Corona crisis observations and the search for weak signals that could be drivers for (positive) change.

Cover for Scouting weak signals for positive change in times of crisis

Berlin on hold (Lunchtime, Mar 23, 2020)


What if the streets in megacities worldwide would be almost car-free? What if nearly everyone would stop flying immediately? What if everyone that possibly can, would work from home? What if 40.000 strangers would collaborate online with one common goal?

These questions were quite hypothetical and abstract a few weeks ago, but now most of us experience them in reality, caused by Covid-19. You will hardly find any part of your life that isn't affected right now. The greek origin of the word “crisis” (decisive point in the progress of a disease) lead us to identifying signals that are emerging and how this crisis could also drive real and meaningful change, especially in the mobility sector.

Beside the positive effects we are trying to identify, this is a terrible crisis. We feel deeply sorry for all the worryful, troublesome and life threatening situations these times bring. We are also very aware of how sensitive the situation is and are not aiming to spread thoughtless optimism.



List of unresolved crisis observations

Within weeks all aspects of our life changed to an absolute extreme, whereas most of us probably didn't imagine that this could ever happen. Here are some things we observed that could heavily impact mobility in the long run. This is not thought to be a static list but rather an ongoing collection of (personal) observations.

↗ Increase

  • Increasing delivery, especially food delivery
  • More consumption at home due to governmental lockdown
  • High demand for healthcare workers, medical products and technologies
  • Increased remote working
  • Public space redesign for social distancing like supermarkets with duct tape
  • Increased use of bicycles
  • General anxiety of using public transport without protection
  • People with the privilege of working from home feel stuck in their homes and have no real-world experiences anymore
  • New hygiene standards, more hand washing, and face masks
  • Immediate families spend more time together
  • Increased loneliness of people living alone
  • Political participation increases e.g. WirVsVirus hackathon in Germany
  • New values and thankfulness for healthcare workers, delivery service workers, cashiers and many more that keep systems from crashing
  • Neighbors support each other and people go grocery shopping for people at risk
  • New technologies are deployed to track the chains of infection
  • Questioning privacy regulations
  • Surveillance cameras and tracking is used to monitor people and authorities collect information about people's body temperature and health conditions in huge data banks
  • Schools and other previously non-remote organizations try to digitize themselves with unprecedented speed
  • Digital transformation takes off
  • Increasing interest in private cars private cars
  • Government aid to keep economy from crashing
  • Turning private companies into governmentally owned companies
  • Small businesses are crashing
  • Shut down of big factories for weeks
  • People isolate themselves to protect people at risk and themselves
  • Construction of bike lanes (also in Cities around the world)
  • More news consumption
  • More solidarity e.g. for homeless people by collecting food in front of the supermarket
    people start jogging to be more outside and stay healthy
  • More people think about moving to the countryside
  • Higher loans and bonuses for healthcare workers in Germany
  • More attention on what scientists say

    ↘ Decrease

  • Less or no consumption in coffees, restaurants, shops, …
  • Low/No Demand for long-distance traveling like trains, flights, …
  • Less demand for urban mobility services
  • Less mobility
  • Empty streets that usually have a lot traffic
  • Cancellation of public events like trade shows and concerts
  • Many are worried about their jobs and businesses, and therefore consume less
  • People work less



Weak signals of positive change

We don't know what all this change means in the long run. That is why we clustered our observations into social, ecological, and economic changes. We then tried to identify weak signals (potential indicators for an emerging behavior) of which we believe could potentially shape our society in a positive way. Do we desire to live more ecological, with more solidarity or have more sustainable businesses?


1. Mindfulness

Changes where people and companies do what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of people

  • Public space redesign for social distancing e.g. more private space
  • New hygiene standards, more hand washing, and face masks
  • New values and thankfulness for healthcare workers, delivery service workers, cashiers and many more that keep systems from crashing
  • Most people isolate themselves to protect people at risk
  • Higher loans and bonuses for healthcare workers in Germany


2. Ecology

Changes that could lead to a more ecological future and mobility

  • Increased remote working
  • Increased usage of bicycles
  • Low/No Demand for long-distance traveling like trains, flights, …
  • Less demand for most of the urban mobility services
  • Empty streets that usually have a lot traffic
  • Shut down of big factories for weeks
  • Construction of bike lanes
  • More attention on what scientists say


3. Business Opportunities

Changes that could lead to new, unexpected and more sustainable businesses and potentially change the meaning of mobility

  • High demand for healthcare workers, medical products and technologies
  • Increased remote working
  • Increased usage of bicycles
  • Schools and other previously non-remote organizations try to digize themselves with unprecedented speed
  • Digital transformation takes off
  • Increasing delivery, especially food delivery


4. Solidarity

Changes that could bring people closer together and empower communities

  • Political participation increases e.g. WirVsVirus hackathon in Germany
  • New values and thankfulness for healthcare workers, delivery service workers, cashiers and - many more that keep systems from crashing
  • Neighbors support each other and people go grocery shopping for people at risk
  • Most people isolate themselves to protect people at risk
  • More solidarity e.g. for homeless people by collecting food in front of the supermarket


5. De-Growth

Changes where people in times of crisis reflect their fundamental values, move slower and question personal and economic growth

  • Increased usage of bicycles
  • Low/No Demand for long-distance traveling like trains, flights, …
  • Many are worried about their jobs and businesses and therefore consume less
  • Immediate families spend more time together
  • People work less
  • More people think about moving to the countryside



We are sure there are many more positive signals to follow in the current situation. If you have something to add, please let us know. It's time for a system change and global plans to shape a better future that works for all of us and the generations to come!



Sidenote: This article is written from the perspective of a team working and living in Germany, but tries to look at the situation from all possible perspectives. There are probably a lot of missing points and a somehow biased view on the situation. Please tell us how and where you noted things differently or believe we need to rethink our perspective. Thanks for stopping by :)!