Giving Compass' Take:

• Jessica Plante, writing for Christensen Institute, explores the social impact of COVID-19 on people's livelihoods, particularly the most vulnerable, and how they approached solutions to navigate new problems. 

• What is the role of donors when trying to help the most vulnerable during this pandemic? What are effective approaches to target and help these populations? 

• Read why social justice should be part of the response to COVID-19. 

COVID-19’s toll on the US has grown more and more evident in the past several months. Lockdowns and mask mandates continue, travel across some state lines is all but banned, and experts debate whether sending kids back to school is safe. From the looks of it, things will not be returning to normal any time soon.

In March, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo called the pandemic “the great equalizer,” since anyone can catch COVID-19 regardless of their life status. While this is undoubtedly true, it downplays the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on different communities. Low-income communities, for instance, are particularly vulnerable. Because they already face myriad social challenges, adhering to best practices regarding social distancing isn’t necessarily a top priority—not when it comes at the expense of putting food on the table. As a result, 35% of non-elderly adults with household incomes below $15,000 face a high risk of serious medical complications due to COVID-19, compared to 16% of non-elderly adults making at least $50,000 a year.

In order for healthcare providers and administrators to meet the needs of all communities, it’s essential they take social conditions under consideration as they design solutions aimed at fighting COVID-19. But to do so effectively they must first understand the circumstances and motivations that influence behavior. Enter Jobs Theory.

Jobs Theory is a framework for understanding the circumstances that drive behavior. It reveals that people rarely make decisions around what the “average” person may do in a given situation, but instead, often do things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve (we call this their “Job to Be Done”). Even in the same situation, two people may have different “jobs” for which they “hire” various solutions, based on their personal preferences and life circumstances.

In the context of COVID-19, Jobs Theory is a reminder that people define progress on their own terms. With this lens, a number of potential jobs that a person may have can come to light, such as, “help me feel a sense of normalcy,” “help me protect friends and family members,” and “help me keep my business up and running.”

Read the full article about social impact of COVID-19 by Jessica Plante at Christensen Institute.