Earlier this year, the world was shaken by the emergence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which has affected more than 215 countries all over the world. The emergence of a global pandemic has led countries and states to adjust priorities to make public health central to their international development efforts. In Southeast Asia, as in the rest of the world, coronavirus has not only had a major impact on ASEAN’s healthcare sector, but on the economy more generally.
In the past few months, IBI's USAID/ASEANPolicy Implementation (API) Phase 1 Activity, based in Jakarta, Indonesia had to quickly adjust to the rapidly changing circumstances, which is both a challenge and a positive opportunity to explore innovative ways to conduct fieldwork in the region.
Our Adaptive Approach
Mobilizing Local Consultants
Quarantine measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 mean that field research during a pandemic will rely on new ways to collect and analyze data. The IBI team for API is building a national consultancy roster specifically to identify local talent for those located in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and the Philippines. Local researchers will then be tasked with reporting information on each Member State’s progress in the implementation of ASEAN priorities, while gathering locally sourced data and acting as a bridge to local stakeholders Additionally, the API project team is preparing information kits to orient local consultants’ work. These information kits, which include editorial guidelines, field research questions, previous work plans, and templates will help them provide technical assistance at the Member State level.
Virtual Communications with Stakeholders
With the COVID-19 outbreak, ASEAN Member States face challenges in convening meetings and coordinating among themselves. In the past, almost all coordination efforts throughout ASEAN used traditional face-to-face meetings. The ASEAN Secretariat now recognizes the need for adoption of new procedures, adjusting to the “new normal” of remote work while maintaining ASEAN community solidarity and cohesiveness when responding to the outbreak of the COVID-19 and similar challenges.
IBI’s API team has mobilized online communications platforms for meetings with stakeholders and other events. The changes are challenging the traditional methods of development work, but the API Phase I has been able to continue work and avoid communication disruptions during the crisis.
The API project is off to an exciting start as well as navigating the possibilities of innovation, mobilization, and exploring new ways to conduct technical assistance in ASEAN even during challenging circumstances.