How Minnesota's History Network Initially Responded to COVID-19

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How Minnesota's History Network Initially Responded to COVID-19

By: Todd Mahon | Mission & Management | May 28, 2020

Survey Report found here.

Minnesota has a strong network of organizations that reach from border to border. The total number of organizations, agencies, and more is understood to be greater than 500. The network, like all aspects of social, civic, and economic life in Minnesota, has been strained by the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health measures put in place by a series of executive orders from the Office of Governor Tim Walz.

In an effort to better understand how the network was responding to this crisis and gauge their capacity and resilience, the Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services created a brief survey that asked about the respondents’ current status, their capacity to work from home, the barriers they faced to conduct their work, the financial impact of the pandemic and the restrictions caused by the public health measures, and their plans to address the situation.

This document provides a summary of the responses to the questions and provides further context by breaking down the responses by the size of the organization's budget and by the region of the state.

The survey responses confirm some things that we already knew. The network has a wide range of capacity levels. In general, that capacity is not very strongly associated with a particular region of the state. Organizations located in the metro region do not necessarily have capacity advantages over other regions of the state.

Among the easiest to read issues, regardless of budget size or region of the state, are the barriers associated with completing our work in a Work From Home (WFH) environment. Across the demographics of the survey there were discrepancies between having a Work From Home policy and having people working from home. Organizations are in an environment that they have not adequately created policies.

It’s likely not unique to this sector, but the survey responses also reveal a gap in the tools and resources needed to work from home. Less than half of the respondents indicated that their organizations provided a laptop or desktop computer to conduct work from home. The numbers decline even more so when asked about mobile devices, data plans, and internet access. On the individual side of the ledger, the staff was providing these tools at their own expense.

The responses to the questions about the coronavirus response indicate that early on steps were largely targeted to public-facing areas like public events. When asked about what steps they would likely take if the situation were to continue, the responses indicated steps that would have a more transformational impact on the structure of the organizations, including accessing reserve funds and changing staffing patterns.