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Creativity and innovation in response to COVID-19 by Gladys H. Morales and Arturo Lavalle, April 21, 2020
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European Union's poster on coronavirus prevention [Photo courtesy of European Commission] 

In general, some major private sector companies have reinvented and transformed their current business and organizational models. Examples are Armani, Lamborghini, Calzedonia or Klopman, which have decided to convert some plants, or part of their businesses, to produce medical devices, mainly medical uniforms, scrubs and masks. Innovation is also expected to take place at an organizational level starting with the implementation of social distancing measures and sanitation at the workplace.

An advanced model in this respect is offered by Ferrari, which launched a particularly complex health protocol to prevent coronavirus contagions among its employees. The most famous carmaker in the world, example of creativity and innovation in itself, will allow employees to take blood tests to be able to exclude being infected before returning to work. In addition, the staff will be equipped with an app that will consent them to monitor any symptoms of Covid-19 infection and track their movements. In this way, if someone were infected, it would be possible to reconstruct the chain of people with whom he or she came into contact. Similar measures have already been taken in China and South Korea, where face recognition and tracking technologies based on social media apps have being successfully used to keep the spread of the virus under control. The Ferrari Health Protocol will probably become a model for other industries and companies, even in non-automotive sectors.

Focusing on the production point of view, among the damages of the coronavirus is the interruption of the global supply chains to the industry, which have caused the slowdown, or even the blockage, of most of the activities, contributing to the ongoing economic depression. In order to overcome this issue, the innovative trend that will be pursued is remanufacturing. In short, remanufacturing refers to the dismantling of a product or component that has already been used, refurbishing it and bringing it back on the market. This will increase the advantage for: the manufacturer that will face lower costs and will be less dependent from global supply chains; for the end consumer, who will spend less; for the environment, with less consumption of raw materials and energy and less waste to be disposed of; and for the employment sector since remanufacturing needs a higher rate of human labor allowing to recover a part of the frictional unemployment generated by automation. Companies like Renault or BMW or Airbus are pioneers of this innovative business model and are already regenerating significant percentages of their components.


A medic works in the field. [Photo courtesy of UNFPA]

Governments and the international community are also finding innovative ways to respond to all spheres of the crises. With millions of people forced to stay at home, the European Union has asked Netflix, Facebook and YouTube to reduce streaming quality to avoid overloading the web. This allows everyone to use the internet, be it for work, distance learning or for leisure.

The UN is also finding new ways to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and to humanitarian crises that are being exacerbated by the measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. On April 17, the United Nations Innovation Network issued a Special Edition of the UN Update that highlights how 30 UN entities are leveraging innovative approaches to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In addition to the efforts of different agencies to provide up-to-date and reliable information and statistical data on the COVID-19 pandemic, some agencies are delivering real-time to near real-time data on the impact of the pandemic on different sectors. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched an open-access tool to help countries mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on food and agriculture. Through this tool, users get real-time information on how the pandemic is affecting food prices, value chains, and food security. The tool also generates a map of food chain disruptions and a map of food prices variations. The aim is that policy makers can use the tool to make better-informed decisions. The World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up remote food security monitoring to collect, analyze and visualize data on food security, health access, markets, livelihoods, and water access in near real-time.

Using innovative modeling techniques, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is supporting policy makers by providing reliable estimates on labor market indicators. The ILO is also using an innovative nowcasting model to estimate the number of working hours lost due to the crisis. According to the ILO, almost 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide and between 8.8 and 35 million additional people may be in working poverty worldwide. Income losses for workers are expected to be between US$860 billion and US$3.4 trillion by the end of 2020.

As a member of the Digital Finance Task Force, UN Women has published a special newsletter highlighting emerging uses of digital financing to respond to the crisis around the world. UN Women has also developed the Women Count Data Hub, which provides up-to-date data on COVID-19 cases, including new disaggregated data on the total number of cases by sex and age. It also includes infographics on violence against women and girls.

Reliable population data is essential, specially during a pandemic. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is supporting National Statistical Offices around the world to address the implications of the COVID-19 on the preparations and implementation of the 2020 census round. UNFPA has created a dashboard that allows visualizations of the implications of COVID-19 on the censuses.

One of the sectors that has been most affected by the pandemic is the travel and tourism sector. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)’s World Tourism and Travel Council, in collaboration with partners, is hosting discussions on the future of tourism. The organization is also issuing a series of calls for proposals from start ups with innovative ideas to design solutions that can help re-launch the sector post-COVID-19. The UNWTO and WHO have also developed Guidelines and Recommendations for the travel and tourism sector to help stop the spread of the virus and to assist the sector to prepare to welcome tourists safely.

The list of interventions is long, from the use of drones to deliver humanitarian aid to the use of social media such as TikTok and Instagram as channels to advocate for the care of the elderly, the UN is tackling every sphere of development aid to help member countries to cope with the pandemic. For a more detailed summary of some of the interventions implemented by the United Nations, please refer the COVID-19 Special Edition of the UN Update.

Officials in the meeting [Photo courtesy of UNWTO]

About the authors:

Arturo Lavalle is the head of Research and Development at the Università degli Studi Guglielmo Marconi in Rome.

Gladys H. Morales is the CEO of GHMG Strategies. SRL, a consulting firm specialised in digital transformation, innovation, partnerships and resource mobilization.


World Health Organization, United Nations Innovation Network, Creativity at Work, European Parliament, Techcrunch, npr, Oxford English Dictionary, The Humanitarian, Messenger News

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of


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