Coronavirus & Global Economy: Time for a Global Pivot?

Coronavirus & Global Economy: Time for a Global Pivot?

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is rapid and the non-unified response is obliterating economies worldwide.  In the past we have had economic crises that spawned emotional reactions, however, this time we had an emotional reaction that has spawned an economic crisis. The lack of clear information and global leadership fueled a panic and even today we lack clarity on the best way to prevail.  With so many countries testing different strategies, perhaps we, as a global society (if such a thing still exists after this), will be better prepared next time.  

I write this today while stranded in Chile where the borders are now closed, a curfew is in effect, schools and restaurants are closed until at least May, social distancing is being advised and largely followed, and full lockdown seems imminent.  My friends in Italy tell me that their crisis is largely spreading within hospitals and hospice centers among patients with other comorbid diseases, and that healthcare workers are largely the carriers spreading it from one patient to another. France is in total lockdown indefinitely, declaring war on the invisible enemy.  And in the world’s two greatest democracies, India--which has a much smaller total number and growth rate of virus cases compared to the USA--has banned its 1.3 billion citizens from leaving their homes for 21 days to contain the spread, while the USA seems to be heading toward lifting restrictions and letting the virus run its natural course through the population. Even if our lives may not be at stake, our livelihoods most certainly are.

At the time of the writing of this article, over 459,000 people worldwide have been infected with the Coronavirus, with at least 20,000 confirmed fatalities according to Worldometers on 03/25/2020.  Nearly all States in the U.S. have now declared a State of Emergency as well (Business Insider). Businesses have had no choice but to cancel or, at a minimum, postpone many of their conferences and conventions, as well as other business travel and ventures. South by Southwest (SXSW), one of the largest conferences in the US with an attendance of over 400,000 last year, announced the cancellation of their March 2020 event (New York Times). Several of my keynote events have been postponed and my flights from Chile have been cancelled, leaving me stranded for an undetermined amount of time due to the closed borders and airline cutbacks (see New York Times). As a result, just about everyone will have to pivot.

Decentralization and democratization of knowledge is the future

I frequently lecture on the future of work, how technology and AI influences the job market, and why and how education must pivot in order to prepare youth for a global tomorrow.  Is such a message still relevant? Do I need to pivot as well?

I believe that technology will play an even larger role in our lives going forward as we are less likely to catch a communicable disease from a robot than from a human.  Today, private music teachers (my former profession) are forced to give lessons to students online and despite their resistance previously, students and teachers are discovering the benefits and shortcomings of this. The same is true with school students and teachers who are desperately trying to navigate best practices and are surely bound to discover them (see below where I have created a Think Tank for educators to share best practices).  Universities under fire for exorbitant tuition that has created an epidemic of outstanding student loans may soon realize that future applicants will opt to learn online at a proportional cost. As I always tell my audiences, decentralization and democratization of knowledge is the future. However, I may have miscalculated on the timing, as it has just become the present, globally.

I am a proponent of globalization as I believe in the modern age we are most resourceful as a global community--culturally, educationally,  economically, and environmentally. But the rapid spread of COVID-19 and worldwide discrepancies on how to manage it may suggest that we are safer and more prosperous within borders and preserving the right to choose within whose borders each of us wants to be in. The world travel that I have enjoyed, benefited from immensely, and still believe is the single greatest form of education may no longer be so accessible going forward.

United Airlines was the first U.S. carrier to cut domestic flight service amid fear the virus would cause ticket sales to dwindle, according to this article from the New York Times.  The latest is that American Airlines plans to cut domestic flights by 30% and global flights by 75% for April, with more cuts expected for May. They are also on a hiring freeze through June.  Since fear over the virus took root, United and American Airlines shares have lost a third of their value, with Delta Airlines also experiencing a tumultuous downward trend.  Italy has a complete ban on travel imposed through April 3rd, 2020 on its 60 million citizens. According to the South China Morning Post, two thirds of domestic China flights have been cancelled, with remaining flights selling for as little as $4.00 USD per ticket. The ripple effect on travel means that hotel bookings and restaurant dining are going to suffer significant losses.

Any possible resurrection will ultimately be driven by demand and not curtailed by restriction (hopefully), but emotions and fear are often harder to overturn than regulations.  As a result of the Coronavirus, airlines have taken the biggest hit seen since the attacks on September 11th, 2001 (New York Times). However, as we saw in the travel rebound since 9/11, time will likely be healing and business will return to normal if the impact of COVID-19 can be quickly contained.

Environmentally, the closure of borders appears to be revealing positive results thanks to the containment of many things economic and viral that impact a nation’s citizens.  We may be falling forward into a previous time--one in which we are more aware of our footprint, opportunity, and responsibility to the planet. With Venice canals hosting fish for the first time in ages (BBC) and smog over China vanishing, it makes one ask if actually humans are the virus and COVID-19 is the vaccine. How ironic would it be if we close borders in the name of nationalism but become more environmentally conscious globally?

Steps We can Take to Help

Educators (which today includes parents in more proactive roles) are at a key place of influence at this time. Through education, preparation and action, educators can have a positive impact.  With many school districts considering partial closures or moving to online delivery, educators need to prepare for alternative education methods. One example of innovation in this area is “PE with Joe”, recently developed and launched by YouTube Fitness Instructor Joe Wicks.  He’s taken it upon himself to create and deliver weekday PE routines for students to do at home. The 9 am daily routine has already attained millions of views from families in the US and UK (CNN).

Taking the classroom online is something educators need to be prepared to do, and something I have tried to facilitate through Ravi Unites Schools.  Our interactive “field trips” show how powerful technology is in creating cultural competence when travel is not always an option. This week I have taken it a step further and created a  Think Tank to help share best practices. All educators and administrators from around the world are not only welcome, but encouraged to join. The world is in this together, and education is the engine that drives us toward a solution...not just for times of COVID-19 quarantine, but for the impact today will have on tomorrow. The more questions all of us ask and more solutions all of us share, more students will benefit.

If you are an educator or administrator, please join TEACHING UNDER COVID-19, A RAVI UNITES SCHOOLS THINK TANK:  LinkedIn Group.

(if you have any issues with that link, copy and paste this URL in your browser to access the Group: )


Ravi is available for keynote speaking how education must pivot for cultural competence & equity

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had two Realtime Audio-Video Interactions scheduled with Shanti Bhavan in India: one with Bethel Elementary School in Virginia and another with Londonderry Middle School in New Hampshire.  All of these schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 and these interactions will be rescheduled for later in the year.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions as we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Be sure to check out Ravi's daily "Minute to Pivot" video series. You can subscribe to it on his YouTube channel by clicking here, or visit any one of his social media pages @RaviUnites.

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received and he followed that up with a school convocation at Gloucester Virginia public schools.

A number of school districts have inquired about online convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page,

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