The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world. From travel implications to healthcare risks to labor shortages, there are few parts of life left untouched by the virus.
Because there is huge value in collaborations and strong relationships with partner institutions, we need to understand the impact of devastating events like the pandemic. In particular, we wanted to understand how the pandemic affected our stakeholders so we could ensure the continuation of our programs long term. We can only begin to fix a problem once we become aware of it.
A large multi-collaboration like ASEC involves many stakeholders, or groups/individuals who are affected by an organization’s achievements. There is great benefit to communicating with stakeholders during a time of crisis – often they are negatively affected and may withdraw if relations are not strong. In the case of ASEC, an organization that provides valuable services to communities in desperate need, lack of strong relationships and communication can make a crisis situation even worse. Imagine if the programs put in place to support education in Africa were shut down by the pandemic – even less of the population would even have a chance at education.
In May of 2020, ASEC’s Research Initiative initiated a study of more than 3,500 stakeholders to assess ministry/work stress, sources of internal resilience and coping skills in the early months of the pandemic. A brief online survey of 23 quantitative questions and one qualitative, free-response question helped ASEC initiate a proactive response to the pandemic at an organizational level.
Though the ten countries serviced by ASEC in Africa have been affected in varying degrees by the pandemic, in general, the West African region has experienced the highest proportion of cases in any region during the first few months. Containment and testing measures varied greatly by country, contributing to various degrees of impact on mental health, ministry work, and coping abilities. Lockdowns and school closings pushed back progress to education, making it harder to obtain.
Stakeholders were asked to assess three aspects of their life during the early months of the pandemic:
- How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected ASEC stakeholders’ assessments of their place of work/ministry?
- What were the principal factors that influenced ASEC stakeholder’s sense of emotional well-being at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic?
- What were the principal factors that affected ASEC stakeholder’s assessment of their ability to cope at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic?
After data was collected, the study found that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on stakeholders, particularly in their work/ministry settings. Being an SLDI/HESA participant significantly increased ministry/stress and decreased perceived emotional well-being slightly. Working in a country experiencing lockdown showed lower levels of ministry/work stress. Confidence in one’s coping skills positively impacted the sisters’ well-being.
The study was valuable in providing evidence of important factors contributing to ministry and work stress, emotional well-being and coping skills. Obtaining this knowledge assists ASEC in prioritizing needs and planning operations during a crisis situation. The study has application for other organizational collaborations as well, as it demonstrates how resilience and coping mechanisms among stakeholders in a collaborative environment can be measured and documented to promote well-being and further a sense of mutual cohesion. Put simply, the more we know about a crisis situation’s impact on the organization the more we can plan to overcome the challenges.
While the pandemic has been an unprecedented tragedy, the research conducted on its impact for organizations is valuable as it provides unique insights to the challenges faced by both lay and religious individuals throughout Africa south of the Sahara.
To read about the study in its entirety, click here.