Learning from newcomers in the time of COVID-19

As of March 21st, 2020 it was estimated that 20% of the world’s population was under some form of lockdown due to COVID-19. It is an unprecedented health crisis that has changed the way we live and work together as a global community in just a few week’s time. As individuals, companies, governments and nations we are adapting to a rapidly changing context every day. 

Now, how has PLACE adapted to COVID-19, you may ask? 

Regarding our current program, Emerging Leaders, we have been able to continue our work thanks to the program’s blended-learning model.  Even beyond the scope of the current situation, we use a blended-learning model in all our programs in 2020 to anticipate the work environments of our changing economies. Throughout April and May, the Catalysts will be acquiring new skills through online challenges that will be facilitated by the ever flexible and adaptable PLACE Crew – made up of past Catalysts who are trained to lead PLACE formats alongside the team. Over the past weeks, our learning and design teams have risen to the occasion to experiment with creating equally immersive and compelling online learning spaces and experiences – an experiment that will demonstrate how we can continue to scale our impact in the future to new geographies.


As for the PLACE team, the adaptation from co-working to confinement was not that drastic. Our team is a team of nomads, with members often spread out across geographies – checking in regularly from coffee shops and pop-up offices in London, Berlin, San Francisco, Qatar, Mumbai and Toronto. For us ‘remote working’ is a basic form of team collaboration, one that we can come in and out of with the ease. 

However, what COVID-19 has reminded us is the importance of making opportunities for moments of joy and team growth even when collaborating online. Taking time for personal check-ins, organizing team lunches over Zoom, sharing encouraging videos and messages – all simple actions that have made us stronger as a team and as individuals. As our families, friends and networks are affected by COVID-19, we have come to appreciate our eclectic and supportive team more than ever.

The current situation we are facing as a global community shows how important it is to be resilient, adaptive and comfortable with rapid change and uncertainty. Migrants and refugees, through their complex life experiences, demonstrate the level of resilience, adaptability and creativity that we should all be reaching for. Geographic barriers, dramatic and rapid changes in one’s social and economic context, connecting with loved ones through technology – these are all situations that the global community is facing in the time of COVID-19. They are also situations that have already been faced by newcomers. There is no need to reinvent the wheel – newcomers have been creating solutions to such challenges long before COVID-19 was trending on Twitter. 

2020 will always be remembered for the way we adapted to the challenge of COVID-19. We consider this moment an accelerator for our societies. A time to learn and grow together in a way we have needed for so long, but never had the time to do.