COVID-19: adapting to change

We are living in unprecedented times. How can we work together to make sense of this new situation?

What does COVID-19 mean for our sector?

We are living in unprecedented times. The Covid-19 virus is changing all of our lives, and we are only just beginning to make sense of what it means for how we live, work, and care for one another. The announcements in the UK on Monday means that many more people will be working at home, and most of our work and social interactions will move online. The impacts of social isolation on mental wellbeing; social cohesion; and the economy are difficult to fathom.

For those of us whose work is collaborative, face to face, engaged, there will be challenges to address and opportunities to explore. Over the coming weeks we will be reflecting on some of these in our blog, and invite you to contribute your own thoughts to stimulate ideas and thinking to help us navigate these difficult times.

The NCCPE has now closed its office, and the team, like many others, is working from home. We plan to use Blackboard Collaborate to ensure we can still bring people together to share and learn. We are currently adapting our approach to the Engage Academy, for those keen to participate, and will be offering an in-depth online experience for delegates until we are able to meet face to face.

Universities across the country are also reimagining how they work– supporting students to learn online; conducting research in ways that protect health; and reconsidering the importance of engagement. Whilst engagement needs to adapt too, its importance in the current climate could not be clearer. People are seeking the opinions of experts – to inform government planning and action; to reassure and explain; to provide knowledge and hope. As we adapt over the coming months, we will need convenors of online communities, problem solving together to address the social issues arising from the consequences of the Coronavirus. And we will need to reimagine what community means, as we learn to care for one another, and provide new ideas of how we engage together.

An immediate need is to develop really effective ways to engage online. There is a lot of expertise about running online meetings and gatherings; online tools for enabling conversation, planning and exchange; and resources to support online public engagement but this is hard to access currently. Therefore we are keen to pool our collective knowledge and create a ‘running online events’ guide for public engagement professionals and others seeking to develop their approach – and we would love your help. You can find out more here.

There are a range of other topics we are keen to work together to explore over the coming weeks, including:

  • What does it mean to be a good expert?
  • What is the role of public engagement professionals, and others?
  • What is the role of universities in their locations?

We look forward to exploring these together.

Finally, as we try to make sense of what is happening in the world, in the UK, in our universities, in our neighbourhoods, in our lives, we think it is important to create space to think together. Therefore we are hosting an online get-together every Thursday at 11.30am from the 26th March, for the next month. These informal get-togethers are just a chance to hang out together, discuss our reactions to the current context, problem solve together, and explore how we can support one another. We hope you will want to join us.

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