OPED: A Progressive Approach To The "New Normal" 

By Hingham Current Staff, May 12, 2020

Hingham Town Hall

Never before have we been forced to grapple with the issues of conducting the business of life during a worldwide pandemic while at the same time having, at our fingertips, the technological solutions to help us rise to meet its challenges.  The Digital Revolution, close to 70 years in the making, has forever altered the landscape of our lives.  COVID-19 has caused dramatic shifts in consumer behavior that certain companies, particularly those that were already informing and engaging customers remotely like Peloton and Netflix, are benefiting from.  Business is conducted online.  People are working remotely.  Even churches are continuing to worship virtually

Like other municipalities, the Town of Hingham is using Zoom to hold public meetings through teleconferencing.  This has been wildly successful.  In fact, last month more than 100 people tried to log on to a Harbor Development Committee meeting and just as many sought to gain access to a School Committee meeting.  The Hingham Schools are also using technology with Google Classroom as the foundation of its remote learning program.


However, the future remains uncertain.  The scale of this crisis is unprecedented, and it will have a far-reaching impact on public health, municipal services and local economies that we are only beginning to comprehend.  Even our leaders refrain from making promises of a return to normal.  The time is now to begin thinking long term about the implications of living in what Governor Baker refers to as a “new normal.”  Albert Einstein once famously said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”  What opportunities are currently available to the Town of Hingham?  Are we effectively exploring them and choosing to embrace some and abandon others?  


Last month, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security launched the Civic Innovation Challenge.  In an announcement, organizers described the event as “a national research and action competition in the smart and connected communities domain.”  Simply put, it is a technology and innovation competition where teams will work to create projects that solve shared challenges.  Technological discovery has created a whole new world of opportunity and an environment in which Hingham can flourish amid chaos.  What are areas for improvement?  Where can we make modifications and adopt new protocols?  


In Japan the term “kaizen” is used in business pedagogy.  It means “continuous improvement.”  The collective talents within a company are used to achieve regular, incremental progress.  As a community  we can come together, pool our resources and abilities and ultimately be better off because of this virus using technology to be transformative.  What can the town be doing to take advantage of the lessons we are learning from this crisis in order to be better prepared for the future?  Whether it’s an online application for a bulk waste permit or an expansion in the Zoom contract to allow for larger audiences at virtual meetings, no suggestion is too small.  The conversation starts with one simple question: How progressive is Hingham?  


Over the next few weeks The Hingham Current will be exploring ways we can strengthen our community through collaboration, and we will be soliciting your feedback.  We look forward to the conversation that will ensue.  In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to us in the comment section, through our Facebook page or by emailing info@hinghamcurrent.com.

Hingham Current Staff can be reached at info@hinghamcurrent.com.