out,” said Yang.

“We also found volunteers who have raised concerns about their communities, such as illegal arrests, and volunteers from other cities would recommend who to contact or what they could do to help out the situation. [Bantay Bayan] evolved into something where the volunteers themselves help out and empower each other, and I believe that’s the importance of the community in itself,“ he added.

Building Communities for change amid crisis

Collaboration for innovation

There’s no doubt that we are in need of interdisciplinary solutions to solve the issues brought about by this global health crisis. This would not be possible without building and establishing a tightly knit community founded upon by a single goal or purpose.

Communities, like DCTx and Bantay Bayan, are just some of the groups and teams that have taken on the challenge to innovate and collaborate despite the issues and circumstances that we face in the present.

The current situation may still be vastly dynamic, but this could be a great opportunity to think of creative solutions, strategize for the best use of resources and facilities, and eventually evolve and adapt to the needs of the public.

In the end, may the pandemic be no barrier from collaborating with others and forwarding development, but rather a springboard to provide solutions and innovations for change.

OffCrowd is a platform to report working solutions as well as discuss concepts and ideas to nourish solutions among all individuals.

Let us know the groups or individuals already working towards these, let us know existing policies if we’ve missed any, and discuss in the comments.

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