Clarity First Newsletter,
April 10, 2020

“Things can change in a day.”  – Arundhati Roy

Clarity First

A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live.

This week I spent about 3 minutes considering whether or not I could write a letter that did not mention the coronavirus. I’m sure you are as tired as I am of the daily death tolls, the heartbreaking stories of overworked and under-supplied health care professionals, and the frightening accounts of the corruption and ineptitude of those in the White House. But of course I can’t do that. This weekly letter is after all a notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live. And this pandemic is clearly the most profound learning opportunity of our lifetimes.

But what I can do is step back and take a broader, higher level view. You know that I am a utopian, so the hope that we can one day learn to get civilization right is the worldview with which I will continue to filter the news about the pandemic.

Happy Friday. We’ve already learned so much.

Futures Thinking, Next Economy

We need a different way forward

“Once the dust settles from the COVID-19 crisis, communities across the world will find their economies shattered… . Restaurants, retailers, theaters, service providers of every stripe, even physician practices will be seeking bankruptcy protection by the millions.  After the trillions in federal assistance run out, we will all be looking for ways to rebuild our economic lives. As we do so, we will need a new set of principles and practices of economic development that do not leave us sitting ducks for the next crisis.

“For an idea of what should come next, I dusted off my copy of Brittle Power:  Energy Strategy for National Security, written by Amory and Hunter Lovins in 1982. That book was mostly about the huge vulnerabilities in the U.S. energy grid, but it was really about economic design.”

“Chapter 13, titled “Designing for Resilience,” contains a brilliant distillation of the criteria for creating resilient systems—concepts any good engineer would recognize.  Resilience requires creating a network of relatively independent, self-reliant nodes, so that the failure of one node does not imperil the entire system. Connections between nodes should be optional, not compulsory. Diverse systems are critical because they are less likely to fail all at once or in the same way. These systems should be simple, replicable, and transparent.”

Article: Comparative Resilience: Eight Principles for Post-COVID Reconstruction

Scenario Planning, Futures Thinking

“Hopefully we will use this crisis to rebuild, produce something better and more humane. But we may slide into something worse.”

Image Yi Xin/EPA-EFE

“I think we can understand our situation – and what might lie in our future – by looking at the political economy of other crises. My research focuses on the fundamentals of the modern economy: global supply chainswages, and productivity. I look at the way that economic dynamics contribute to challenges like climate change and low levels of mental and physical health among workers. I have argued that we need a very different kind of economics if we are to build socially just and ecologically sound futures. In the face of COVID-19, this has never been more obvious.”

Article: What Will the World Be Like After Coronavirus? Four Possible Futures


“I think what people will want to know about this crazy time is what everyday life was like, what it was like to live through.”

A photograph taken by the Finnish Heritage Agency showing residents of a Helsinki retirement home singing together from their balconies on March 19. Credit…Hannu Häkkinen/The Finnish Heritage Agency

“With photographs, field interviews and mass surveys, institutions are trying to preserve information about everyday life during the crisis for future study.”

Article: Museums Scramble to Document the Pandemic, Even as It Unfolds

Personal Development

Impermanence is a fact of life, not a temporary condition.

Go figure. This week I found myself perusing the Buddhism section of my library. This book almost jumped into my hand. Pema Chödrön provides 108 daily mediations on living our lives on a path that gradually leads us, in the words of her editor, Hillary Hilburn Sell, “out of our cramped world of self-preoccupation into the greater world of fellowship with all human beings”. These are essential teachings and reminders for challenging times.

Book: Uncomfortable With Uncertainty by Pema Chödrön


Brands need to ask how they can remind us that we are fundamentally good souls who care about our communities, who look out for each other.

“As we look to a future when the Covid-19 crisis has abated, brands have the power to unite us, inspire us and forge a new way forward if they are willing to try.”

“We will need to think about the future. I hope that Covid-19 will bring out the best in us, but worry it will encourage the worst. We need brands to start thinking now about how they can remind us that we are fundamentally good souls who care about our communities, who look out for each other.”

Article: Brands Must Help Rebuild Society Post-Coronavirus

Creative, Social Messaging

The United Nations has asked for the help of the international creative community.

“In its first open brief to the creative community, the United Nations is asking for designers to help produce concise and impactful visuals to help share life-saving information on Covid-19.”

“To do this, the UN has identified six points of public activation which it believes are ‘most essential right now’ and created a creative brief for each. These six briefs individually touch on personal hygiene, social distancing, knowing the symptoms of the virus and how to act, encouraging a ‘kindness contagion’, helping to bust myths on the virus, and raise awareness for donations. It is also encouraging both individuals, agencies, brands and platforms to tackle these open briefs. For instance, it suggests creatives could ‘help create content for particular audiences’ and ‘interpret messages in a fun and engaging way’, while brands could donate media space or share briefs with employees, and agencies and wider media could help by leveraging talent to interpret messages around the six key points identified. ‘The way we communicate and how we do so is as important as what we communicate,’ explains the brief.”

Article: The United Nations Issues an Open Brief to Designers to Help Fight Coronavirus.

Just for fun

Jimmy Fallon Asks Twitter to Change Movie Titles Into Quarantine Editions and the List is Hilarious


A homemade spot for stay-at-home times

I found this ad early this week in one of my favorite advertising blogs, Ads of the World. I clipped it because I thought it was such a brilliant expression of brand promise. IKEA is about making your home great, and this ad weaves the joys of home with our current challenge to stay home so sweetly and so elegantly.

Then later in the week, I stumbled upon a story about the production of the spot. Holy moly. This entire ad was shot exclusively at the homes of their advertising agency’s staff, by the staff, of the staff’s own families.

“‘We wanted to celebrate all that we can achieve at home, from being creative, to being spontaneous, to adapting to the daily challenges of our new reality while keeping safe,’ says Andy Grant, executive creative director at TBWA\Singapore. ‘Making a homemade film about home felt like a lovely way to inspire and share an insight into what so many of us are experiencing right now.'”

Article: IKEA’s New Ad Is Made Entirely of Videos Shot at Home by TBWA Staff

Try this at home

Harvard University Graduate School of Design Has Put Their Entire Public Lecture Series Online
Dezeen Announces World’s First Online Design Festival Starting 15 April
SXSW’s 2020 Film Lineup Comes to Amazon Prime Video—for Free


Being quarantined at home this week inspired me to revisit my record collection (3,000 vinyl records and as many CDs, all long gone, all now in the cloud) to make a mixtape of some of my favorite songs. I first heard many of these songs on the original vinyl albums. Tracy Nelson’s, Down So Low, appeared on Mother Earth’s first album Living With the Animals. This San Francisco band was the 60s-era group that introduced me to the genre we now call Americana. Frank Zappa’s Little Umbrellas appeared on Hot Rats, an album that turned 50 late last year and sounds as fresh today as it did then. And I always cherished my Dan Hicks records for their weird quirkiness, quirkiness that might be even more relevant today.

Now that this mix is done I notice that what unites all of these songs is a mood of quiet introspection. Call it Easy Listening for Moderns.

If you’re mixing songs that put you in a good mood I’d like to hear them.

Mixtape: Home Alone

Image of the week

The image of the week is by Das Frank. On his Instagram page, he describes himself as a “Tattooer/ Painter/ Captain of Industry @studio21tattoo Las Vegas NV”.  It is one of dozens of submissions already made to an open call for art by Amplifier, a design lab that “uses art to amplify the voices of grassroots movements worldwide”.

“In response to COVID-19, Amplifier is launching an emergency campaign with top art curators and public-health advisors from around the world.

“We are looking for two kinds of work: The first are public health and safety messages that can help flatten the curve through education. The second are symbols that help promote mental health, well-being, and social change work during these stressful times.”

“In solidarity with our global community of artists, we will award $1,000 apiece to 50 artists, with 5 winning works announced each week, starting the first week of April. These artworks will be distributed widely, both online and in the physical locations where they are needed most. All art selected by our jury will also be made available as free downloads for anyone to print and share.” There are lots of free downloads to print and share at the projects web page already.

Web Page: Global Open Call for Art

What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. Learn more.

If you get value from Clarity First, please pass it on.

Not a subscriber? Sign up here.You can also read Clarity-First on the web.

Leave a Comment