Sensemaking through Covid-19

This is quite a journey.  Everything that has happened over the last 2 months is like nothing any of us have ever experienced.  We exist in a micro-context of our immediate home, mixing only with immediate family, and the rest of the outside world via Zoom. We are powerless to think or plan beyond just a few days ahead.  There are layers of sadness, fear and anxiety we each contend with, no school or a social buzz to bring back a sense of community and belonging.   This is tough.

I’ve been running DOT PROJECT remotely now for nearly 4 years – home working nothing new, but never to this intensity.  The days are very, very long and Zoom fatigue the new daily challenge for so many. Across every sector of our society there has never been a greater need to share knowledge and build stronger networks for innovation, collaboration and collective action.

We are overwhelmed by information and we need to find ways to innovate through knowledge. There is an absolute urgency for collective leadership and to build strength again in working together. Networks are the organisational structure of the future, but how do we start to understand and make sense of who and what exists already and where possibilities for collaboration or scale lie?

For a while we have been exploring through DOT PROJECT ways in which to collect, surface and create collaborative data sets to map these possibilities. We’ve been piloting a set of mapping tools and practices as DOT INSIGHT exploring for example inclusion and diversity in tech initiatives through the Tech Talent Charter, and a training “directory’ for the West of England Combined Authority to surface digital and tech training courses across the region.

Through practical projects and examples my Data Fellowship explores the art of sensemaking and how we can embed tools, practices and datasets to scale our ability for systems thinking and collective leadership.  I’ve found the concept of “knowledge mastery” particularly fascinating these past few weeks.  I like to make sense of things, to understand context, place and purpose.

As the world collapsed under Covid-19 information overload, I felt a massive scramble to make sense of what was happening – everything from hyperlocal maps to where the virus is spreading, mapping our most vulnerable communities and indeed a global Covid-19 support map.  It almost felt like everyone had mastered the art of mapping overnight across multiple contexts, but what I also noticed is how many have been so short lived – perhaps value was indeed for only a single moment in time, or is it because it represented only a single point of view, or the data no longer current or relevant?

We have even used our own tools to support capacity mapping digital capability in a large Covid response programme, Catalyst Collaborators to support charities during this time.  In the field of sense- making there is so much to explore through what is happening to us right now, but this needs time and patience as we also each navigate a very uncomfortable new world.