By Dario Richards Senior Intern at CARICAD C OVID-19 is novel in its nature, but not in its impact. It is a microcosm of the meta-problems the world was already facing and continues to expose world leaders’ inability to grapple with an increasingly chaotic world. This pandemic has emphasised the need for policies, systems and structures that can carry countries through the most unpredictable, unexpected and disastrous times. In many ways, COVID-19 teaches us potent lessons for effective governance. It is a reminder of the increasing need to govern in a VUCA world. VUCA is an acronym coined by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus in 1987, which captured their leadership theory and predicted the future of the world as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The impact of COVID-19 has magnified these characteristics of VUCA. It has made the world increasingly volatile. Uncertainty is on the rise, as many countries are reeling from the damage to their economies, and as governments wrestle with the challenge of saving both lives and economies. The world is now more complex than ever. We are living in a constant state of ambiguity, as we struggle to answer the question, “What does all of this really mean for the future?” Effective governance demands a response that acknowledges a VUCA world and the role COVID-19 plays. A cursory observation of the countries that have successfully navigated the first wave of COVID-19, reinforces the importance of good governance to navigating this pandemic and our VUCA world. Therefore, COVID-19 continues to expose the strengths and weaknesses of our governments. It many ways, it has become a teacher of the best systems and structures that should shape the way we govern in the future. So what major governance lessons can we learn from the countries which have done well so far? First, COVID has magnified the importance of a whole of government and sector approach to effective governance. We saw that countries that navigated well did not simply delegate the responsibility of managing COVID-19 to a single ministry or team. Even though special teams provide oversight, the fight required every ministry, sector and citizen to be actively involved. Second, we saw the great need for competence-based leadership. Countries that navigated well, empowered their experts in the medical field to find solutions and leaders listened to the experts. Third, there was special emphasis placed on results. During the COVID-19 crisis good rhetoric was not enough – tangible, clear results, limiting the spread of COVID-related cases and deaths by COVID is what mattered most. Fourth, in those successful countries, we saw a citizen-centered approach. These countries placed the wellbeing of their people – not their party or agenda – as the ultimate priority. A whole of government and sector approach, competency based leadership, results driven work and a citizen-centered approach are qualities that have led to a successful navigation of COVID-19 thus far. These four qualities are also critical for successful navigation of the VUCA world in which we live. National leaders should not abandon these principles post-COVID, but should adjust their approach to governance to ensure future success in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous VUCA-world. 12

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