Submitted by jmckinley on March 20, 2020
Hello, partners and supporters of Democracy at Work Institute:
We hope you are keeping well and healthy in all ways, as the COVID-19/coronavirus changes our lives and work, and as we wait to see how transmission will be contained in the U.S. Because so much of DAWI’s work is connected to other organizations, we are updating partners to share how we have been and are likely to be affected. We hope this assessment and mitigation of risk fortifies all our resilience in unprecedented times. We share it with you in the spirit of solidarity, and invite you to do the same with us. We will continuously revisit and update our plans, as we expect that over the next two weeks we will have a better sense of how long and deep the impacts will be.
First: we’re fine. Overall we are in extraordinarily good shape. As a remote organization, we have all the tools and systems in place to support working from home. We have flexibility in how we manage and execute our work, and our internal operations are minimally impacted by measures to contain the virus. Fortunately, DAWI provides health care and paid time off. We are still working, but we have implemented flexible scheduling, encouraged use of paid sick days, and are providing each other with the support we rely on from our close-knit team. Generally, we are all a little stressed and distracted. We offer our patience and support for you, and ask for yours with us.
Second, we have halted all travel and events through the end of April, possibly longer as the situation evolves. As a field-building organization, much of our work relies on convening, in-person training and technical assistance, and traveling to partners’ events. But none of this is life-and-death; DAWI is not a frontline service provider, so we can afford to have a very low tolerance for risk. Our employees’ and the public’s health come first.
Third, some work will need to be rescoped, including projects we may be working on together. We may need to alter deliverables, deadlines, and reporting. We are reaching out on an individual basis to have these conversations together. Right now, at a minimum:
- The SEED Fellowship activity is postponed to support partner cities in response to local COVID-19 containment efforts. This will require re-planning the year and the following year, as the timeline stretches out.
- All events we contracted to produce for other organizations are postponed in coordination with those partners.
- All technical assistance, consulting and training events, including in NYC and rural areas, are either postponed or will take place online.
- Our partners, particularly those in city, state and federal government, have other priorities right now, so some partnered contracts and projects may be delayed until after containment.
- In addition, given the media’s almost-exclusive focus on COVID-19, we are delaying several announcements from DAWI, including new published research and program announcements.
- We have published a blog about worker cooperatives’ resilience [link] in times of crisis.
We are proactively developing alternatives to in-person events, and many of our projects are still happening:
- The Workers to Owners Collaborative will continue to meet and work together.
- We will continue to support, with NYCNOWC, the NYC Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative, holding virtual meetings and contributing remotely to advocacy efforts.
- Rapid Response Cooperative Development continues apace, and we may see increased demand for this model as contingent workers’ needs increase.
- The School for Democratic Management is still offering online trainings.
- The national Worker Co-op Conference, scheduled for September 11-13, 2020 is still planned to happen, but we will monitor the situation and update accordingly.
The most important thing right now is our responsibility to the full health of our staff, our communities, and the society we live in. As we implement physical distancing, we are also implementing social engagement. It is imperative to stay connected and work together. Our partners at US Federation of Worker Cooperatives have collected resources about everything from emergency loans to community care to tips for working remotely. Those are available at: https://www.usworker.coop/covid-19/. Please pass these along to your communities if you think they will be helpful. Along with USFWC, we are planning to convene online peer sharing sessions among worker cooperatives as well as the communities of practice that we convene at DAWI.
Recent events have only strengthened our commitment to work together to build the economy and society that we need. In that spirit, we are reaching out to work with organizations coordinating efforts at community-based response and mutual aid. We are adding our voice to those making demands of government at all levels to respond effectively and humanely to this public health crisis with systems-level supports. We are preparing rebuild an economy that works for all people and the planet. Thank you for your support. Let’s continue to build and push for a truly healthy world.