The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed countless changes on all of our lives – not least the requirement to start every newsletter and report with a sentence about the effects of the pandemic.
The crisis has forced many of the world’s longer-term problems and opportunities into the background, but when the dust settles the need to solve those problems will be as urgent as it ever was. Looking at what COVID-19 has done to equity and access to health around the world, many will be more severe.
In light of this, we need to collaborate better, share more. But the world remains a competitive place, unaccustomed to collaboration. We keep reinventing the wheel, recreating new things.
Ahimsa was created to change that: to encourage the sharing of experience and to help people work together. By necessity, the coming years will be different to what we are used to. The immense damage of this pandemic means we will be forced to change how we work and our models for living. One such forced change is evident in the fact that this year’s Ahimsa forum will be held remotely. But the payoff is that this year’s event can be attended by anyone with an internet connection. Please: tell your colleagues, friends and everyone in your network.
This year’s forum comes in the middle of an opportunity to shape new worlds. To help grasp that opportunity a range of inspiring speakers will lead panels designed to do what Ahimsa has always striven to do: find ways to bring together the groups traditionally perceived as in opposition to one another. Rich and poor, young and old, charities and profit-driven companies, local and global organizations, individualism and community, women and men; all will come together in an atmosphere of tolerance, respect, sharing, and open-mindedness. The aim is to strengthen partnership and collaboration, break down silos, find new forms of resilience and provide concrete solutions to the world’s most pressing health problems.
The forum agenda can be found here. There will be sessions on fighting poverty through enterprise; strengthening collaboration between the healthcare industry and faith communities; innovation to build resilience in health systems; making innovation accessible to the most vulnerable; how faith-inspired organizations have been challenged by and have learnt from COVID-19; woman in leadership; and feedback from the ongoing projects of the Ahimsa Renaissance Movement.
This year we have also set out to strengthen the forum’s link with art and culture. International events with people attending from different countries are seldom able to take the time to explore the philosophies, visions and heart that they carry with them. Building on what we have done in the past, this year we give a louder voice to culture and art – a sector that has struggled hugely in the pandemic. Each day’s talk will start with a half-hour session listening to poets, writers, painters, musicians performing and articulating their visions of what a new, more equitable society might look like.
To end as we began, with COVID-19, if there is a silver lining to the pandemic cloud it may be the unavoidable lesson that reluctance to change is no longer viable. Change has already happened: it was forced upon us, and now it needs to be accepted and nurtured. Ahimsa has always been focused on different people, from different places, with different backgrounds, coming together for change. The spirit and ambience of these events is unique and ambitious. If we can bring together diverse, opposing perspectives to change mindsets around global health, we can break out of the ossified ways of being that have held us back in the past. We can adopt shared goals and methods that work with the consequences of COVID-19. The ambitious targets that we have set ourselves, like universal health care, will no longer be worthy aspirations but real, achievable goals.