April 20, 2021

Lessons Learned — One Year of Collective Action 

One year ago, we launched Pandemic Action Network knowing that no single stakeholder or sector can tackle pandemic preparedness or response alone. Together, over the past year, our innovative Network has learned lessons and achieved progress while remaining agile to act amidst an ever-changing political landscape and compounding social crises. 

To mark our one-year anniversary, we are reflecting on the lessons learned during our first year of collective action. Our work has only begun, but together we are making progress and seizing every opportunity to put pandemic prevention and preparedness on the agenda.

Fill the policy & advocacy action gap.
Our co-founders and partners understood at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that the global response to COVID-19 would be full of gaps, and someone needed to leap into action to fill them. By building relationships across sectors and translating data into clear messaging and policy recommendations, we enable decision-makers to take actions that will drive more effective pandemic preparedness and response. 

Unlock the Network to maximize impact. 
We knew that the challenges were too big and too many for any one single stakeholder or sector, but our experience during the first year of collective action has proven the power of our network model time and again. Whether amplifying the call for vaccine equity through ONE’s Pandemica campaign, informing the work of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, catalyzing a movement to reach 3.5 billion+ people during World Mask Week, supporting Global Citizen and the European Commission’s fundraising effort for the ACT Accelerator, joining forces with partners to form the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa to fill the PPE gap for community health workers, or influencing the Biden-Harris administration’s agenda on pandemic preparedness, we are demonstrating what is possible when you unlock the power of our global network. Together, we do achieve more.

Amplify, don’t compete. 
In one year, we have built a robust and growing global multi-sector network of more than 100 partners to be the agile platform required to address a crisis of this magnitude. While individual members may not be able to take certain stands or advance certain actions, together we have witnessed the Network’s ability to hold global leadership accountable and drive change, as we have done with our collaborative call to COVAX to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and to world leaders to share excess doses. At the end of the day, we are able to mobilize action by ensuring that we are delivering the right message via the most strategic set of messengers at the right time. 

Messaging matters. 
Storytelling moves people to action. The pandemic has shown the power of consistent and clear communication and the influence of misinformation. It’s no surprise that the WHO declared an infodemic before declaring a pandemic. While focusing on policies that would accelerate an end to the pandemic, the Network has also prioritized the role that communication plays in shaping individual choices and collective policies. Whether creating #AfricaMaskWeek to rally the continent — and particularly youth — around the importance of ongoing masking, or educating influencers in the U.S. with the facts on COVID-19 vaccines with #ItsOurShot, we know that messaging continues to be critical to both navigating the vaccine era of this pandemic and ultimately stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Learn and adapt in real time. 
Just as epidemiologists must learn quickly and integrate new data into their strategies, our Network has learned to be nimble and adapt our strategies based on new information and developments in real time. We have swiftly managed our advocacy strategy around U.S. House and Senate bills and EU opportunities, and pivoted our masking communications strategy taking into account shifting public behaviors and public health guidance. The rapidity with which we have scaled and advanced our work hinges on the Network’s ability to be agile based on the direction of political winds and data-driven learnings.  

Seize every opportunity to put pandemic prevention and preparedness on the agenda.
As we continue to operate in the midst of a pandemic and observe fatigue on a personal and political level, our work is even more urgent. We are collectively driven by the need to stop the cycle of panic and neglect once and for all. We have the opportunity to codify lessons and stop recreating the pandemic response playbook every time there is an outbreak, and we know that we have the best possibility of achieving these objectives when there is strong and sustained political will to do so. Therefore, we have been leveraging the attention devoted to the COVID-19 response to simultaneously advance our longer-term agenda calling on world leaders to take action now to effectively pandemic-proof the planet for the long-term

Long-term commitment is essential. 
As we navigate the second year of this pandemic, it is clear that our work is far from done. We are making collective progress, but we know that this is just the beginning of a long-term effort to ensure a global and equitable response to this pandemic while ensuring that preparedness is always a priority, not only a priority when we are in crisis.