ASAP’s Response to COVID-19: Adaptive Management

Written by Beth Gibbons, ASAP’s Executive Director

In early 2019 a sign appeared on the wall of ASAP’s modest office building. It reads, “We Will Figure It Out”. When it appeared we laughed at how appropriate it felt, given how many times a day our team sat down to think through a new challenge, be it managing a meeting software or overcoming the political and financial uncertainty that underlie all adaptation work.

Of course, these days that message feels even more prescient. As all of us are “figuring it out” in the age of Coronavirus, I thought it would be helpful to share some of how ASAP is changing its administrative and management approaches to address the added uncertainty, stress, and risks posed during this time.

Openness and transparency are traits that ASAP works to uphold in the workplace under all conditions. Today this means creating time and space for staff to share how they are coping with COVID19 in their lives. To support our team we worked with our PEO company to add a new timesheet code and have messaged to staff that taking time off for managing all aspects of their life, including emotional and mental well-being is welcome.

Even though ASAP is a distributed team we spend plenty of time together with adaptation colleagues at meetings and conferences, especially in years that include Regional Adaptation Fora. In order to mitigate the uncertainty in staff’s schedules and our budget, we made the decision to postpone all travel through September 2020, the end of our Fiscal Year.

Even as we manage changes in our day to day operations (including updating our Zoom meeting policies and enjoying art shows from staffs’ children) we are continually reflecting on how ASAP’s strategic priorities and activities need to be modified or adjusted. During Monthly Strategy Meetings the whole ASAP staff is being asked to consider if priorities need consideration or readjustment. W­e are working to embrace a willingness to say ‘no’. This is a departure from our normal culture and one that is meant to recognize that we are working through changing and difficult times and some things may just not be able to be done as we previously envisioned.

Throughout this time we are keeping our first and highest priority to the ASAP Network, facilitating the support and connections that advance and improve all our climate adaptation work. We hosted a COVID19 Member Meeting on April 3 and will host a follow-up on April 17. Through our Strategic Planning discussions we developed a management strategy to include allocating staff support to a new COVID19 Member Group, if the need arises. And we have launched a new webpage to host information, resources, and connections on this topic.

As adaptation professionals we are no strangers to working through uncertain times. We are calling on those core competencies of flexibility, systems thinking, communication, and pursuit of transformative change to direct our actions.  As we work we will continually adjust and reorient so that the resources and power of the ASAP Network remain tools for advancing more just, equitable, and inclusive climate resilience actions and resilient communities. We may not know yet exactly what that looks like, but I know without a doubt, working together, “We Will Figure it Out”.