Strategic thinking in a long-term crisis: One approach

A note from Nico:

When I went into quarantine with my family several weeks ago, I was speechless. I did not know what the moment needed from me or from Up With Community.

So I opened my ears, eyes, hands and heart.

We spent the next few weeks listening to partners in the field and exploring how we could be useful to our movements and communities in this moment. 

Our new tool, Strategic Thinking in a Long-Term Crisis: One Approach, was birthed through dialogue, experimentation and feedback in community, and was built to respond, in real time, to this crisis. 

Thank you to all our partners who have shaped the ideas here. Please share! And if you have edits, additions, or suggestions please email us.


Nick Cave’s Soundsuit, 2009, mixed media.

One Approach

In unprecedented times of crisis, we must begin our work with immediate, rapid response interventions. When a short-term crisis becomes a long-term reality, it can be helpful to merge rapid-response planning tools with strategic thinking to plan for the short, medium and long term simultaneously.

Building on the work of Erik Peterson’s VAST framework for campaign planning, as well as Leslie Sholl Jaffe and Randy Alford’s POP model (shared via STP), Up With Community has compiled this map of questions to support strategic thinking in a long-term crisis.

  • After the first week or two we need to transition from “sprint mode” (working at 100% speed) into “marathon mode” (50% to 75% speed) to sustain our pace for a longer period of time.
  • To help that transition, we want an easy way to keep our long- and medium-term objectives in our mind, while continuing to rapidly respond to the short-term needs of our communities.
  • It is important during this time to continue:
    • Creating pathways to process emotions, impact and grieving for all teammates–attending to both the observable and perceived losses of each person. This can be a time to explore somatics and other new habits that can support healthy, sustained action.
    • Collecting and analyzing our own sources of data on the crisis, assessing which governmental entities are the most valuable for our individual communities.
    • And foregrounding questions of justice–particularly as the most marginalized communities are most impacted by crises and fascists often use crisis as a way to consolidate power.
  • During a long-term crisis, we need to be able to see different “altitudes,” or perspectives, on the crisis at different times–and sometimes within the same meeting. We have mapped strategy questions to these altitudes to help your team move between perspectives. Please see this framework as a jumping-off point to organize and generate the questions most relevant to your work…

This is an excerpt of the full guide Strategic Thinking in a Long-Term Crisis.