Regardless if you are gearing up for an election this November or next, or you’re just moving forward with general advocacy around public transportation issues, it’s important to continue to have a presence even during the covid-19 pandemic. It is not business-as-usual but your efforts are not all-or-nothing.
However, the ways in which you reach voters and community members will changes. Below, we provide tips and guidence to community building during the pandemic. In other places on our website, we propose tactic and platforms to organize remotely and we encourage you to check those out.
Lastly, we would be remiss not to mention the importance of getting the tone right. We are all humans grappling in a challenging time and striking the right tone will ensure that your words are heard. It is critical to show empathy and patience, and to use colloquial language. We have other resources on our site that focus on language and messaging and we encourage you to reference those if you have questions.
1. Follow all local guidance
No matter what actions you’re taking, follow all local health guidance in your community first and foremost. Keeping your volunteers, advocates, and partners safe and healthy should be your first priority during this time. Don’t forget to take time to check in on them and make sure they are doing all right.
2. Hold virtual coalition events and meetings
Just because your coalition can’t meet in person doesn’t mean you should stop meeting.
Think about ways to engage digitally for free via virtual platforms like Google Hangouts (up to 250 people) and Zoom (up to 100 people for 40 minutes with a free account), or set up a free conference call account. These can be traditional virtual meetings, or more casual, social events to keep the community spirit going.
Additionally, we have been scouring the Internet to find digital resources, tips, and technology to help you reach your community from the comfort of your home. Here is the page, which we are updating regularly.
3. Continue seeking public input – digitally
Just as you do with your friends and family, it’s important right now to check in with your people. Particularly in the plan development stage, seeking public input is critical to building buy-in from the community. Plan public-facing engagement and events, such as a virtual town-hall via Facebook Live.
Now is a great time to think about how to engage the community digitally. Many communities have used websites and social media in innovative ways to receive voter feedback on plans. Think about launching an interactive digital tool, such as this one used by MTS in San Diego in preparation for an upcoming ballot measure, or a helpful way to present your plan online, such as this website by Capital Metro in Austin.
4. Advocate together – from home
Without being able to go door-to-door or engage new voters in person, you’ll have to rely greater on remote action. While tools such as reaching out to your email list, posting on social media, and sending direct mail are great ways to engage with voters, you should also continue to find ways to engage your advocates.
Phone banking and texting are great actions to take at this time. You can hold virtual text parties or other group virtual actions, make videos together about why you support transit for social media, or write letters to the editors. The key is to keep your advocates engaged and to keep the feeling of community action alive while social distancing. Make sure advocates are not working alone and are engaging in groups to keep them connected.
Again, please check out our digital organizing page.
5. Plan service actions
There’s no better way to build community during the pandemic than helping your community get through it. Think about the ways that your coalition can support the community during this time. In particular, actions to support essential, front-facing transit workers who are putting their lives on the line can bring your community together and tie in to the goals of your campaign.
These can be as small as supporting them with meals through a GrubHub donation link to as big as hosting a virtual event to make DIY masks to donate to transit workers. What’s important is serving your community.