Community Building in the Age of Social Distancing: Unleashing the Power of Talk

The virus is a paradox. It puts us in a very compromised situation where we would need all the help we can get. But as the virus is the virus, we tend not to associate ourselves with one another. And who wouldn’t be worried sick about it? Last look it has killed over 3 million people and counting. While we have been agonized by our very own deaths here in America, the case of India points out how vicious can the virus be when resources are running short. But isn’t this the time when we need community building the most?

At its heart, community-building is geared towards helping the needy in the community. While we can do only so much for other countries, we can start helping by building robust communities all over America. But how do you get it done these days? Here’s a scary thought: You may think of the safety net provided by the vaccine but even the best experts detail the vaccine may not be enough.

No less than Dr Anthony Fauci himself disclosed the limits of vaccines. Early January, America’s top disease doctor says the vaccine may fall short in protecting us against new strains of the virus.

However, don’t give up hope just yet. Community building is a process. For starters, believe in the power of talk. Proven strategies from subject matter experts should help you make connecting happen even if the most virulent of viruses are out there.

Virtual Dialogues

There’s no doubt it’s a conundrum. On one end, you’d like to help but on the other, you’re also keen on your own safety.

Know, however, that you should take a clue from businesses all over the land. As remote work has become the new normal, online communication has been the chosen mode of getting the message across.

And this can be the very tool for you to touch lives. Take note that your goal is to help people to navigate these trying times.

For one, you can look at the outreach model taken by Essential Partners. Their first step was to design an online dialogue series. The aim was to help different people from various parts of the country connect with one another.

So for about one hour and a half, trained volunteers talked to hundreds of Americans online giving comfort and helping them process the adversity of the times. Many of the people who choose to connect with a volunteer were stricken by deep-seated negative emotions regarding the drastic effects of the virus.

What transpired was nothing short of a miracle. People who were total strangers comforted and opened up to one another. As one participant describes it, there was a “soothing sense” of togetherness.

It was magical indeed. When people from all over the country connected to care for one another, the sense of fulfillment and gratitude can be overwhelming.

By talking to someone even if it’s a total stranger, people who need comfort feel relieved. Pundits detail talking to someone, be it via Zoom or via the phone, can lead to catharsis, or the feeling of relief.

Technology Helps


Know, however, that if you’re to undertake such a virtual connection, making the most of technology can help. To boot, you can maximize the cloud to store relevant data of people you help. That way you can connect with them better every time. Or if you’re planning to have somebody else talk to that person, you can just share the file in a cinch wherever you may be.

A good way for you to do this is via Microsoft 365. The Software as a Service (SaaS) can give you access to MS Word and Excel online for better file tracking.

Additionally if your community operation grows bigger, relying upon a tried-and-tested cloud backup solution for Office 365 should bid you well. While cloud data may not be erased, cloud backups help should accidental data deletion and the likes happen. To note, the Microsoft cloud retention bin may last only for 15 to 30 days. In short, your data is well taken care of with a cloud backup.

Moreover, make sure communication tools are in order. Having your people master the ins and outs of Zoom, for instance, should be paramount.

Expanding Coverage

The EP community initiative found so much success, the organizers decided to expand the online coverage. To facilitate better dialogues, EP assembled a set of materials, from guides and handouts to scripts. In a way, they made talking a lot easier for anyone willing to help.

And expand they did. EP distributed the gathered materials to various networks of partners all over America. Today, many communities have been using the EP module to deal with difficult conversations.

For instance, the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) used these materials to open dialogues with front-line health care workers. These people share the biggest burden on their shoulders as they put themselves in harm’s way daily. Worse, they have had colleagues who passed during the pandemic.

The sessions proved to be another whopping success. They were so powerful, people were able to let their emotions out. By putting words to their experience, they heal. And that’s what exactly a community is for.

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