Responses to our co-creation survey
In November 2020, Collective Mind held two special Community Conversations with our learning community of network practitioners to discuss the impacts of the pandemic on networks worldwide. Since then, we continue to hear about network adaptations to the pandemic and its longer-term impacts on their work. In March 2021, we launched a multi-step co-creation process to collaboratively develop guidance on how networks can respond in and after the pandemic. Through a survey, and a series of open working sessions with network practitioners planned for May 2021, we will develop the guidance document, which will credit all collaborators and be shared widely.
What we’ve heard so far
In early April 2021, we wrapped up the survey of network responses to the impacts of COVID-19 on their work. As the first step in the co-creation process, the survey gathered feedback and specific examples from network leaders and managers about their struggles — as well as their successes — in these trying times.
Survey results build on themes we heard in earlier conversations: challenges with member engagement when everyone is experiencing changes in their home and work-life balance; the impacts of moving in-person meetings and events online; addressing inequities across geographies or types of members; how to ensure effective and dispersed leadership; and issues related to resource mobilization and fundraising. For example, network managers report that increased connectivity can be an advantage but also that they struggle to engage members in network activities due to changing work patterns and priorities. While networks have been able to offer many more opportunities to meet online and, at times, better reach those who are more geographically isolated, they also struggle to serve those who are less digitally comfortable or prepared to learn new platforms.
And what’s inspiring us…
There have also been bright spots for some networks as they find they can reach further, feel a deeper desire to engage with others in a period of isolation, and discover new and creative ways to do their work in the midst of the pandemic. Some networks are adapting their work to reach more people, at times with greater authenticity in connection and a stronger sense of urgency for their network’s shared purpose. Those that relied heavily on in-person convenings in the past have adjusted to virtual spaces while trying to maintain meaningful collaboration.
Here are some examples of network pandemic responses that inspire us:
How to change when change is hard: The Nature Conservancy Water Funds Network’s Bright Spots Campaign
The Water Funds Network (WFN) is ”an ever-growing community of experts who work to advance source water protection around the world, as well as other individuals interested in learning about the strategy, process, and benefits of protecting and restoring watersheds.” Acknowledging that especially early in the pandemic many of us felt overwhelmed by the dramatic and unrelenting bad news streaming in from around the world, WFN initiated a “Bright Spots” campaign to highlight joy, excitement, and inspiration from its members. Launched on Earth Day 2020, the campaign ran for six weeks and featured videos, stories, and hope from across the network’s global membership.
Learning to overcome barriers: Teach for All’s #DontStopLearning
“The Teach For All network is developing collective leadership in classrooms and communities around the world.” Their COVID-19 initiative, #DontStopLearning, highlights the inspiring ways educators and families worldwide navigate the challenges of remote learning, often with limited technology and connectivity, and using personal stories and social media to increase their reach. The initiative includes stories, tools, and social media content gathered by the network during the pandemic. Staff shared the importance of grassroots knowledge and inspiration for driving their work, so these tools — available to all — can catalyze knowledge sharing.
Pushing the definition of ‘tech workers’: Tech Workers Coalition and Data & Society redefining tech work during the pandemic
With so many people suddenly working much more online, these networks addressing the role of tech and tech workers in society launched an interview series to expand thought leadership in this timely moment. The goal was “to reintroduce the archetypal ‘tech worker’ to spotlight people who build, maintain, and use tech day-to-day”. They aim to showcase “strategies for organizing in and across workplaces as well as what worker solidarity can look like.” Their conclusions about how to work and organize better together are shared here.
Meeting the increasing need for information: COVID-19 funding resources from Media Impact Funders
This network supports “journalism funders around the country and the world [that] are responding to the COVID-19 crisis with a variety of funding initiatives aimed at sustaining critical public interest information needs.” Their compilation of resources in a single space, along with regular webinars explaining opportunities, offers a consolidated network response in line with their network mission.
Advocacy in the face of increasing inequality: Artists at Risk Connection’s support for a joint statement to the UN about cultural rights during the pandemic
Artists at Risk Connection serves as a hub between organizations in this field to coordinate their resources. In response to a UN report highlighting increased risk to human rights caused by COVID-19, this hub advocating for the rights of artists and free expression signed a joint statement with 16 other organizations highlighting risks to cultural rights. The joint statement supports their network mission of assisting at-risk artists, facilitating coordination between organizations, and amplifying artist stories and awareness about artistic freedom.
Online interactive gallery of pandemic impact: Faith in Action for Children exhibition from Arigatou International’s Global Network of Religions for Children and other stakeholders
Arigatou International is an interfaith organization supporting the rights of children, which also coordinates the Global Network of Religions for Children. Among the many stories from children, messages from faith leaders, videos, and webinars offered on their COVID-19 response page, they also produced “Faith in Action for Children”, a colorful, interactive virtual exhibition of the multidimensional impacts of the pandemic on children worldwide.
These responses highlight just some of the creative range of approaches taken by networks in these trying times. We will further explore and deepen these findings through our upcoming series of open co-creation working sessions in May. We will use those sessions to gather further ideas, identify best practices, and distill our collective experience. Sign up to join us!