A community of optimists hosted by Melinda French Gates

Turning the pain of 2020 into progress

4 min
Seizing a historic moment for caregiving
As this difficult year comes to a close, many of us find ourselves struggling to make sense of it all. And yet, when we take stock of the social issues that the pandemic, election, and racial reckoning of 2020 have laid bare, it becomes clear that we have an opportunity to learn a lot, and to capitalize on those lessons as we build a better world.

Below, five leaders share why we are currently poised to create huge, positive shifts: in how we funnel our anger into constructive action; in how we can all lead the change in our everyday lives; and in how we value and support the fundamental human activity of taking care of each other. We hope their words inspire you.
screenshot from a video of Ai Jen Poo

The disruption of the pandemic woke us up to the need for change

“The inequities that have shaped the economy and our democracy have been so deeply embedded and so profound and so normalized that we needed a disruption to kind of shake things up and that is what we’ve had. We have, I think, a new cultural awareness about the incredible importance of care and caregivers in our lives and in our economy. And we’ve had a really big awakening about just how much work in our economy, and in our society, is essential work that we have undervalued or made invisible, like care work. We now see it as essential. And these awakenings are going to be fundamental to our ability to make progress and to design for the future in a way that’s much more equitable and sustainable for everyone.”

— Ai-jen Poo, Caring Across the Generations

We gained a new perspective on what’s essential to our economy

“If we’ve decided that something—whether it is a road or a bridge or picking up trash—is so foundational to our ability to function as a society, for our economy to work, for our families to work, we don’t just leave it up to family by family working it out. It is not either, ‘you are very good at making sure your trash gets to the dumpster,’ or ‘you are not so good at it. We’ve decided that these are foundational for our society to work. One of the things that the pandemic has made clear is care is one of those things. It’s foundational for families to function, and it’s foundational for our economy to function.”

— Fatima Goss Graves, National Women’s Law Center

People from all walks of life came to see childcare as a public good

“What we know now, which I’m really excited about, is that (caregiving) is actually not an individual family problem. It’s an institutional and structural problem that needs to be solved. And, it’s also impacting women across class, across profession and sectors. So a woman CEO is struggling with care just like someone who is an essential worker or a front-line worker. We’re all struggling with the issue of care… So, what I think is that it provides us with a unifying moment to think about how we might create a national care infrastructure that supports women; is accessible, regardless of income; and that everybody can tap into. And that we treat childcare or care as a public good, rather than a private obligation.”

— Dr. C. Nicole Mason, Institute for Women's Policy Research

We got mad in 2020 — and that’s good

“What gives me hope now that we will actually build the power to win paid family leave and other critically important policies to help working families is that through COVID, we are angry. We are sick and tired of policymakers who fail to recognize, value, and support care. With that recognition comes the joining together of people all over this country to demand better… We’re not going to stand for it anymore.”

— Katie Bethell, PL+US
Portrait of TechStars director Jason Townes

We remembered that we can be the change we wish to see

“Any time I do start to feel a little down on just where we are as a country — because it does get very tough, especially as a Black person — the thing that keeps me inspired, and the thing that I’m always reminded of, is that I have the opportunity every day to wake up and be the change that I want to see in the world.”

— Jason Towns, TechStars Future of Longevity Accelerator