Like many around the world, we at ACDI/VOCA Group (ACDI/VOCA and its affiliates Tanager and AV Ventures) have been thinking about how long social distancing practices will continue and when we will be able to return to our workplaces and usual ways of doing things. In approaching this question, I stepped back and looked at the entire experience from beginning to end, breaking it into three phases.

Phase One: Emergency Response

We acted decisively to protect ourselves and our partners and blunt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world by suspending international travel and moving to remote working protocols.  By definition, this phase was sudden and dramatic, because it was precipitated by unexpected events.  Worldwide, we adapted very quickly to this emergency, thanks to the resilience, flexibility, and hard work of all our colleagues.  It was truly remarkable the way we were able to manage this abrupt shift, even though it wasn’t easy for many.

Phase Two: Ad Hoc Routine

As we all came to grips with the pandemic in our project operations around the world and at the Home Office in Washington, our emergency response mindset shifted gradually to an understanding that we will have to work under this new “ad hoc routine” for an unpredictable period of time.  To make matters more complicated, that unpredictable period of time will certainly be different in almost every country where we operate.  The challenge we face during this phase is to ensure that our ad hoc routine is adjusted where necessary so that it works for everyone’s particular circumstances.

Phase Three: New Normal

The question we are all asking now is when we will move to back to more “normal” ways of working.  While that timing remains unknown, and will vary from country to country, we do know that our “new normal” will not be the same as what we considered normal before COVID-19.  While it will be challenging, we have also discovered a “silver lining” during this crisis: We are learning things from this experience that will help us be even more effective in achieving our Mission in the future.

Another thing we know is that – unlike Phase One – this process will not be sudden and dramatic.  The needs of individuals, projects, and functions within our organization vary widely.  Also, the regulations of local governments vary from place to place, and we will certainly follow those closely.  And finally, of course, the actual trajectory of the pandemic varies significantly across different regions of the world. 

Approaching Phase Three

The challenges facing us as we move into Phase Three will be, if anything, even greater than the challenges we faced for Phases One and Two.  As always, the health and safety of ACDI/VOCA staff, volunteers, partners and beneficiaries around the world is our top priority. We will be thoughtful and flexible as we consider our next steps in order to make this work for everyone at ACDI/VOCA, Tanager, and AV Ventures.

ACDI/VOCA Group leadership is thinking carefully about how we will emerge from this crisis in a way that will allow everyone to meet their personal needs as well as prepare our organization to achieve its Mission even more powerfully than in the past.

Charles J. Hall

Charles J. Hall serves as president and chief executive officer of ACDI/VOCA. Prior to joining ACDI/VOCA in June 2018, Mr. Hall served at the Export – Import Bank of the United States. During the five years prior to this U.S. government service, he was chief executive of a London-based nonprofit that designed and managed community-based agroforestry and forest protection programs in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to that, he and his wife founded a food manufacturing business in the United Kingdom. He also served as an emerging markets corporate finance banker and served in the U.S. Navy and as a U.S. Foreign Service officer with the Department of State. He holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University in New York.

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