Helpers Will Carry Us Beyond the Crisis
Updated: Apr 7
Today marks Week 5, Day #28, of home office, home school, home everything. In Norway, as everywhere, 2020 already behaves vastly different than the decades before. As the sun makes a long-awaited, vibrant return; as flowers and trees begin their budded chase of light; as our Nordic world yawns and stretches back to life, we are told to ignore our cellular desire to rush outdoors. Instead, we must pause in hibernation. After a 6-month immersion in winter's darkness, it's a BIG ask.
Our family is adhering to #socialdistancing with as much gratitude as we can muster: we are healthy, (relatively) safe, and able to continue much of our "normal" work, for the time being. Sitting on this side of recently washed windows, the world outdoors appears much unchanged: spring grass, singing birds, children tossing toys and dancing across the lawn. Mother Nature seems not only happy, but thriving even in the smallest of corners. By contrast, the biggest threats to sanity seem to exist indoors, on screens. The phone, computer, TV all paint a frightening picture for people and lives, jobs and economies, for our collective future. And, in the midst of this shift, we have demonstrably few experiences to help us determine whether we will emerge unscathed, be it personally or professionally.
My "normal" often includes home office and engaging via screens with people around the world. As both an expat and a consultant, screens offer me an income, as well as a constant lifeline to family and friends. In addition, my clients are both large and small, and they exist across the life science ecosystem. For this reason, even home days are dynamic and engaging, spent wearing and switching between several hats at a time. In one hour, I might develop or contribute towards global, strategic initiatives; in the next, I may tackle the minute details of a start-up's foundation.
My consulting work, though, exists first and foremost in consumption and digestion, in the constant attempt to better understand needs, challenges, and perspectives from all angles of our industry. Within and surrounding life sciences, the current needs and challenges are immeasurable - and growing. Fellow colleagues are being laid off and furloughed in droves, as stock markets have plummeted to levels that our generation hadn't imagined possible. Non-emergent clinical R&D is at a widespread near-halt and it remains to be seen how our many, barely-yet-funded companies will survive. Health care systems are breaching all records of maximum capacity, while its workers are bravely enduring minimal safety measures throughout never-ending shifts. Companies of all shapes and sizes are graciously offering up tools to support wherever they can, while regulatory bodies and legacy systems are scrambling to catch-up on barely-to-nonexistent frameworks for utilizing untested, unapproved tools in the midst of a global crisis. Governments are proposing social safety measures with next-to-no information while, at the same time, are facing the fact that their entire economic and social systems might crash in the wake of their choices. Borders are being closed down, even between Nordic countries, as the "produced here to be used here" rhetoric grows increasingly loud. And, in a world that is already experiencing a shift towards national populism, such border closings and rhetoric carry more weight than ever.
By the time I've spent a day digesting the above; reading news about Norway and our Nordic, US, EMEA, and APAC neighbours; performing work tasks; homeschooling; preparing dinner; and cleaning the house, I often find myself feeling run-down, overwhelmed, helpless. Therefore, I am attempting to focus on a single, positive goal each day: look for how I can contribute, the WHAT I can do.
Few of us have a specific tool, drug, or medical background to volunteer into the pool of possible solutions, yet we all have a crucial role to play in how this crisis evolves. As one of my childhood inspirations, Fred Rogers, once said,
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping'."
This is precisely WHAT we can do: We can look first look for helpers and then we too can be helpers.
In this crisis, there are as many helpers as needs and challenges, examples we can look to for inspiration. There are those who are offering up existing tools and drugs and those who are collaborating and volunteering to rapidly create new tools and drugs. In this, production lines are moving swiftly to scale-up wherever possible, as the clinical trials that remain ongoing are implementing more digital and tech-driven solutions than before. Medical personnel are coming out of retirement and out of career changes to put themselves back on the front line. Initiatives are being drawn-up by governments, foundations, philanthropists, venture groups, and private individuals to fund and generate ideas that might hold one of the many sought-after answers. Cooperations are being forged between competitors, both within and between sectors, because at a moment like this, we can't afford to draw lines between and "us" and "them." We must think socially, even in distancing, and we must act collectively. We stay home collectively to protect the most vulnerable in our society - and, even from home, it is within our grasp to make great things happen.
In my current endeavours, my first and foremost priority is to contribute towards community health by adhering to this social distancing. Professionally, though, certain objectives are emerging as a clear need, now more than ever. In an environment where creativity and ideas, partnerships, funding, and forward-movement are so critical, I am looking at NLSDays and the NLSInvest pre-event as being part of my WHAT. This conference program and its first-ever Nordic investment day for the life science community are part of my role as helper.
In September, we will have hopefully come to the other side of this and will hopefully be able to proceed as planned with both events. At that time, if it happens, these will be amongst the first F2F professional gatherings to happen in 2020 for the life science community. By then, our needs in networking, funding, and growing likely will have surpassed any our ecosystem has experienced.
In the end, we will emerge from this stronger than ever - socially and professionally. I really believe this to be true. On some level, I believe this experience has offered us the opportunity to pause, identify where things are not working well and identify clear goals that, beyond the crisis, we can continue to collectively pursue. In the meantime, let's focus on the targets, climb one step at a time, and seek how we can help each day, no matter how small the measure may seem.