Are you a leader who finds fulfillment in community engagement? Are your favorite moments when you can share space with the communities you serve?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, I’m sure you’ve found yourself in a similar position as I when considering how to connect with others during a global pandemic.

Working in a social sector as vibrant as Detroit can bring a lot of excitement to young professionals seeking to make a difference, but what happens when you can’t casually engage with individuals? I’ve always dreamt of creating new possibilities with Detroit community members, and since working with nonprofits both on Challenge projects and at my host company, I’ve constantly reflected on the impact I’m making. It is not because I’ve forgotten how to lead or collaborate with others, but due to the absence of social interaction and being able to experience the fruits of my labor first-hand. This brings me to the purpose of this blog: to reimagine methods of engagement in a time where impact can be harder to realize. Here are some remote engagement strategies that have helped me be mindful of how I connect with others in this virtual reality:

  •  Shift ideas to the essential needs of partners. Community needs are ever-changing, and it is okay to root ideation in what will sustainably serve them rather than being something beyond their capacity.
  • Repurpose community space. Even in a virtual world, contactless distribution events at parks or drive-in movie experiences in parking lots are great ways to serve community in a fun & safe way.
  • Diversify Communications/Outreach. Google form surveys, online polls, phone calls, mailed postcards, emails, and window art are great ways to promote messaging to communities with varying access to technology.

It’s so important to feel like the service one puts forth is purposeful towards the needs of others, and to value the skill of adaptability. I hope this list reminds us that we are collectively learning new ways of being, and connection is always possible.