Press & Media

Apr 09 2020

New landscape, new approaches: Adapting to COVID-19

Landesa staff conducting fieldwork in China, June 1995.
Landesa staff conducting fieldwork in China, June 1995.

Landesa staff conducting fieldwork in China, June 1995.

Since our founding, Landesa has been committed to finding systemic solutions for the economic and social empowerment of rural communities. Through this critical work, carried out across political, social, and geographic contexts, we’ve learned to be adaptive and responsive to both local and global circumstances.

COVID-19, virtually unprecedented in its scope and impact on daily life around the world, represents a new set of challenges. We’ve taken a number of steps to protect the health and wellbeing of our employees and their communities and to ensure our vital work continues.

Our global staff, located on four continents, are following all local and national protocols for social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. Landesa’s US-based and country offices have shifted to a work-from-home model. Fortunately, our robust IT support and infrastructure has allowed us to manage this transition seamlessly. Landesa’s culture has always favored flexibility for our employees to work remotely, and many were already equipped with home offices and workstations.

Travel restrictions related to COVID-19 have constrained our program activities. Landesa’s land experts rely on field research and assessments to analyze and measure progress toward land rights reforms and initiatives in the places where we work. In lieu of this field research, our staff have shifted to desk research to deepen our understanding of the latest insights into the efficacy of land rights. In China, where staff have been under shelter-in-place orders for more than two months, the ability to pivot to desk research and virtual meetings with our government partners has been essential to continuing our operations during a significant suspension of field research. Video-conferencing and workplace productivity software have helped us stay connected and to collaborate across teams and time zones.

While digital tools have propelled us forward, in select cases our staff have turned to analog innovations to continue their work. In Myanmar, where home internet connectivity is limited, staff have shifted to handwriting training manuals and resources – work that is well-suited to pen and paper. These tools, written in the Myanmar language, will help train local officials on best practices around land management and governance.

With no clarity on how or when the world will come out of the pandemic crisis, we’ve also begun preparing for an extended period of uncertainty, disrupted operations and funding constraints. We are focusing now on conserving resources and finding new efficiencies so we can emerge a stronger organization. However, periods of transition can reveal opportunities for land rights reform progress and we are poised to take advantage.

Whether on paper or in the cloud, Landesa is positioned to continue our work both across our teams and with our partners in government, civil society, and the private sector to focus on solutions for stronger and more equitable land rights – a powerful tool for promoting peace and prosperity around the world.

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