Like so many organizations across the country, Groundwork USA and our network of local Trusts are working overtime to adapt to our new COVID-19 reality. Social distancing means that many of our conventional community engagement efforts – from in-person public meetings to door-to-door canvassing to tabling at local events and festivals – have completely ceased. At the same time, the needs in our low-income communities and communities of color have only grown. The people and places that were already disproportionately impacted by existing environmental and economic injustices are now disproportionately suffering from the new coronavirus.
These challenges demand a response that is grounded in equity and justice, and individuals and organizations alike are rising to the occasion. From mutual aid networks that deliver food, supplies and medicine to the most vulnerable, to cooperative gardens that enhance local food security, grassroots solutions are emerging and Groundwork Trusts are on the frontlines of change. While we are no longer able to gather in person, we are finding new and creative ways to do this work and respond to community needs.
As we rethink community engagement, it is important that we are patient with ourselves and others as we adopt new ways of interacting virtually and acknowledge that the digital divide still precludes some people from participating online. Groundwork USA’s new Guide to Video Conferencing (available at http://www.tinyurl.com/gwusa-videoguide) and Guide to Remote Community Engagement (available at http://www.tinyurl.com/gwusa-remoteguide) provide some online and offline best practices for working with communities during this time of social distancing. From video conferencing to flyering in public places, and good old-fashioned phone and snail mail, there are lots of ways for us to check in on each other’s well-being, create opportunities for distanced social engagement, and engage community members for the long haul.
By no means do we claim to have all the answers! Our guides are intended to be living documents and will be updated periodically with new ideas and information. There are lots of other great resources for physically distant and equitable community engagement out there as well.
Do you have additional ideas, strategies or resources to share? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.