How to creatively scale up in times of crisis.
Think back to the beginning of the Corona outbreak. Back to the first quarter of 2020. A deadly virus that originated in China has begun spreading rapidly around the world and is also now reaching Europe.
On TV we’re seeing the first dramatic images from Northern Italy. Not long after that, the first infections are also detected in the Netherlands. The uncertainty is overwhelming. Insights, answers and real solutions, such as vaccinations, are lacking. The government wants to control the virus and the panic, contain it, and inform and instruct everyone well, to prevent the spread as much as possible. Especially among the younger target group who live in close quarters in student houses, where keeping their distance is a real challenge. But how do you do that?
To stop the virus, or at least slow it down, it is essential that everyone sticks to a few basic guidelines. But how do you make that common knowledge? How do you get that across? How do you ensure that people follow the instructions? Keep their distance? Wash their hands? Stop hugging and throwing parties? Wear face masks? And how do you include all social groups in this? Especially the students? Students who may feel that guidelines and regulations, conveyed by an older GGD employee, are a little pedantic. How do you speak to students who are not keen on being told what to do? And how do you convince them of the urgency for behavioural change?
In close partnership with The Social Pact, RIFF develops a tailor-made strategy, with a corresponding approach to organize corona communication to students in a smarter and more convincing way. .
Let well-trained, digitally skilled students communicate one-on-one with their peers. Have them report infections and conduct contact tracing by telephone. A plan that is immediately embraced by the House of Representatives, also because many MPs see a bonus of an opportunity to polish up the image of ‘the student’. The GGD gets the green light for a 3-month pilot. And so, together with The Social Pact, we recruit and train 140 students in no time, mainly via the intranets of educational institutions, who then immediately go to work: often out of their own student house, from Groningen and Utrecht to Maastricht.
The pilot is a success. After a trial period of 2 months, it appears that the students, if properly guided, have the right skills. The GGD is tremendously enthusiastic about their contributions, stories and efforts.
The problems surrounding Corona continue to grow, and the GGD asks RIFF to recruit and train even more people and to offer broader support. A serious challenge, but over two years we show how to scale up quickly and smartly. We go from 140 to 3,500 people, whom we can also deploy flexibly anywhere; and who, partly thanks to our own targeted training, offer guaranteed quality. RIFF was the only party to correctly, continuously and consistently deliver on that commitment throughout the pandemic.
It has been hard work, day and night, under high pressure. It's really asked a lot from everyone here. We would regularly be online with thousands of, often new, colleagues in our team meeting. But that also makes it beautiful: that enthusiasm. That really makes it a memorable project.