Joining a collective research effort to share stories of struggles during the Covid19 pandemic

Joining a collective research effort to share stories of struggles during the Covid19 pandemic

As you can read in our statement (available in eight languages), EMES has already expressed not only its concern about the negative impact of the crisis on vulnerable communities and individuals but also its firm conviction that only collaboration and solidarity will make it possible for our societies to to prevail against the COVID-19 and future crises.

In this context, we wanted to share the initiative where two of our members, Roger Spear and Maria Anastasiadis, participated recently that illustrates the leadership and inspiration that lays in joint research work. What follows is the text that Roger wrote to share with us the process of coming together with other colleagues in the midst of this pandemic.

“This pandemic is so dreadful, we all want to do something to help. Several of our students from the International Masters in Social Entrepreneurship at Roskilde University had already joined Hackathons in Scandinavia and Germany, so the academics were playing catch-up!

Alex Murdock deserves enormous credit for getting a group of about 10 people together in a Zoom conference, to try to share experiences, and research on Covid19 responses. So you might say this group of people from all over the world (but mainly western countries) “zoomed” into action at the beginning of April! We discussed topics and possible journals to publish articles. And we formed groups of 2-3-4 around each topic. Alex had also identified some journals – with the general themes of social innovation, social enterprise/entrepreneurship, and public management. I managed to find a call from Interface with a publication date of 1st May…tightest deadline ever!

Marla Parker from Cal-State-LA coordinated our little group with Gulcin Erdi, from CNRS (France, Maria Anastasiadis, from University of Graz, and myself from OU/UK and Roskilde University. We had several zoom meetings, which was a little tricky due to the different time zones, with Marla starting one at 6am West Coast time! We focused on innovative collective responses by civil society, with a particular concern for the role of digital tools.

It can come as no surprise to EMES researchers that a strong dynamic within civil society driving different forms of social-economic-political action is down to the need to address weaknesses of response by established governments and institutions. This has brought into sharp relief some impressive actions arising within disadvantaged, sometimes stigmatized, communities. Furthermore the characteristics of typical government responses (lockdown, tracking, tracing, modelling) has pushed digital technologies to prominence for citizen digital/virtual and hybrid responses – frequently facilitating decentralised and collective actions.

The paper introduces a framework (with associated examples from the U.S and Europe) examining and evaluating a range of COVID19 responses – it comprises four key dimensions: digital continuum, institutional-constituent continuum, digital tool innovation, response targets.


We used Google Docs for sharing cases, developing the paper’s structure and writing. Exchanging international experiences is usually very rewarding, and helps raise the level of each individual’s contribution. We also thank Interface Journal for this worthwhile initiative.

Here’s the full reference and access to the text: Roger Spear, Gulcin Erdi, Marla A. Parker, Maria Anastasiadis (2020): “Innovations in Citizen Response to Crises: Volunteerism & Social Mobilization During COVID-19“. In: Interface: a journal for and about social movements. Sharing stories of struggles: Mayday 2020.

Happy reading!”

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