Digital Organizing In The Time of COVID
In the age of social-distancing, many of our everyday leaders have shifted how they operate. From educators offering instruction from a virtual classroom to pastors providing spiritual guidance through online streaming services, this global pandemic has forced many to modify their usual forms of communication. In the same way, organizers must find creative methods of engagement within their communities. While the shift to digital organizing can be tricky, with the right tools and technology, it can be just as effective, if not more effective, than face-to-face interaction.
The COVID-19 public health crisis disrupted the lives of working people nationwide. Having been hit the hardest, low-income families, particularly people of color, are struggling to make ends meet. With the realities of the COVID-19 crisis actively affecting our communities, the need to have an immediate conversation with those most impacted is of great importance in learning how we can build a bold, inclusive, and equitable caring economy.
On May 12th, Community Change Action collaborated with political leader and non-profit organizer, Stacey Abrams, for a virtual town hall to demand a caring economy for everyday people. Within minutes, the number of live viewers increased into the thousands, and participants across the country shared their support, feedback, and grievances in the live chat.
CCA’s virtual town hall allowed and encouraged a few women impacted by the public health crisis to speak on their personal experiences, and how it has affected their lives. Tameka Linder, a black childcare provider in Atlanta, spoke on her frustration of being undervalued and underpaid, while Shereese Rhodes, a black mother in the state of Washington, spoke on the challenges of juggling parenthood while now having to also serve as her child’s teacher. Moments later, wife and mother of three, Eva Bell, requested better access to safety net programs, childcare services, and housing. Although each of these women’s experiences differed, they all shared a common frustration for the lack of policy choices that help everyday people. Uniting across those differences to demand care, resources, and services for all Americans is imperative to create solutions for the problems each of these women face.
Effective organizing in the time of physical distancing requires organizers to understand the importance of amplifying the voices of impacted persons, especially those often underrepresented. As Rhodes said, “Allow those closest to the pain, to be closest to the solution.”
The beauty in organizing is that it allows for flexibility. Although the current health crisis has forced organizers into new strategies, integrating new technological tools to aid organizing work, is beneficial. It is crucial that organizers not only mobilize their work but do it in a way that still builds community and solidarity.
With these key components in mind, CCA launched the #CaringEconomy initiative. Caring Economy, also known as The Care Agenda, urges the government to take bolder steps to meet the scale this historic economic emergency demands. In meeting these demands, our government can set a better course for the future of our communities, which ultimately provides security for all Americans. The urgency of this agenda is what led to the virtual town hall meeting. There was a need for conversation with people on the frontlines of this pandemic to pull together and push for a more equitable, caring economy.
While a physical town hall meeting may have been preferred for some, Community Change Action did not allow the circumstances of the global pandemic to stifle the need for immediate community engagement. Not only did it allow everyday people to share our experience navigating through the COVID-19 crisis, but it also gave us the opportunity to evoke a thought-provoking dialogue with Stacey Abrams and Community Change president, Dorian Warren. This new method of digital organizing is simply a creative response to the public health crisis we are all living through together.
Although digital organizing is unconventional and a fairly new consistent practice, there is still work to be done. The welfare of our communities does not disappear during a global pandemic, in fact, it becomes more important. Long-term and structural change can only happen with mobility, adaptability, and inclusivity. Devising new strategies that include digital resources and toolkits are essential in making the most of this moment. The potential for a better and more equitable future requires transformative organizing practices today.