What is COVLess?

Research targets, work plan and (preliminary) findings

Food stall with fresh local produce in Bangkok



COVLess is an exploratory research project.


We probe into various aspects of COVID-19 related societal and environmental stressors, and solution-finding processes. We do not attempt to realise a fully-fledged research programme at this time but rather try to identify entry-points for longer-term studies. Also, we attempt to assess the chances of creative solutions to open up pathways towards more sustainable, socially and environmentally sound urban lifeworlds and livelihoods. A core question to be answered is what role the COVID-19 pandemic plays as a trigger for innovative, citizen-based concepts to overcome the crisis and enhance urban food security and social connectedness.


As it turned out in the first phases of our project already, "food", i.e. the production, distribution/provisioning, and consumption of food, may serve as a vehicle to enhance social cohesion, and create new forms of social interaction suitable to foster more sustainable urban livelihoods, and citizen identities.

Core Research Questions

Singapore is highly dependent on food imports from abroad. Bangkok's hinterland produces food for the metropole and street markets play a fundamental role in supplying food to the city's residents. In both cities, residents and are other stakeholders are experiencing severe disruptions of the food networks due to the pandemic.

It is the overall objective of the project to explore and analyse the Covid-19 pandemic impacts on urban food systems and citizenship in Bangkok and Singapore, and to identify (potential) solutions and outline future development options.

Mobile food vendors in Bangkok serve an important role in the urban food supply chain

Together with research partners from Thailand and Singapore, the project team is addressing the following questions along three thematic dimensions:

  • Food production and supply: Creative and integrative solutions to improve both urban food systems and citizen involvement are already being developed or in place in both Bangkok and Singapore. In what ways does the pandemic affect urban food and nutrition security? How is the pandemic influencing creative solutions and how can it serve as an accelerator to enforce and more widely implement them?
  • Social cohesion, citizenship and identity building: Local food initiatives like AFN, CSA etc., concepts that have huge potential to foster social integrity in ‘normal’ times, can now serve to additionally tackle social ruptures in times of crisis. In what ways can these local initiatives be mobilised to buffer or counteract Covid-19-related social fragmentation and ruptures? What chances and opportunities are opening up in the wake of the pandemic, for new types (mostly citizen-based, "grassroots") initiatives to overcome social ruptures and enhance food security, especially for the vulnerable?
  • Urban land-use planning: Urban spaces are designated to certain uses but, in most cases, exclude food production. How can lessons learnt from the Covid-19 crisis foster a process of unlocking ‘hidden’ spaces and making them available for a more inclusive, ecosystem services oriented and, at the same time, nutrition-sensitive shaping of urban lifeworlds? Or, in more general terms, what approaches promise a contribution towards more resilient, environmentally friendly, and socially sustainable development of megacities?