2020 hindsight: reflecting on global learning from the pandemic


Local stories of a global pandemic – what can we learn from each other?

“A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold” – Carole King

Reflecting on lockdown lessons, words from this song sum up what a year of local government doing what it does best: connecting and reconnecting with communities, partners and staff. Every day last week LGIU was able to showcase, through images and poetry, blogs and podcasts, what someone described as “the magic” that happens when people come together to do wonderful things, in the worst of all possible circumstances.

Now, as we tentatively look towards a recovery from the pandemic, this is an opportunity to collectively reflect, grieve, learn and develop as a global community. With this in mind, in this bundle we have collected stories and experiences from places across the world, from embedding the SDGs in Indonesia’s recovery, and personal reflections from a Spanish town to reflecting on the Nordic approach and exploring digital connectivity in the Faroe Islands.

The immense challenges faced by local authorities everywhere have been highlighted in Australia, where bushfires, floods then Covid have battered communities one after the other. Over the last year our Australian partners have published a plethora of informative and insightful briefings on a diverse range of issues. Recently, for example, we have published pieces on understanding the impact of Covid-19 to inform response and recovery and moving to a post-Covid setting for infrastructure.

Looking at recovery strategies, we have published a number of international briefings on recovery, the impact on services and financial sustainability, including pieces on participatory budgeting, the impact of Covid on local economies and the role of debt in achieving financial sustainability for local government.

Regardless of where you are in the world, at the heart of the response to this pandemic are people. From volunteers and key workers, to those who have been redeployed or who are working from home (or “living at work” as some describe it), efforts to tackle this virus has required a huge collective effort. However, as we pass the one-year mark, many people are exhausted and will need support to carry on during the next twelve months as everyone turns learning and changes into the delivery of whatever the mysterious ‘new normal’ looks like.

An independent report recently published suggested there will be a need to continue to share learning in the coming months and at LGIU we will work with our members to do just that. Here we have collected recent international briefings for you to consider as we reflect on this extraordinary year.


Responses to Covid-19: learning from East Asian local government in the lead

This briefing examines the role of local governments in South Korea and Taiwan played in successfully suppressing the spread of Covid-19 to draw out lessons for local government internationally. Read this briefing.

Swift Read: Recovery – if not now, when?

A Social Renewal Advisory Board was set up by Scottish Government in 2020 to make proposals for Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic and planning for social progression. In January 2021, the final report “If not now, when?” was published, making 20 calls to action for national and local government. Read this briefing.

Co-operation in action: Community supported agriculture in the local context

Food has become a high profile issue recently in England with the debates over food for children in the lockdown. This briefing is part of series on food insecurity and the links between food and sustainability, health and wellbeing in an international context. Read this briefing.

The role of creative and cultural sectors in economic recovery 

This briefing from LGIU Australia looks at the role and impact of our creative and cultural sectors. This includes understanding the economic and social wellbeing benefits of these sectors, the impacts of Covid-19, and how local governments can help these sectors to lead local economic recovery. Read this briefing.

International lessons from Melbourne’s 20-Minute Neighbourhoods

As the pandemic reduces travel and commuting and people look to their local areas to fulfil needs, the traditional structures of urban areas are called into question. Using case studies, this briefing examines the idea of the 20-minute neighbourhood. Read this briefing.

Hopeful Towns: understanding community resilience

There is a growing divide in economic fortunes and political values between the UK’s cities and towns, making them susceptible to toxic political narratives. This report from Hope Not Hate focuses on the resilience of towns to social changes brought by immigration and diversity. Read this briefing.

Post-Covid cities: how might the pandemic change urban areas?

Cities have a long relationship with pandemics and a history of evolving in response to adverse events. Will Covid-19 change cities and towns? Will city dwellers flee cities for the suburbs, towns and countryside? Will cities become stronger, greener and more inclusive? Or will the recovery mean ‘business as usual’? Read this briefing.

A looming crisis: the mental health impacts of Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown are impacting on people’s mental health. Mental health services are expecting a surge in demand into the next year and beyond. However, this cannot just be left to the health service, local councils need to be at the heart of a community recovery. Read this briefing.

A spotlight on Indonesia: embedding the UN Sustainable Development Goals and responding to Covid-19

This briefing also looks at the innovative ways Indonesian municipalities and regencies have responded to Covid-19. The urgent action required in order to respond to Covid-19 created a unique opportunity for local governments to act in ways that were outside of their normal operating models. Read this briefing.

Understanding the impact of Covid-19 to inform response and recovery

In this briefing, Mary-Ann Robinson, Program Facilitator for Growing Brimbank, discusses the what, why and how of Community Impact Analysis reports, including how they have informed the Council’s Covid-19 Response and Recovery Strategy and their recent 19 Point Plan. Read this briefing.

A Nordic approach to Covid-19: a year of learning

When reflecting on how the world has grappled with Covid-19, Sweden stands out as taking a different approach from the start, keeping its society and borders open. What exactly is the ‘Swedish Model’ and how does it contrast with other Nordic countries? How has it evolved over time and what role has local government played? Read this briefing.

Personal stories from a Spanish town

This briefing shares the experiences from local institutions in the Spanish town of Benifaió, which has wrestled with uncertainty and pressure during the pandemic. Read this briefing.

Small and connected: innovation as the Faroe Islands lead the way with digital services

Talgildu Føroyar is a digital platform aimed at improving the efficiency of public services and modernising welfare systems in the Faroe Islands. The platform provides lessons for the digitalisation of local government services, making it a relevant briefing for anyone reviewing council services in the context of an increasingly digital environment. Read this briefing.