Volume XX | Issue 2 | Fall 2020
Communities that had experienced the community building process were stronger, nimbler, and more capable of meeting residents’ needs.

Connections pay off

Report finds ‘nothing is more important than community building in times of need’

How has community-building enabled communities to respond to COVID-19? That’s the question the Ford Institute for Community Building set out to answer, some four months after the pandemic hit Oregon. In June of 2020, 35 community builders from 15 communities in Oregon and Siskiyou County, California, were interviewed, with three follow-up meetings conducted. The resulting report identified three primary findings.

Community building expertise was leveraged during COVID-19

Communities that had experienced the community building process were stronger, nimbler, and more capable of meeting residents’ needs.

 “My impression is that the effective community responses to Covid-19 … have been helped significantly by having community structures and relationships already in place.” 

Validating community building

Connections, capacity, community-led action, culture — study participants agreed that the four core elements of community building were validated.  

“We knew people. We literally knew people and had contact information. And we could just reach out really quickly. And because we had built those bridges, people were responsive. Because we had done all of this outreach, we would hear back from people so we could make those connections and get things moving to help people.”

“Con el apoyo de este grupo, ahora sabemos que podemos seguir adelante, buscando los medios.” (“With the support of this group, now we know that we can move forward, searching for our own solutions.”)

The partnership with the Ford Institute helped communities respond to the pandemic

The data clearly shows the impact of the presence and support of the Ford Institute staff; the commitment, flexibility, and responsiveness of funding; and the value of being co-learners with the Ford Institute.

“Due to the strong leadership and encouragement in relationship building within communities that is present within [the Ford Institute], Greater Applegate has been able to form really strong bonds between our business community, nonprofits and local residents and without those strong connections, none of what we have done in response to COVID would have been possible.”

The report concludes that the data confirms the value of long-term community building investments to bolster resilience, stability and responsiveness in rural communities in the face of crises and emergencies. 

“This pandemic has shown that the [Community Building] framework really passes the test and stands up for what it says it’s going to do. We were able to pivot pretty seamlessly because of all the work that has led up to this point.” 

“The people see us as leaders now during the pandemic. We actively give priority to those who need the most help. We couldn’t have done that without this work.”

“When the COVID hit, we were luckily already prepared. We had all the networks necessary to activate immediately. We  were able to set up an emergency food distribution system really quickly because we already knew everyone in town that was working with other people and had a lot of contacts.”  

View the report: https://learn.tfff.org/CBSummary. 

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