We founded The Auxiliary in March, 2020. In the lead-up to the COVID-19 pandemic, we made the decision to leave our home of nearly a decade, New York City. Governor Cuomo declared a stay-at-home order three days later.
We were invited to a crisis call with medics and doctors who said, "In 40 years of disaster relief, we've never seen anything like this." We heard the pain in their voices as they knew they needed to convince people to stay home, but were helpless to act.
Because we got ourselves safe quickly, we had the bandwidth and the skill set to act immediately. We organized the experts in our networks, and then we acted by organizing hackathons and generating campaigns.
Over 500,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. History will never forgive us if we do not take brave and creative action today.
Anyone can have a good idea on how to combat this, but only we have the network to create substantive change quickly.
COVID-19 doesn’t spread—people spread it. The government, media, and social networks are broadcasting mixed messages about the pandemic. Public health officials know how to reduce viral transmission from a medical perspective, but they lack the communication skills to speak effectively to human beings about COVID and its implications. The public, in turn, struggles and often refuses to follow the guidelines that reduce transmission.
We define our approach as "cultural engineering." Engineering is the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures. Informed by behavioral psychology, game theory, and strategy, we design, build, and use cultural engines, machines, and structures to affect policy and behavior.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called attention to this problem in February 2020 at the Munich Security Conference. “We're not just fighting a pandemic; we're fighting an infodemic,” he said. MIT professor Sinan Aral found that fake news on social media spreads six times as fast and twice as far as the truth. Our unique coalition is the solution.