A community is a social unit with commonality such as norms, religion, values, customs, or identity. Communities may share a sense of place situated in a given geographical area or in virtual space through communication platforms.
One of the #SilverLinings of #Covid19 for me is to witness the strengthening of community identity through connectivity and collaboration. There is a real sense that we are in this together, and that we have collective responsibility to stay at home and a shared vision to stay safe and reduce the death toll. Some of the community initiatives that have arisen have really pulled at my heart strings, good people doing good things for good reasons to help others.
We have two hands, one for helping ourselves, one for helping others.
My Real-time Community:
I was brought up in North Devon, in a semi-rural community. Mum owned and ran a massive nursery school and Dad is in farming. They are fully embedded in the local community – in fact Mum changed the nappies of most of the 30 somethings in our home town! As a family we are good with names and faces, so we are constantly bumping into people who we know when we are out and about. Going to university in Canterbury, I lived and worked in local bars and restaurants for 6 years, so I not only got to know the student community but I also became embedded in the local community of this lovely city. Moving to London was a shock. For over a decade I didn’t really know my neighbours, I didn’t have a local pub nor a local shop – I didn’t really see people I recognised as I went about my daily life. Moving to Oxfordshire, buying a house and growing roots, I have consciously planted seeds and nurtured relationships in the local community. Co-founding the Oxon MH & WB network with Lucinda, and co-founding the Oxfordshire Women Leader’s network with the wonderful OWLs has forged new friendships regionally, and out of education. I also am now friends with some of my neighbours. Being part of a community is an anchor during this strange shared experience.
My Virtual Communities:
Co-founding #WomenEd 5 years ago at Easter, we didn’t quite anticipate the scale of the community we were going to grow, nor the power of the connections and relationships that the community would form. Through my work in establishing and growing that community, I have then also been involved in #BAMEed and #LGBTed which led to me founding #DiverseEd following a conversation with my friend and former DHT, Bennie Kara. I have then fallen into the #LeanIn community too, which is a whole different scale of global connections for me! For me what is special about virtual communities is when they spill into real-time and these friendships are nurtured offline.
My Education Community:
Teaching is a special vocation as we bond in the collective endeavour. People go into teaching with purpose and heart, committed to doing their bit for others, driven by their values. I feel that #Covid19 has elevated the profession in many ways and spotlighted how important educators are. There has been less competition and more collaboration across the system. It has felt like we are a united community, when it can often feel quite divided. I hope that we can hold on to being one community moving forwards.
My Overseas Communities:
Over the last 20 years I have spent time volunteering overseas on educational and community projects in my summer breaks. I have had the privilege of living in and working alongside remote communities in Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique and I was due to go to Rwanda this summer. I like to travel this way, so that I am giving back, rather than staying in a hotel, in luxury, and not meeting people from the local community. Through social media we stay in touch with the other volunteers, both home and international. Volunteering is a bonding experience for everyone involved as you have a sense of collective purpose and shared values.
My Lock Down Communities:
During lock down I have started, unintentionally, two new communities: we have 30 women in our peer support community, and we have 70 bloggers in our #DailyWritingChallenge community – both groups have kept me anchored and uplifted throughout the last month. Along with Angie’s burgeoning community in The NourishEd Collective which on reflection is a hybrid of them both – a community on mighty network, of women in education who are sharing their personal stories on identity. I owe a lot to my virtual communities for the strength, energy and inspiration I get from them – Twitter especially. This weekend I am part of the #BrewEdIsolation community – we have 30+ contributors connecting ideas and people all day on a range of themes.
A sense of community, a sense of connection, a sense of belonging is a sense of hope for many of us right now. It is reassuring to know that we are in this together and that we are stronger together.