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CEO Update re. COVID-19

A message from Lauren Solomon

It’s hard to believe we’re now four months into the year. The 2020 we all thought we might have, certainly now seems worlds apart from the one we will share. First and foremost, we at CPRC would like to recognise those on the frontline working tirelessly and creatively to keep people safe and our world ticking over.

The changes underway in our society and markets are both personal and collective. We’re finding new ways to work. New ways to support those in need. New ways to connect with community. And new ways to derive meaning as we go about our lives.

COVID-19 has exposed and amplified the frailties of existing systems, many not adequately designed to work for people. We are going to face an incredibly difficult time as steps are taken to contain the outbreak and look towards recovery.

Our markets are experiencing a scale of disruption not seen since the Great Depression. Consumer confidence in Australia has dropped to the lowest levels on record. Extraordinary interventions are being implemented to support communities and economies in ways that just a few months ago would have been entirely out of the question.

Our ability to emerge stronger from this crisis will be determined by the extent to which we put people at the centre of new systems, processes and interventions.

Our role

Here at CPRC, we are researchers, listeners and observers. We dig deep to find evidence-based solutions. When the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 became clear, we took a step back and considered how we could ensure that consumers are best-supported by government, industry and community over the coming months and years.

You haven’t heard from us on Twitter or LinkedIn or email because there are more important voices to hear at this stage in this crisis. We need to listen to the advice of governments, advocates, healthcare professionals and even our grandparents, who have likely lived through many more difficult periods in life than us. Most critically, we need to hear from people themselves. How are their daily lives and hopes for the future being impacted?

New research project: Consumers and COVID-19 – from crisis to recovery

It’s in this spirit that I’m pleased to announce a new research initiative of the CPRC designed to provide policymakers, businesses and the community sector with up-to-date information of the consumer experience of COVID-19.

We recognise that consumers are an integral part of the economy and that renewed, sustainable consumer activity will be critical to Victoria’s recovery from COVID-19.

Kicking off a nationwide consumer survey in May, we will be reporting monthly for the next six months through to October on the latest activities, behaviour, experiences and expectations of consumers across the sectors. It’s our view that policy and practice interventions will be best designed and delivered when they are informed by robust, timely information that reflects the needs of the community.

The team is also working away on an accompanying policy report for release in early June which focuses on consumer protections and interventions to support consumers locally and internationally.

You’ll hear more from us on this project in the coming weeks.

We have been discussing this research with policymakers, regulators and the community sector over the past month and I’d welcome those interested in this project to get in touch as we will aim to incorporate the needs of our stakeholders to make this information as relevant and useful as possible to those supporting consumers during this challenging time.

Consumer Policy Connect Event Series – moving online working with The Wheeler Centre

At the very heart of CPRC’s work is our role as an interconnector between sectors – building communities of academic experts, policymakers, industry and community sector leaders to drive lasting change for consumers.

Staying socially connected while maintaining our physical distance is more critical than ever during this time.

After consideration and consultation, it’s our belief that consumers will ultimately be better off by this community being supported to exchange ideas, research and initiatives in an online environment during 2020.

For this reason, our planned Consumer Policy Connect Event Series will be proceed in 2020 but in a virtual setting working with The Wheeler Centre an organisation who is extremely skilled in hosting online events.

Our first event Building Markets that Work for People is planned for early July 2020 and will coincide with the release of a new report from Senior Research & Policy Manager, Ben Martin-Hobbs and Research & Policy Director, Emma O’Neill. More information will be available will be available early next month.

Data and technology workstream continues – new research due for release July

Our research on data and technology continues, with digital services becoming an even more essential part of our daily lives. Ensuring that consumers are empowered, protected and best-placed to benefit from digital technologies remains the focus of our research and policy engagement.

We look forward to releasing our next report on data and technology over the coming months and also announcing the winner of our 2020 Research Pathways Program $100,000 research grant.

The CPRC team – available online

Lastly, I’d just like to recognise the fantastic work of the team here at CPRC in making the transition – their passion for supporting consumers is as strong as ever, and their collaborative spirit is flowing online. As always, the team welcomes input and feedback on our research over the next few weeks so get in touch if you’d like to discuss, perhaps over a virtual cuppa.

You can head to our website here to find the details of each of our team members and what they’re working on.

It’s great to be ‘virtually back on deck’ and I’m really looking forward to continuing our work with you over the coming year.


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