The impact of COVID-19 through people’s narratives and perceptions
SenseMaker® Use Case
Use Case Description
Use Case Details

Since March 2020, when COVID-19 became part of our lives, a series of initiatives related to COVID-19 have been taken by the government of the Republic of Moldova, development partners, the private sector and civil society. These initiatives have been designed to measure the impact of the crisis on different target groups and different aspects of our lives, but also to find ways to navigate the pandemic, meet the changing demands of people and help them to better recover from the crisis. To complement the existing efforts to measure the impact, UNDP explored real-life stories from people about how COVID-19 has affected their lives and the lives of others in their communities.

UNDP Moldova partnered with Cognitive Edge in a joint effort to answer the question: “What is the impact of COVID-19 on the communities of Moldova?”.. We used thick data, referred to as micro-narratives, alongside quantitative data gathered through SenseMaker®. We also ran a sense-making community workshop to facilitate further discussion, interpretation and exploration of the data. The combination of quantitative and qualitative data collection, through SenseMaker®, allows for statistical patterns to emerge and for the respondents themselves to use the qualitative data as a narrative explanation for the quantitative data gathered. The responses to multiple choice questions enable further in-depth analysis and the data to be filtered by various demographic and content questions.

The impact of COVID-19 through people’s narratives and perceptions – November 2020
The thematic paper is an analysis of the thick data, referred to as micro-narratives, about the impact of COVID-19 on the communities of Moldova in the period March-August 2020. The paper reflects on the main challenges encountered by people during the COVID-19 period and their perception of the challenges. The paper analyses the patterns arising from 300 real stories collected and suggests possible directions of support to meet the needs of vulnerable people and communities in times of crisis.

The power of thick data: unveiling the hidden facets of COVID-19 impact and the next emerging development issues. Country case study from the Republic of Moldova – September 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the complexity of the development challenges faced by the people and vulnerable groups in Moldova. The use big and thick data and a combination of the two helps in unpacking such complexities and finding new policy options and solutions to tackling rising inequalities, new forms of poverty, social exclusion, among others. UNDP in Moldova, together with the Government, made use of thick data to unveil the hidden facets of the impact of the COVID-19 on most vulnerable and new vulnerable groups.

Client: UNDP

Portfolio URL:–unveiling-the-hidden-facets-of-covid-19.html

Author Quote:
COVID-19 threw Moldovan governance into the chaotic domain (in Cynefin terms), where cause and effect are unclear, events are too confusing to wait for a knowledge-based response, and Government has to act and sense before responding. The Republic of Moldova used thick data (micro-narratives) to unveil the hidden facets of COVID’s impact. Using thick data helped to provide a more nuanced response to challenges, for instance by better shaping communication strategy. Thick data should not be considered as contradicting big data, but rather as complementary and enriching sensemaking. Empowering people to reflect on their assessed anecdotal evidence helps to enrich insights.

About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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