Many of us are struggling to find the right words to convey our thoughts around, and appropriate ways to respond to, the situation we currently find ourselves in; we are concerned about the effects of COVID-19 not just on our health and that of our loved ones, but also on the wellbeing of entire communities.
Communities are about belonging, defined by a common geographic location, a shared sense of identity, a type of practice, pursuit or interest. By extension, community engagement involves groups of people coming together around shared purposes. The dilemma facing many of us now is how to best engage communities when it is prudent to practice social distancing and self-isolation. While augmented forms of engagement through remote communication technologies, social media, and other digital platforms will be vital in the days ahead, we must remind ourselves that not all our communities have equal access to these alternatives and the transition to virtual spaces may hamper our partners’ ability to continue collaboration.
Regardless, it is up to each of us to communicate openly and often, to honor existing commitments with community members, and to find ways to deepen our relationships with partners while also seeking and fostering new relationships with communities that can use our support.
It's important to remind ourselves during this time of recommended social distancing that conversations will not be canceled; relationships will not be canceled; self-care will not be canceled; hope will not be canceled. May we all lean into the good things that remain.
Vice Provost of Public Scholarship and Engagement