Reflecting on the COVID-19 Lockdown
The lockdown caused unprecedented changes and restrictions all around the world, with many services having to reduce or completely stop their operations. In these difficult times, ITF did all in its power to continue with its life-saving work. To do this, it closed down its offices and switched to remote work to, first and foremost, protect the health and safety of the staff while at the same time allowing for the continuation of activities to the greatest extent possible. This situation brought with it many challenges, but also valuable lessons.
“This was a period in which I became convinced that teamwork and communication are the most important components for the success of any project and business.”
ITF and its team both at the HQ in Ljubljana and at implementation offices around the world, have been working in difficult and dangerous environments for many years. Although measures taken to limit the spread of the pandemic have not been experienced by anyone on the team before, ITF was able to adjust and keep its operational capacity and field presence at almost 100 % at all times. This was largely due to the timely investments in digital infrastructure, as well as established internal processes and procedures within the team that is normally scattered around the world.
“We succeeded in uniting ITF HQ in Slovenia with teams in regional offices, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Libya and Tunisia, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan to cooperate in this difficult time and I am glad that we have the results to show it.”
Nevertheless, the lockdown, working from home, travel restrictions or simply a change in routine and work schedule meant that each individual had to go through an adjustment period. At first, there was a lull regarding cooperation with donors and other partner organizations as uncertainty was present everywhere. Switching to working from home offices required a lot of resourcefulness as staff struggled to balance the work and personal life, childcare and chores. One of the biggest challenges in terms of teamwork was the lack of direct contact, since many of the new ideas and work plans are formulated during the informal time, when team members have the opportunity to discuss their work in the office.
During the lockdown, ITF’s work became even more prominent as the entire organization focused on those with the greatest preexisting needs as well as new challenges posed by COVID-19. It helped adapt Early Warning and Response Centers in West Africa, equip health institutions in Afghanistan, implement Risk Awareness programs for children in Jordan as well as support mine victims and warn of the dangers posed by mines in Bosnia and Herzegovina, all while respecting COVID-19 measures and offering specific response to the public health crisis.
“Together with some of our partners from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the local NGOs Organizacija UDAS and Posavina bez mina, we immediately started with projects that provide mine and UXO victims with support and assistance during COVID-19.”
Soon, videoconferencing proved to be even more efficient than expected with ITF developing projects and signing partnership agreements via video-calls. During the lockdown, for the first time ever, ITF held its biggest donor meeting, the ITF Board of Advisors, by correspondence.
“Working in countries where information is especially hard to come by if not communicated in person, the change to online meetings and emails went surprisingly well during the pandemic.”
More importantly, this experience showed the strength of ITF’s partners. Many of them continued working and selflessly providing beneficiaries with the support they needed under the new circumstances. The amazing teamwork made it possible to ensure the continuity of project development, showing that ITF as well as its partners are well situated to deal with any adversity.
“Certainly every experience we encounter in life is good for us and our personal development into a better and wiser person.”
Now, as lockdown was lifted for the staff at the HQ, and as normalization is on the horizon in other areas where ITF is present, the team reflects on the lockdown. During this time, more focus was given on developing new projects and finding potential donors that would allow for further growth of ITF’s humanitarian activities. Additional effort was spent on further digitalizing work processes and the growth of ITF and its staff members.
ITF acknowledges that it is privileged to work in a sector where a lot can be done remotely with only slight adjustments and where the team is able to do a lot of good for others. Most importantly, it is thankful for its reliable and determined partners on the ground who ensured smooth operations and respect for COVID-19 measures and recommendations, making sure everyone involved remained safe and healthy. Countless people throughout the world are not so fortunate, but finding this positive aspect motivated the entire team.
ITF will continue to grow, strengthening partnerships with donors and working to help the world become safer, healthier, and more secure. If you would like to join us on this mission, please consider making a donation. Your support is needed more than ever and every donation counts.