think tank

Letter From The Editor: Let’s Create A Rockland County Think Tank

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Let’s Mix It Up And Invite Fresh Faces To The Table: Scientists, Economists, Data Analysts, Techies, Medical Specialists, Educators

By Tina Traster

It would be an awful shame if we emerge from the pandemic without mining our collective experience. We have been through – and are still going through – a watershed moment, though entering a new phase with re-openings and vaccinations. We have an opportunity right now to gather our thoughts, ponder what they mean, analyze how we’ve coped, and plan for the future while there are enough months behind us yet at the same time our nerve endings remain raw and receptive.

Now is the time for the best and brightest minds in Rockland County to get together and form a Think Tank. Not a partisan white paper mill but a group of scientists, economists, data analysts, techies, medical specialists, educators – and maybe a seat or two for those in government. What I’m suggesting is that we mix it up and invite fresh faces and curious minds to the proverbial table to study the intersection of the pandemic, and its effects on the economy, health, education, childcare, technology, and our psyche.

Businesses, government, just about everybody has learned the art of improvisation throughout the pandemic. We have pivoted, powered through, pleaded for loans, provided for the needy, propped up our children, pioneered a new normal. There is so much data to be extracted from what we have garnered. There’s a heck of a lot more to absorb than the revelation that we can meet virtually by ZOOM and commuting less is a great time saver.

The pandemic laid bare the cracks – it showed us the vulnerability of our businesses and the tenuous nature of the social safety net. The pandemic poked us in the eye, showing us that the tired phrase “nothing lasts forever” is truer than we think. It woke us up. It gave us the gift of time and contemplation – most of us had no choice but to take a hard look at just about everything: our businesses, our jobs, healthcare, childcare, the entire dynamic of our existence has been put under the microscope and like a hundred-year storm, this is a rare but opportunistic moment to find clues for roadmaps.

The pandemic, even more than the Internet or the global economy, reminded us of our interdependency. Businesses that thrived did so because the community stepped up. Parents became educators. Educators became technologists. Government greatly expanded its roll. Artists inspired us in new ways. In the worst of times, we discovered the best in ourselves.

So how do we turn this experience into hard data, policy, a roadmap?

That’s a big question but I believe we must deeply probe the collective experience – from hard facts to anecdotal data – and use it to crystalize what we’ve learned, what we did well, what we can do better, and why this all matters.

My greatest fear about where we are now as a county, and as a society, is that we will want to move forward and leave the pain behind. It’s been a long, hard season of grief, a trying time in unimagined ways. The human mind needs to move forward to heal, to thrive. Who doesn’t want to just think about returning to restaurants, theaters, concerts? But can we? Should we? How will it look different?

I think we should not move forward without pulling the threads of what we’ve lived through and using them to guide us. Every entity – from businesses to nonprofits to government – have altered their systems and operations and will contemplate these shifts as they move forward because they may have inadvertently revealed clues to being more efficient or more resourceful.

I’d like to throw out a fishing line to the sea of serious thinkers here in Rockland County who believe in the benefit of creating a Think Tank or some kind of round table to convert facts and reporting into valuable written ideas that can be communicated widely to the people of this county. I will offer myself up as the coordinator of this group – I think twelve or so would be a good number to begin. Let’s find qualified individuals who know how to research, synthesize, analyze, and prepare meaningful reports. Let’s memorialize the pandemic by creating academic research that might potentially improve every corner of our lives.

Interested? Email: