Since its outbreak in Europe in February 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on societies. Vulnerable groups have been impacted disproportionately. Even in countries with well-developed responses, the outbreak and its repercussions imperil the basic well-being of social groups whose livelihoods are already precarious, while the uneven distribution of suffering threatens to aggravate inequality and division. COVINFORM analyses and critiques COVID-19 responses on the levels of government, public health, community, and information and communications.
Since COVID-19 emerged in December 2019, it has had a nearly unprecedented global social, behavioural and economic impact. The effects of COVID-19 go far beyond physical health, impacting on “everyday life” and well-being, mental health, education, employment, and political stability. Policymakers and public health experts unanimously recognise the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable persons.
“COVINFORM. COronavirus Vulnerabilities and INFOrmation dynamics Research and Modelling” is a three-year, EU-funded research and innovation project with the goal to conduct research on COVID-19 responses on three levels:
- developing risk assessment models based on available quantitative data at the European level,
- analysing documentary sources on both national and local level in 15 chosen countries,
- conducting primary empirical research in ten target communities, gathering testimonials and analysing a multitude of sources to get a full picture of the effect of the governmental response to COVID-19 on individuals within the target communities.
COVINFORM draws upon intersectionality theory (Crenshaw 1982) and complex systems analysis (Poledna et al. 2020) in an interdisciplinary critique of COVID-19 responses on the levels of government, public health, community, and information and communications. Promising practices are evaluated in target communities through case studies spanning diverse disciplines and vulnerable populations.
COVINFORM is one of 23 projects funded by the European Commission with a total of €128 million to address the continuing coronavirus pandemic and its effects.
A multidisciplinary approach to analyse pandemic response
COVINFORM’s multidisciplinary and intersectional approach will examine how vulnerability is defined and addressed (if at all) in COVID-19 responses from government, public health, community, and communication perspectives. The project will also examine the impact that different national, regional, and local responses have had on vulnerable and marginalised groups, and view these impacts through an intersectional lens to understand how different factors interconnect, potentially further increasing vulnerability and marginalisation.
Based on the outcomes of these research activities, COVINFORM will develop solutions, guidelines and recommendations to ensure that the needs of vulnerable and marginalised groups are appropriately considered in potential further waves of COVID-19 and future pandemics.
The project will also assess secondary data on national-level responses which it will then harmonise and analyse. Primary data will be collected on sub-national responses in selected European regions. The data will be indexed and modelled, aiming to create an interactive Knowledge Repository.
In the project’s multidisciplinary approach, it combines expertise in sociology, public health, emergency medicine, psychology, migration studies, anthropology, epidemiology, virology, gender studies, economics, risk communication, communication science & journalism, crisis management, ethical and social impact assessments, political science, and human geography.
A collaboration of practitioners and researchers
COVINFORM has a complementary consortium of 17 partners, bringing together practitioners and academic/research partners. Magen David Adom in Israel, Samur Proteccion Civil, University Cattolica Desl Sacre Cuore, the Austrian Red Cross, Media Diversity Institute and the Romanian Red Cross provide the much-needed insight into pandemic response from a practitioner perspective. SINUS Markt- und Sozialforschung, Trilaterial Research, the Center for Security Studies, Factor Social, University of Antwerp, Sapienza University of Rome, University Rey Juan Carlos, Swansea University, and Gotenborg University carry out the scientific analysis and research activities of the project. The project is coordinated SYNYO, who also leads WP7 on inclusive communication for behaviour changes, as well as the communication activities of the project.
 Crenshaw, K. (1982). “Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex – A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989: pg. 139-167.
 Poledna, S., Rovenskaya, E., Dieckmann, U., Hochrainer-Stigler, S., and Linkov, I. (2020). Systemic risk emerging from interconnections: The case of financial systems. In Hynes, W., Lees, M. and Müller, J.M. (eds.), Systemic thinking for policy making: The potential of systems analysis for addressing global policy challenges in the 21st century, pg. 123-131. New Approaches to Economic Challenges, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/879c4f7a-en.
Press Release: https://www.covinform.eu/wp-content/uploads/sites/39/2020/11/COVINFORM-Press-release-Project-Launch.pdf
EC Press Release: https://ec.europa.eu/info/news/coronavirus-eu128-million-granted-research-address-pressing-needs-and-socio-economic-impact-pandemic-2020-nov-05_en
COVID-19, disaster, pandemic, vulnerability, intersectionality, complex systems