The signal and the noise: the best post COVID economic recovery tool (and we know a thing or two about how to leverage it)

Covid-19 of course presents immense short term and long-term uncertainties and massive domestic and global economic, health, social challenges. The pandemic has exposed fault lines in health and social care systems.

Covid-19 has also critically demonstrated just how connected our citizens and communities and services need to be – and the crucial role of data and digital technologies – in rapidly facilitating and enabling this and in supporting a full range of services businesses vitally need – and need right now.



Three people stood chatting in a room crowded with suncatchers and cogs hanging from the ceiling

A real danger is that progress regarding extensions in longevity will be kicked into the long grass unless something fundamentally changes to address the inequity of opportunity across the life course.

The UK Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge states – “We will harness the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society”. But an equally great opportunity – and fundamental to the success of the former – is “to harness the power of an ageing society to meet the needs of innovation”.

Put simply: there has never been a more important time to value and invest in our Human Capital and effectively harness Human Experience.

A focus on human capital transcends debates about “longevity” and “ageing”. This is about maximising people’s potential – whatever their starting point, whatever their age, whatever their circumstances.  It is about inter-generational connection – for sharing positive experiences, knowledge about what works – and what doesn’t. It is about valuing skills, education, lifelong learning.

There is incredible wisdom, experience, insight, knowledge and ideas locked in the public – massive lived and professional experience, immense capability and capacity to positively contribute this experience to meet global societal challenges and accelerate solutions.


Yet despite the obvious diversity of older age groups, debates on social media and tv continue to talk about the vulnerability of older adults as a homogenous, passive group with older people talked about, not with, or indeed leading the debate.  Older adults like “others” who could be “affected by”, who could face “major risks”, “who should stay home”. Others. There. Completely overwhelmed by a dominant narrative with damaging – and plainly wrong but accepted subtext inferring futility.  We keep on listening to a daily narrative about global growing infections instead of filtering the signal from the noise.

A signal made of millions of unheard voices.

There is a massive underutilisation of human capital, in the UK and globally. However, harnessing human capital is essential to learning what all people need and can offer.

But human capital is not just about youth.  Harnessing the human capital and experience of older people is a massive underutilised asset and must be effectively leveraged.

There has also never been a more important time to align and leverage the collective capacity of existing investments and assets, to minimise duplication or reinvention, and really maximise benefits of collaboration and partnership working. Investing in and adding to assets will enable their effective deployment for economic growth, address health inequalities and ‘level up”, closing the gap in employment, productivity and prosperity between different regions and communities and improving citizen benefit.

For the last ten years we have engaged thousands of citizens who currently contribute – from a wide range of backgrounds – their wisdom, insights, experience and ideas to help us to find meanings and solutions to improve our lives and the society at scale.  Now, supported by a brand new online digital platform, this has the potential to rapidly scale, giving global reach to citizens to contribute ideas and insights from both their lived and professional experience, to share knowledge, identify gaps and unmet need, and critically inform – and actively work – with science and business to provide and accelerate solutions to meet the challenges.

Leveraging the experience, insights and expertise of the public and communities, while harnessing digital and big data – through our novel and proprietary Ageing Intelligence® approach – we are uniquely positioned to access the deep insights of citizens and communities, of consumers now and informing forward consumer trends; to capture personal human experiences, generate insights into customer needs, desires, aspirations and wants.

COVID-19 is a threat to human capital and demands multi-organisational responses as countries strive to contain the pandemic, save lives, and protect and rebuild their economies.  Immediate responses are needed as well as longer-term, forward-looking responses which can lead to more sustainable growth and recovery.

The vulnerabilities revealed by COVID-19 point to the need to increase human capital resilience. This means rethinking policies and services for today’s older people, but also supporting younger generations to prepare for healthy longer lives in the future.

Many signals to help us recover from this pandemic are already out there, it is only a matter to be able to effectively listen and harness them. Join us in making it happen.