The Covid-19 pandemic has both worsened social and economic inequalities and highlighted how ordinary people have come together to face mutual hardship. But community mobilization to address urgent needs of shelter, food, income, and access to public health services is not only an alternative to government policymaking. Civil society and community group activism is also aimed at making demands for specific social policies on governments, especially at the subnational level (involving decentralized regional or local governments). Whereas much attention has been focused on pandemic responses by national or federal governments, our project explores how social mobilization serves as a policymaking lever (SMAPL) at a subnational level, which is the most direct channel for community input and demands on policymaking. SMAPL examines the interaction between community mobilization and decentralized governance during the COVID-19 pandemic in diverse trans-Atlantic settings within Brazil, Canada, Germany, and Peru. Each of our study sites (Paraisópolis, Southwest Ontario, Montréal, Giessen, Bochum, and the Amazonas region) is characterized by sizable populations of migrants, racialized and Indigenous groups, and people living with low incomes. These groups are typically excluded from policymaking, yet during the pandemic they have challenged subnational policymaking and mobilized to fill gaps in government responses. Using interdisciplinary research approaches, including community activist and policymaker interviews, co-constructed historical narratives, and knowledge mobilization workshops, SMAPL's team of social science experts and community-based student trainees will explore: How has this civil society and community activism unfolded, and how has it shaped subnational policymaking? What steps have community and civil society groups taken in the absence of effective subnational policymaking? How do these community mobilization efforts and their policymaking impacts compare across the cases? Our overarching objective is to deepen understanding of these interactions and draw relevant learnings for inclusive, equitable, responsive governance during times of crisis and going forward.
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