Our future won’t be defined by the crisis but by our response to it. Do we adapt, come together, and innovate to create a new and brighter future? That’s how the Great Depression and WW2 led to a manufacturing renaissance and the greatest middle class in the history of the world.
In the midst of a deep crisis brought on by COVID-19, our nation is once again facing an inflection point in its history — just as it did in the aftermath of the Great Depression in the 1930’s. As it happens, this week marks the 87th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of the most important New Deal programs that helped America get out of the Great Depression. Signed as an Executive Order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 5, 1933, the CCC provided work to the unemployed and created much of the infrastructure we continue to enjoy today. The CCC gave workers new practical skills that enabled them to get productive jobs once the economy started to rebound.
We, together as a nation united, must once again act. It is time for a new version of the CCC, one that coordinates grassroots efforts, provides more training for others to participate, and creates a civic infrastructure that can make our country more resilient in the future.
Today, we propose launching the Civic Response Corps (CRC), a new program in the spirit of the CCC to coordinate local civic response efforts, train the unemployed, undereducated, and unskilled to participate and create a new civic infrastructure needed not only to respond to the crisis but ramp up the recovery. Everyone can and should play a role relying not just on their skills and expertise but also on what they are willing to learn to do. There is not just a shortage of parts and equipment, but there are shortages of trained health care personnel. We need to create fast-track training programs as much as we need to fast-track product development.
Right now, citizen-makers are rising to the challenge to create the medical supplies needed to address shortages in our local communities. If the government response is Plan A and industry response is Plan B, then Plan C is the civic response. Plan C is made up of individuals and self-organizing groups, collaborating online to develop DIY designs for medical equipment and protective gear. They are addressing the breakdown of the manufacturing supply chain by making parts themselves in garages, barns, and makerspaces. In Youngstown, Ohio, the national institute for additive manufacturing, America Makes, is coordinating these community-driven efforts to create new, easily-manufactured designs for masks, face shields, ventilator parts, and dozens of other open-source ideas to help protect our front-line medical workers, prevent the spread of infection, and save lives. Similar efforts are happening across the country and around the globe.
Throughout the country, we have so many talented people who want to contribute. And there’s so much to do. Beyond our healthcare system, our education system is in shock and completely unprepared. Families have to cope without pre-schools and community centers. How can we help families use digital tools to educate their children? Our college students are at home with little to do and face the prospects of a summer without jobs. Our small businesses have experienced the unimaginable. How can we help them use online marketplaces and reach customers in new ways?
The nation’s recovery will not be a matter of flipping a switch; it will be the long, multi-year process of rebuilding from a disaster. The response will require that we apply our energy and our intelligence collectively. Because we are at war with a virus that spreads exponentially, our nation’s response has to grow exponentially. Civic participation, even from home, is the most critical resource we have for this fight and the Civic Response Corps will coordinate, expand and scale this response across the country.
DO WHAT YOU CAN
Calling All College Students, Retirees, Unemployed, K12 Teachers, Informal Educators, Hairstylists, Science Center Staff, Sports Reporters, Personal Fitness Trainers, Pre-school Teachers, Audio/Video Producers, Roboticists, Repair Technicians, Social Media Mavens, Engineers, Hobbyists, Community Organizers, Community Center staffers, Librarians, Waiters, Baristas, Data Scientists, At-home Parents, and Many Others Whose Lives Have Been Disrupted.
The civic response needs YOU. Even though there is no formal organization called the Civic Response Corps, YOU can act on your own as part of the civic response to the COVID-19 crisis. The one thing to realize is that today’s civic response is self-organizing and we have all the tools we need to do the work. Although not everyone is trained in using these tools, the tools themselves are widely available.
YOU need to use whatever skills you possess at any skill level. YOU don’t need a technical or medical background to get started. Problem solvers, producers of all kinds, community organizers and coordinators are needed. What matters most is your ability to learn to do new things and act alongside your fellow citizens. We can #maketogether the solutions, although not physically side-by-side. We have to act with resolve as a community of shared purpose. The immediate problem is the the shortage of medical supplies and equipment. But there are other problems that face us to recover from this crisis. That’s the magnitude of the challenge requiring this community-wide civic response, not just in the US but everywhere.
Here are a few ways to get involved:
- First and foremost, follow guidelines for shelter-in-place, social distancing, and face mask use to protect yourself, your family and others in your community.
- Look for efforts in your local area to join
- Make: editors have compiled the BIG LIST of related projects you can do now
- Connect and network with others online to build a community-wide response. Find out about local and regional needs.
- Reach out to makerspaces in your area to see what they are doing and how you can help
- Let us know about your civic response efforts. You can email me: [email protected]
#DoWhatYouCan #maketogether #planc #civicresponse