Learning to be an agile leader

State and local governments are getting the ultimate crash course in crisis leadership, and over the past month, state-by-state policies have varied greatly. The Luminary Labs team is based in New York, the current epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States, and we’ve been watching carefully as leaders here and around the globe make decisions and pivot in response to rapidly changing conditions. 

New York’s current reality could be another state’s reality next week or next month, and therefore, governments will need to watch what’s happening and analyze in real time. Discrete decisions — like setting up a field hospital in a conference center, then quickly realizing that it would need to serve COVID patients instead of treating broken bones — require agility and humility. It’s all about moving forward for the common good. 

Governing well in a time of global crisis is about more than a good press conference. Policymakers and government leaders need accurate, real-time data to assess current conditions, as well as projection models to predict what the future might hold. Then they need to consider policy options, take decisive action, and share clear updates and directives with the public. 

Policymaking in a pandemic is a bidirectional exercise: What are governments asked to do? What playbook are policymakers given, and how do policymakers contribute to the playbook so others can learn from their decisions? 

The escalation and severity of the situation in New York has prompted a series of actions — we’ve referred to it before as the New York Model. It’s not perfect, but it’s our expectation that other states will seek to refine and replicate what works. Each state and municipality, including New York, has a public-facing portal for COVID-19 information; the resources listed below help shed some light on how those guidelines are formed and how we might set policies that pull our communities out of crisis.  

Assessing current conditions

Projecting future needs

  • Projection tools such as Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and Covid Act Now provide policymakers and government leaders with data on potential cases, deaths, and hospital resource use. The ESRI Cases & Planning Report combines real-time case numbers with local health and population statistics, such as the number of ICU beds, and community demographics like age, household size, and internet access.
  • The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Essential Supplies Forecasting Tool is designed to help governments and partners estimate supply needs, such as PPE, cleaning materials, and biomedical equipment.

Policy, decisions, and actions

Public health communication