Our top priority during COVID-19: EWBers and EWB Partners
EWB was created on the humanist principle that all lives matter equally. Moments of crisis remind us of how important our community is and how much we rely on each other. We hope everyone is doing what they can to protect themselves and their families. We at EWB are doing everything in our power to protect all our staff, Fellows and Chapter community.
This crisis challenges many of our assumptions about our world and our place in it. Things we thought were safe are now at risk; things we took for granted are now in doubt. The impact on everyone, on our families and communities, is immeasurable. We will only understand in retrospect how much is changing. Hopefully, we can emerge from this crisis with renewed appreciation of each other, and with stronger focus on creating a more just, inclusive and sustainable world.
We at EWB are taking this very seriously, and taking action to care for and protect our community. Over the past six years we have developed sturdy policies on Health, Safety, and Security, especially on emergency response and safeguarding our people. We have drawn on these policies and listened closely to the advice from experts in order to respond to this global pandemic.
After careful consideration of developments, we have made the following programmatic decisions:
- Kumvana Fellowship: Our Kumvana Fellows have completed their leadership and business development programming. We have facilitated an early departure for them to make sure they are able to return safely back to their families in light of growing travel restrictions and border closures. We will be moving the debrief and forward planning aspects of their Fellowship online.
- Junior Fellowship: 10 Junior Fellows were due to be deployed to work with partner organisations in Uganda, this overseas placement has been cancelled to ensure HSW of Fellows. The team is currently exploring remote fellowship and co-op opportunities.
- Long Term Fellows: EWB is strongly encouraging all Long Term Fellows return home to Canada as early as possible. We are tirelessly working to support fellows to make sure they are able to return safely and timely.
- The announcement of the federal budget (scheduled for 30 March) has been postponed indefinitely, and the House of Commons is suspended until 20 April.
- We have put on pause our plans for hosting EWB’s upcoming Day of Action on Parliament Hill (scheduled for 3-5 May 2020) and are exploring alternative dates, pending additional information and advice from public health authorities. We will provide an update on this in the beginning of April.
- The summer is an important opportunity to build the skills and knowledge of our advocacy community, and we are committed to ensuring opportunities for learning, including through webinars and videoconferencing.
- EWB’s fall advocacy campaign will continue as planned, depending on the evolving situation, and might have an increased emphasis on online actions.
- Chapters have been asked to respect the HSW guidelines of their universities and to avoid gatherings and convenings.
- Chapters have been encouraged to find innovative solutions to build online communities and keep their work going. We are exploring the availability of remote engagement platforms and will be sharing with the community as we become aware of them.
- This is an especially important time in a Chapter’s cycle, given that March is when new leadership is elected. Ensuring that the chapter has the ability to vote is important to the democratic integrity of the process. The Community Team is available to support in booking video conferencing / conference calls and provide other relevant resources.
- We will be going ahead with the launch of our Community DT. Details here. During this period of isolation, this is an ever more important mechanism to ensure we stay connected to our community.
- President’s Retreat is scheduled for 13 – 14 June. Should the national situation become contained, we will consider going ahead with an in-person retreat; however, we are committed to hosting an engaging event remotely, as well, if needed. This is another important annual event in the development of our Chapter leaders, enabling them to build skills to manage their chapters and plan their annual activities.
- The Investment Team is making efforts to continue supporting ventures, remotely.
- Thankfully some of our ventures have business models that naturally thrive when relying on online connections. For those that aren’t as well set up, we will continue working with them to identify ways to survive during this time.
- All staff from EWB’s National Office in Toronto have been working remotely since earlier this week. Thanks to tools like Zoom and Slack we are still staying virtually connected and are able to continue working on programming.
One of the key factors behind these decisions is the need to promote “social distancing”, as recommended by WHO and PHAC. EWB is putting measures in place to ensure we are playing our part in interrupting the chain of transmission in the wider community. Social distancing and connecting remotely is our way of protecting vulnerable populations and ensuring that our healthcare system does not become overburdened.
I would like to extend special thanks to EWB’s Joint Health and Safety Committee and the Fellowships Team who have been involved in monitoring and analyzing this evolving situation and putting EWB’s response plan into action at this difficult time. Your dedication to keep Fellows safe is remarkable and deeply appreciated.
I would also like to thank all members of EWB’s community – our chapter members, fellows, ventures and staff members. We know it’s a challenging time full of unknowns for everyone in our sector, and that the changes I have just announced will require adjustments on everyone’s part. EWB is a people centred organisation that is built on meaningful connections, we believe these principles will help us pull through this together.
In the meantime, please stay safe, and stay (virtually) connected.