Make an Impact in Your Field
30 July 2020
Journal of Management Spirituality & Religion
Special Issue Editor(s)
Sharda S. Nandram,
Vrije University Amsterdam and Nyenrode Business University, the Netherlands
University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
Edge Hill University Business School, UK
Puneet K. Bindlish,
Indian Institute of Technology, Varanasi (India)
Albert R. Wort,
University of Johannesburg
An integrative approach to covid-19 crisis: Learnings from indigenous knowledge systems
The United Nations, governments, and health authorities all over the world are concerned that indigenous people are facing a crisis situation due to the breakout of COVID-19 due to underlying conditions faced by their communities such as poor access to healthcare, lack of testing, soap and water and inadequate communication due to inability to access information coming from a medium they are unfamiliar with.
In addition, the capacity of emergency and health services to travel back and forth to indigenous communities is restricted by quarantine and social distancing measures. Their resilience is affected further as more than 50% of adult first-nations (indigenous) people are reported to be living with major chronic diseases.
The implications of COVID-19 for our already-under-pressure emergency services are quite significant. As the pandemic grows, there will be greater pressure on the emergency first responders to respond appropriately and safely to help all types of communities including indigenous communities. Workforce wellbeing and resilience support continues to remain a neglected management priority given the operational focus of these services, something which is vital in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, within the healthcare workers in the UK, staff sickness is highest amongst ambulance staff. It is also well documented that cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other stress-related illness in emergency workers are widespread and on the rise.
While guiding indigenous communities, there is a growing concern among nations with such communities to protect the keepers of indigenous knowledge, their spiritual rituals, techniques, symbols and their stories which have served as a backbone to these communities to exist and survive. Several measures are being taken to help indigenous communities to face the consequences of COVID-19. For instance, advisory groups are being set up by governments and NGOs to help these communities by providing culturally appropriate safety practices and advice.
Indigenous communities managing themselves
In the meantime, the indigenous communities themselves are finding cultural, social, life-style, spiritually, and religiously appropriate ways to cope with COVID-19 and are able to communicate the dangers of COVID-19 to their communities. An example is the Walkatjara Art Centre in Uluru in Australia which is putting messages out to the community through dot paintings. There are also NGOs looking for people conversant in indigenous languages to spread messages through extensive radio networks that can connect with them more easily.
We have also seen new virtual initiatives coming up at high speed in the past weeks by several Indian spiritual masters through teachings in several local languages on breathing, coping with stress and meditation. Yet another example is discussion groups sharing their scientific understanding of the role of Ayurveda, an Indian Indigenous knowledge system, to prevent diseases and its practical applications to prevent and manage COVID-19.
New community practices are born
There are plenty of new community practices born in this time of crisis across the globe, to help elders with their groceries tasks or help answering their queries. We also notice how medical students are volunteering in hospitals. We see how Priests across the globe share to their communities the relevance of prayers, mantra recitations and rituals to prevent or cope with COVID-19. Some are directly tapping from Indigenous sources while others give their own interpretations to these knowledge systems while living in a global environment.
Another example of community practices is several helplines in the Netherlands such as the Hindu Helpline for the Hindu communities to communicate about the dangers of COVID-19, the related hygiene measures, policy of the WHO and local government. In addition they also provide spiritual care when needed by a group of trained spiritual counselors who have made themselves available as volunteers.
Lessons for global society: co-producing knowledge systems
However, all these initiatives from the local communities on their indigenous knowledge systems may be interesting lessons for the larger, global society too. In this view many people have started to realize that these communities and their previous generations, have faced pandemics before and therefore they may have developed ways to cope and recover from them. So, this could be an opportunity for western science for co-producing knowledge with indigenous communities to work towards sustainable recovery from the aftereffects of COVID-19. We should remember that indigenous people have lived in harmony with the ecosystem for generations to maintain its integrity. By not adapting our knowledge on preserving ecosystems we have created habitats where viruses such as COVID-19 are being transmitted more rapidly. The decrease in activity is helping to make the environment cleaner but there is pressure to recover the economy fast. We may go back to our old ways of connecting to nature and the ecosystem that can sustain our living.
Interdependent economies and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The COVIDd-19 crisis has highlighted the urgency to achieve sustainability at local level too as in post COVID-19, one can expect that the world would be dealing with bigger issues such as economic, political, and leadership crisis. Mindless globalization has emerged to be one of the main catalysts for the issues. As different cultures, geographic entities are very rigidly connected (rather over connected), they are getting more and more interdependent even for their everyday economies which now assume global connections. An impact to one or few economies rattles the globe. If exercised mindfully, this could be an outsource of great strength, but if continued to be pursued mindlessly, then it would turn out to be humanity's biggest weakness. De-contextualized technologies like artificial intelligence and skewed ownership structures enhanced by the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies can potentially further complicate such a looming crisis. The negative impact of the global crisis when we continued to act mindlessly or non-integratively may increase.
Leadership driving on deep cultural values of connectedness
Across the globe leaders are putting lots of effort in managing COVID-19. Such a pandemic needs to be viewed from several lenses and a multiparadigmatic approach would be better for analyzing its impacts. However it seems that leadership that drives on deep rooted cultural values may have positive side effects compared to nations where there is less groundedness in the cultural roots of connectedness. Such an example can be found in South Africa.The philosophy of “Ubuntu” encapsulating a higher order of being human is currently emanating from within the community of South – Africa. Ubuntu represents integrative leadership on its highest-level. It can be explained as; "I am because we are," or "humanity towards others”. In a more philosophical sense, the word represents "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”. As South – Africa currently finds herself in a full-scale lockdown due to COVID-19, partly it is the spirit of Ubuntu bonding her people together towards a greater goal of coping with the virus. Similar values of connectedness rooted in the culture and worldview seem to facilitate leadership in India where we witness the largest full-scale lockdown for almost three weeks already. One such concept is “Lokasamgraha”, which is about the focus on the wellbeing of the society. It intrinsically enhances the practice in seeing the benefit of others in everything, all the time. It builds in the quality of reducing selfishness or self-centeredness and increasing the interest in the welfare of all beings. Leaders’ policy on social distancing as one of the main approaches to cope with COVID-19 may therefore be more easily linked to such deep rooted values.
Towards GLocal and Integrativeness
Glocal stands for: Culturally embedded Locally and Integrative Globally.
Integrativeness stands for: an a priori striving for a coherent intent in solving problems by incorporating several perspectives and purposes of stakeholders holistically. The local cultural wisdom shows the ways towards a more sustainable, self-reliant living at different levels - individual, society and nations along the different dimensions viz. economic, social, political. And the element of Integrative Globally, guides the limit and nature of connections. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we also have seen great examples of global cooperation on larger and difficult problems like interdisciplinary research by globally connected teams, humanity driven emergency supplies rising above local political and economic constraints.
The ability to nurture the indigenous wisdom and practices behind the ability to live and exercise GLocal requires an integrative approach to spirituality as well as intelligence. The need has always been there and different people have expressed this need and came up with ways through their own culture and research in the past too. However, the speed and the scale at which the spirituality (as a quality to connect to existence beyond perceived existence) has to deliver the notion of Integrative-ness across the board, is the most urgent now. If we don't act now, then we run the risk of mistaking COVID-19 as a science fiction movie rather than a trailer of the things we would have to deal with, in the future.
Looking to Publish your Research?
We aim to make publishing with Taylor & Francis a rewarding experience for all our authors. Please visit our Author Services website for more information and guidance, and do contact us if there is anything we can help with!
We invite best practices, empirical analyses, conceptual papers, reviews related to managing COVID-19, inspired by indigenous knowledge systems, management and leadership practices, strategies including technology, challenges of current globalisations and interdependent economies, reconceptualizing strategies and role of spirituality and religion, Glocal integrative approaches, evidence of resilience and wellbeing practices, coproducing global scientific knowledge systems for post COVID-19.
Due date for paper submission is 30 July 2020, Expected publication January 2021
View the latest tweets from AOMConnect