Case Study:

Coronavirus Vulnerabilities and Information Dynamics Research and Modelling


When COVID-19 emerged in December 2019, it had a nearly unprecedented global social, behavioural, and economic impact. COVID-19 had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable social groups, threatening to increase societal inequality and divisions. To fully understand the impact of the pandemic on health outcomes and everyday life, it is important to consider and analyse different vulnerabilities and the impact of different political responses from the perspectives of numerous actors in government, health services, civil society, the media, and among vulnerable population groups themselves.


Co-designed by SINUS-Institut along with Synyo GmbH and Trilateral Research, the COVINFORM project assessed COVID-19 responses in a multidisciplinary and intersectional approach. Our EU-funded consortium of 16 research partners from 11 countries focused on the impacts of both COVID-19 itself and COVID-19 policies on vulnerable groups, with an intensive consideration of the role of information and communications. The project analysed quantitative secondary data and developed models on an EU-wide level; analysed documentary sources from 15 target countries; and conducted qualitative primary research in 10 target cities, encompassing a total sample of over N=120 low-socioeconomic-status women and N=150 experts and practitioners from governmental, public health, and civil society organisations.

Within COVINFORM, SINUS led Work Package 6, focusing on the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) and participatory practices during the pandemic. This entailed designing and coordinating qualitative research with representatives of CSOs and members of vulnerable population groups in 10 countries. SINUS also contributed to the project’s other work packages by conducting research with governmental, public health, and communications stakeholders in the city of Mannheim. Exploring this variety of perspectives allowed a systematic, multidimensional analysis of the pandemic as a localized phenomenon. In addition to this cross-national research, SINUS cooperated with University of Gothenburg Department of Journalism, Media and Communication on an in-depth analysis of information-seeking among migration-background respondents in Germany and Sweden. Finally, SINUS coordinated usability tests of a risk and vulnerability assessment model and dashboard designed by Trilateral Research.

The COVINFORM project was funded through the European Union’s H2020 research & innovation programme (H2020-SC1-PHE-CORONAVIRUS-2020-2) under Grant Agreement No. 101016247.


COVINFORM developed an innovative social-ecological systems model of COVID-19 response measures, along with a risk and vulnerability assessment model incorporating multiple quantitative and qualitative data streams into a geo-mapped dashboard. These models formed the basis for research reports, policy briefs and white papers which aim to guide policy and practice toward vulnerable population groups during future crises. The project also produced peer-reviewed publications by SINUS team members (e.g., “Inclusive Communication to Influence Behaviour Change During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Examining Intersecting Vulnerabilities”, “How to use Moderation Methods for Online Focus Groups and Address their Pitfalls”, and a chapter in the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Risk, Crisis, and Disaster Communication).

For more information, please see the project website at

The European Commission assessed COVINFORM as having “yielded exceptional results […] The project's comprehensive evaluation over the analyzed period showcases a highly positive trajectory, consistently demonstrating the team's remarkable ability to meet objectives and fulfill commitments. The alignment of activities with the planned framework has been seamless […] a standout feature is the project's potential for significant impact”.

What the partner says

The COVINFORM project played an important role in exploring the consequences of COVID-19 responses on individuals and groups that were disproportionately negatively affected by the pandemic within the EU member states and beyond.
Dr. Viktoria Adler, COVINFORM Project Coordinator, SYNYO GmbH


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