Almost a year has passed since the COVID-19 crisis began. Institutions and systems all over the world have been reflecting on this stressful period, extracting lessons learnt, and preparing for the way ahead.

As organisations in the development sector, it is important for us as well to look back over the last few months, take stock of whether and how we have weathered the crisis, and think about how to get ready for the future.

In this context, there has been a lot of discussion around notions of resilience: how organisations cope with challenges and threats during a crisis, and then adapt and transform themselves to survive (and hopefully thrive as well).

A lot of organisations have had to revisit their purpose (the heart of their mission), strategy (the mind of their organisations), and activities (the hands and legs of their work). We, at Pratham, had to do the same. Here are six key factors that helped us adapt to the crisis as an organisation.

  1. Decentralised decision-making The pandemic has underscored the power of a less bureaucratic, and flat organisational structure. In a flat organisation, the middle management gives way to a group of staff who are entrusted with greater decision-making powers.
  2. Learning new skills To stay relevant in a fast-changing world, organisations must have curiosity and scepticism built into their organisational culture. Developing new skills can help keep teams on a positive, upward learning trajectory.
  3. Collaborations and partnerships As organisations grow, even internally, working across programme boundaries and silos of expertise can be difficult. Externally, forging partnerships and collaborations takes time and patience.
  4. Social cohesion within organisations It can be difficult for people to operate in an uncertain environment, learn new skills, and be pushed outside their comfort zones, while also navigating the isolation brought on by the pandemic.
  5. Frequent, simple, and honest communication In times of crisis, it is all the more important for organisations to face reality honestly.
  6. Shared sources of meaning and purpose For people working in the development sector, in particular, the meaning they draw from their work is a significant source of motivation.

Read the full article about lessons for nonprofits from COVID-19 by Dr Stuti Shukla and Rukmini Banerji at India Development Review.