Though solving a problem like the COVID-19 pandemic is far from simple, some pioneering, systems-level projects in other fields have shown the way. For example, the nonprofit Malaria No More is orchestrating a systems-level initiative to tackle the worldwide challenge of combatting the disease; a multipronged effort supported by Community Solutions has sharply reduced homelessness in more than 80 US cities and communities; the McConnell Foundation is leading an effort to slash poverty in Canada; and a collection of partners that includes the PEW Foundation is addressing environmental damage to the world’s oceans.
As with the problems these initiatives are facing, dealing with COVID-19 requires an unusual degree of cooperation, information-sharing, joint decision-making, and systemic reform across sectors, mostly reliant on voluntary partnership rather than formal or legal authority. There’s no pandemic “czar” with the absolute power to dictate a response. With this in mind, several initiatives targeting the pandemic are taking a systems-level, multi-player approach, and are already proving more effective than individual efforts of traditional health-care leaders like the Centers for Disease Control.