While we are seeing support mobilized internally at Towson University for faculty, staff and students during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also want to acknowledge some very innovative strategies that our community partners and collaborators are doing at this time. One of the strategies we can undertake now if you have access to the internet or through a smartphone is to ‘push along’ the work of organizations and non-profits that you work and partner with. The idea for this strategy is not unique as we are in a world of constantly sharing, liking and reposting material on a daily basis. But while those activities have been and remain largely recreational, they can also be strategic. This idea comes from an article that I wrote with my colleague Sam Collins and two youth producers from Wide Angle Youth Media in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray uprising in Baltimore. What we are advocating in this article (unfortunately behind a paywall) is that at a time of crisis it is the role of collaborators not to speak for, but to speak with and alongside. Or, perhaps not to speak at all and serve as a conduit for an organization to do its work.
Wide Angle Youth Media
This Baltimore City non-profit that trains and educates Baltimore youth in media technologies has made an amazing transition with its work during the pandemic. Here are some strategies and ideas that Wide Angle Youth Media (WAYM) has undertaken that are great examples for how to connect to your community and network. (Full disclosure, I am on the board of directors for WAYM.)
WAYM already has a strong social media presence but is now leveraging those platforms to share information, resources and to bring a bit of levity to its constituency. Their Twitter account @wideangleym has become a platform to ‘push along’ information about the census, educational resources, relief funding and a number of other sources of information. This is a great example of using social media to not only demonstrate what an organization is doing, but also provides faculty and other partners to monitor what WAYM is up to. Every retweet shares that information to a broader network and expands knowledge and the community. It is a great example of strong community engagement. If you have a Twitter account, use it to disseminate what your community partners are doing.
They are also utilizing their Facebook account as an information platform as well. Since this is a media based organization, there have always been a slew of various media that they can push out to show the educational impact of WAYM to Baltimore. As a repository for the action of an organization (and for individuals), Facebook is a well-known resource but many organizations are using this time to pivot from their usual activities to sharing information, resources, and their response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Instagram account for WAYM matches the way most people utilize this platform as a fun space to share photos, videos and other creative endeavors. As an organization that serves a youth population in the City of Baltimore, they are utilizing Instagram to share the stories and creative media that their youth producers are creating at this moment. These are often endearing stories of coping with isolation but also finding hope at this time. Other activities such as media production challenges and a virtual prom for graduating seniors have been features of their Instagram account.
Hopefully as you are reading this you are saying to yourself that these ideas are not that revelatory. I hope that is the case! If all of this makes common sense and you are on these platforms already then you are ready to go and have probably already been doing these things. If not, think about how you can share and support the work of your community partner. But what if the organization you work with does not have any social media presence? Well, then it might be time to think about how we can facilitate that work if we have the capacity to build those tools or connect them to resources that can. We will be discussing those ideas and strategies through BTU workshops in the coming weeks.