Participants in the CCEC coffee sessions and survey noted some potential opportunities as community and campus partners navigate the current crisis, including:
Bringing greater awareness of existing vulnerabilities and inequalities in communities: The pandemic highlights how resilience in the face of large-scale disruption requires healthy, just and sustainable societies across sectors. At a base level right now, communities are witnessing how different populations are impacted by access/lack of access to technology. Partners are seeing anecdotal evidence of increased compassion for others among students/youth (as one faculty member noted, “half of my class want to be engaged more right now and many are continuing on after their placements are done”). Many partners are thinking of the current crisis as a moment for fundamental change toward more just societies.
Harnessing the potential of virtual methods of engagement for broader inclusion and knowledge-sharing: Gatherings over virtual platforms may allow a wider group of people into conversations, for example those who wouldn’t normally be able to afford travel to in-person events (as long as all have adequate internet access and technology). One campus-based partner is sharing research data over an online open source platform, noting, “a lot of organizations are now writing grants, so having access to our research is really important for them”.
Expanding impact in communities with new COVID-related community-campus engagement projects: Community partners are now asking new questions (e.g. re-examining youth homelessness patterns in light of domestic violence risk from social isolation), and “there’s a lot of creative thinking happening”.
Re-examining how post-secondary institutions can work in/with communities: The pause in some community-campus initiatives provides an opportunity to really reflect on how post-secondary institutions are embedded in communities and can help to support just and healthy societies. Academic institutions are providing aid to communities in various ways, including by:
- developing responsive and innovative COVID-19 research
- providing emergency food and shelter supports (food services deliveries to food banks; offering residences for healthcare workers and others; students getting groceries for seniors)
- donating PPE
- holding emergency response roundtables
- partnering with local libraries to help seniors connect online
- sharing resources and participating in community platforms (a partnership coordinator notes this approach “allows me to hear what the local needs are, and then strategize how to provide that support”)
“We did it because we felt we had a public responsibility, and we felt we had the resources, we had the expertise, and we had the space that a lot of other institutions didn’t have.”
(university administrator, describing how their institution worked with surrounding communities during previous disaster events)
Witnessing greater flexibility among organizations and institutions: Employers are now more amenable to remote work and flexible schedules. Academic institutions are making software that was previously not available off-campus more accessible to students and community members.