As COVID-19 developed into a pandemic, forcing quarantines and lockdowns in most countries, Panagora closed our headquarters and our offices in South Africa, the Philippines, and Colombia in mid-March and began working remotely. As a small business with teams around the world, we drew on our deep experience with remote project management and leveraged our mostly local staff structure to adapt and move quickly to remote work.
We made it a priority to support our teams in several ways during this time. We swiftly expanded and disseminated detailed guidelines and policies for telework, remote project management, and video conferencing tools. We provided financial assistance to offset costs associated with setting up a home office and instituted flexible work and leave policies to help everyone manage this new normal. We created a COVID-19 response team, which keeps the team informed and our “social committee” does a great job of keeping everyone engaged and connected. With the goal of becoming more connected as a team, we started having quarterly company-wide town halls, which we will continue beyond this pandemic.
We have been and are committed to delivering the same high-quality work that led to Panagora being named the FY2018 USAID Small Business of the Year. Panagora’s local hire philosophy helped to make this possible–our staff are primarily citizens of the countries we work in and therefore most of them could continue the work from home. We are pleased to say that because of this, we achieved total continuity in business operations. We are extremely proud of our global team–in our headquarters and around the world–who are showcasing the best of CLA (collaborating, learning, and adapting) to make this happen, and to continue achieving Panagora’s mission of making the world a better place, for good.
Launching a New Activity in India
In March, we launched a new activity, the Collaborating, Learning and Adapting in India Mechanism (CLAIM) for USAID/India. The activity was originally designed to be managed remotely, with several work planning trips scheduled for various team members. When the COVID-19 crisis intensified, India went into total lockdown and we cancelled our work travel. We organized all the launch activities, including work planning and team building, over Zoom. Now, we are off and running, carrying out eight concurrent work orders with remote team leaders providing international best practices in project design and multiple evaluations and assessments. Panagora also brings a collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA) lens to our support to the Mission’s core work and processes.
Supporting USAID’s COVID Response in the Philippines
In the Philippines, our Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting for Improved Health (CLAimHealth) team is working diligently to support the USAID/Philippines Office of Health with ongoing health programming and its COVID-19 response. The CLAimHealth team hosts two weekly virtual meetings for USAID and all its partners to coordinate response information and actions. In addition to helping facilitate major workshops with USAID, the Philippines Department of Health, and implementing partners, we conducted our annual performance evaluation of the USAID/Philippines Health Project entirely remotely and held dissemination forums with the Office of Health and partners.
Helping Continue Critical Health Programming in South Africa
Similarly, in South Africa, we are supporting USAID and the Government of South Africa’s response to COVID-19. Our team has been helping to consolidate and edit COVID-19 funding proposals for response activities, supporting procurement and supply chain systems, and helping to keep routine HIV monitoring going so that critical health programs can continue during the pandemic.
Ensuring Quality Data Collection in Colombia
We are implementing innovative solutions to make sure our monitoring and evaluation practices are not interrupted or compromised. Our Colombia Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) team is issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) for local data collection, where the bidders must provide options for in-person and remote data collection. Our team there is also supporting USAID/Colombia by providing evidence, data, and learning as they adapt their Mission strategy to accommodate challenges related to COVID-19.
A Dedicated Team
It takes a great team to make this all happen in pandemic conditions. We believe that our CLA approach, nimble response capabilities, and dedicated and knowledgeable staff showcase the best of what small businesses have to offer. Our work continues to build in-country capacity and strengthen both health and MEL systems, helping to meet USAID’s Journey to Self-Reliance goals.