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The ‘RISE Reset’ – not standing still

6 July 2020

What does our data collection look like in a COVID-19 world? How can we best design the RISE intervention in the first 12 sites if international travel is restricted? How can we harness our enormous transdisciplinary impact research infrastructure and capability to serve the COVID-19 response without compromising on our core aims and objectives?

These are just some of the questions we are asking ourselves in our search for pathways for implementation in a COVID-19 world, in 2021, and beyond.

We have started a process to ‘reset’ our program for a COVID-19 world. It is clear that we will not be able to ‘snap back’ to ‘normal’ after COVID-19 is ‘gone’. Instead, we will need to be even more creative and adaptable to ensure research continuity across our 27 partners, 9 countries and 24 study settlements for many years to come.

COVID-19 is already forcing us to re-examine our practices and ways of working, and it is clear that some of these might become the norm, not the exception.

The world is undergoing a transformation the likes of which we have not witnessed since World War Two. COVID-19 is causing enormous human suffering and death, much of which is not reported in official statistics, so the true scale of the crisis is hard to comprehend. The deep and painful economic impacts of COVID-19 will be felt for the next decade across all sectors, including the two sectors most relevant for RISE: the international development sector and the higher education and research sector. The road to recovery will be incredibly fraught with difficult trade-offs, and decision making will have to take place in a highly fluid, complex and unpredictable environment.

The potential risk is that programs like RISE are not courageous and bold enough to adapt and meet changes head-on, and therefore they struggle to survive (let alone thrive) in the new world.

We won’t be one of these.

We in RISE are well-placed to meet head-on this unstoppable transformation and the demands for new ways of working. We have a strong team, a clear mission and purpose, and enormous intellectual and operational capacity. We have shown we can adapt in the past, and we will again at this point in time.

We are also well-placed to respond to new conceptual, financial and institutional frameworks that will emerge and shape the next couple of decades of research, investment, and action. I foresee that planetary health – a core underpinning of our program – will gain more traction as a framework, with COVID-19 showing the inseparable interconnectedness of humans, animals and our environment.

Leaving no-one behind will become even more important because the COVID-19 virus does not discriminate: we are all in this together and so we will question even more vigorously the challenges of poverty, social exclusion, poor water and sanitation access, and the impact of these on ensuring the health and wellbeing of all within societies.

Our ‘RISE Reset’ strategic planning has begun. Over the coming weeks, we will reflect on our experiences so far this year, re-think our ways of working, and reimagine a path forward to safeguard our program. Ultimately, we will re-commit to our mission and we will involve all staff and our partners along the way.

Professor Rebekah Brown
RISE Program Director