Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the use of communications tools like Zoom, WhatsApp and Google Meet has soared. Communication is more important now than ever before. The situation we face based on the pandemic is changing so fast and is so uncertain, there is perhaps nothing more important than the way a team communicates.
CodeBridge Youth is all about learning, innovation and collaboration, and focuses on using civic technology to aid in problem-solving and data-driven decision making. It does this through Youth Councils, in partnership with local government. With such a widespread membership, we've had to ensure that the community remains connected. Luckily, we already have some experience in working this way.
Luckily, for CodeBridge Youth and its networks, the way the collective communicates as a whole has not changed because there are so many different groups, in so many different parts of the province. For project manager Chantal Booyse, in-person meetings only kick off when municipalities express interest in hopping on board the programme. She usually works with tools like email, WhatsApp, Facebook, Microsoft Teams and regular phone calls, to communicate with local government and the programme's youth participants.
She uses such an array of tools because people are not very responsive over email, so often it takes a lot of follow-up via messages and gentle reminders over the phone.
That we're all getting a lot more practice than usual could also help those who have previously shied away from phone or video chats. It also makes things like following us with a quick call a part of the (new) process.
Communicating with the youth
Project coordinator Damian Pool communicates with the youth council mainly via WhatsApp, checking in on them and ensuring that they are on the right track. But he admits that access to data is an ever bigger problem than before and impacts the youth quite significantly. In small towns, the youth makes use of municipal Internet access to do certain tasks like answer emails, complete school work and stay connected to peers in other towns.
The Youth Council are among those affected, and they have struggled with things like social media updates and communicating with the programme's organisers.
OpenUp sponsored data to certain individuals, enabling CodeBridge's youth to participate in activities following their summit held in Bergrivier earlier this year, and to comment on the Draft National Youth Policy, which will cover the period of 2020–2030.
The lesson here is that work does not have to stop because of our habit of relying on in-person meetings. Access to smartphones, laptops and data can change the way we work - and save both time and money.
While physical presence helps to build stronger relationships, the reality is that we do not know how long this pandemic is going to last. With this in mind, getting more people used to communicating online is an important and positive change, and will allow communities like CodeBridge to stay connected throughout.