This is a scary time for all of us. It’s a time requiring us to make drastic changes to our lives. In addition to taking extra health and safety precautions, we’re being asked not to gather face-to-face for a while, to practice social distancing to “flatten the curve” and protect our most vulnerable neighbors. Here are some ideas for staying connected in a time of social distancing.

Our mission at the Mathews Center is to increase active citizenship, community collaboration, and effective decision making. This relies on interpersonal interaction, social connectedness, and real-time collaboration with communities. Most of our work happens face-to-face in community forums, workshops, and learning exchanges across our state. We are currently suspending in-person forums and workshops until the threat of COVID-19 recedes.*

So, how can we maintain our civic health during a time when social connections are limited and physically gathering as “we the people” is a risk? How can we remain connected with our community during a time when we need each other, even at a distance, more than ever?

Here are some ideas for staying socially and civically connected during a time of isolation, quarantine, and social distancing:

    • Stay connected digitally! While face-to-face interactions are limited, we have many online options available to us to allow us to connect with one another. Check in with your neighbors, particularly the most vulnerable, through video chat, a text, a phone call, or a good old-fashioned (friendly) holler from the porch!
    • Share the good! This is also a great opportunity to use social media, and particularly community Facebook pages, to share positive, uplifting content. We can choose to encourage our neighbors rather than only post about everything that’s going wrong.
    • Deliberate in online forums! Consider participating in an online forum on an issue you care about with citizens from across the country. Check out National Issues Forums Institute for a list of online forums for the Hidden Common Ground initiative. Let us know if you’d be interested in an online forum about a particular Alabama issue!
    • Exchange favors with your neighbors! Alabamians consistently rank high in indicators of social connectedness, particularly exchanging favors with their neighbors. We can still find safe ways to connect with our neighbors. We can share creative recipes for using all of the non-perishable items in our pantry and we can grocery shop for elderly and immunocompromised neighbors (all while keeping a six-feet or more distance between us, of course).
    • Civic engagement from your couch! Consider ways you can continue doing your civic duty from the comfort of your own home. For example, you can complete your census form (check out Alabama Counts for resources and information), sign online petitions on issues you’re passionate about, research candidates and policies to prepare for Election Day in November, and contact your elected officials (local, state, and federal) to share your perspective and opinion.

What ideas do you have for civic engagement and social connectedness during a time of isolation and social distancing? Please share your ideas with us! We would love to spotlight stories of Alabamians making a difference during this difficult time.

*Although our office will remain closed until further notice to do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19, our staff team will work remotely. Please let us know what we can do to assist you during this extraordinary time!

By Cristin F. Brawner, Executive Director