Healthcare and groceries? Obviously essential, but what else?
The reality? Name a sector, any sector, and the answer to whether there is anything at all that’s essential about it is nowhere near as obvious as it seems. I’ll talk about how this relates to the Dunkirk Spirit below.
So what on earth isn’t as nonessential as it seems?
Casinos, for instance, initially sound as if they not only aren’t essential but at first sight, it seems that everything about them inherently runs dangerously counter to any possibility of social distancing
But in Las Vegas, where every hotel is a casino and every casino is a hotel?
Repurposing everything that might be deemed inessential
Hotels, as short term accommodation, may now find themselves requisitioned and repurposed as makeshift hospitals or quarantine centres, with any casino spaces, concert venues or conference centres similarly retargeted for other more essential purposes more consistent with social distancing (if you rip out anything which gets in the way, like slot machines).
Very soon, the original purpose or ‘target market’ for any non-essential resource, whether public or private, can be expected to be immediately triaged between being either an ‘essential service’, or instead ‘in need of repurposing’.
Repurposing will apply to people too
If there are going to be millions of us in need of emergency healthcare, and vast numbers currently working in healthcare who are not going to be able to help because they are self-quarantining, in many cases due to having to look after offspring whose schools are closed, there are also going to be tens of millions not going to work, not just because they are diligently practicing social distancing, but simply because their place of work is shut because it is not deemed to be an essential service.
Did the whole concept of being unemployed just bite the dust?
It is likely that ‘essential services’ will need to call upon those ‘temporarily unemployed’ because as services deemed to be non-essential are put on ice, services deemed essential can be expected to already be going into massive overload right now.
Give us some PPE and put us to work in an essential service
This means that when it becomes possible to issue non-essential sector personnel with PPE (Personal Protection Equipment such as masks, gowns and gloves) then volunteers can be expected to be called for to assist in providing essential services.
As this ‘repurposing bonanza’ materialises over the coming days, the redefinition of everything into essential and nonessential will inevitably become just as important as social distancing itself.
So, go get yourself a blank page and start brainstorming
The Repurposing Game
Create three equal columns by drawing two vertical lines.
Head the columns essential, nonessential and repurposed.
Choosing between each of the first two columns, write down all of the types of business you can think of, including offices, factories and shops.
In the third column, for every nonessential business, put at least one potential repurposing option.
Everything is up for grabs
Think about buildings, equipment, infrastructure and skills, both in terms of what that particular existing nonessential operation will have on hand, as well as the essential services-based purposes that they can be put to.
Send your ideas to me if you like (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will see if we can get them put into action.
Reviving the Dunkirk spirit
In the old days, people often used to describe anything which one did which involved conscientiously exercising ‘civic responsibility’, especially when it was done at significant cost or risk to oneself as being an admirable example of ‘Dunkirk Spirit’. That term seems to have ‘fallen out of common parlance’. Until now.
The Dunkirk spirit story (and there’s been a hit recent film about it, so a whole new generation will know about the events without ever having heard anyone use the term Dunkirk spirit) is all about how just about anyone who had a boat, no matter how small, voluntarily made their way over from England to Dunkirk on the French coast, often at great personal risk, in order to rescue trapped British troops in 1940.
Repurposing of nonessential services would have until today almost inevitably drawn perfectly understandable howls of complaint. Now such complaints might elicit a weary response of ‘for goodness sake, why not just show a bit of the old Dunkirk spirit’