Challenges Cultivating Communities Online during COVID-19

By April 1, 2020 April 3rd, 2020 Blog, IFF Updates

By The IFF Team
Published: April 1st, 2020

On March 26, 2020 during our weekly Glitter Meetup, we gathered community members, representative of all regions, to discuss the virtual challenges their communities were already experiencing in relation to cultivating community online. The COVID-19 pandemic has been, and will continue to require individuals to stay indoor.

There was a demand for training on how to better facilitate workshops and communities online. In response, we scheduled an online workshop the following week, led by IFF’s Director of Safety & Technology, Trinh Nguyen.

We were incredibly fortunate that many of the individuals that took part in the collaborative discussion during the Glitter Meetup were either community managers, or performed community management responsibilities by default because of their leadership in their respective communities. The following are the various comments and feedback shared:

What challenges are you already seeing or forsee in relation to cultivating your community online?

  • Internet connectivity: Either data is expensive data or there is bad internet infrastructure, making it hard to connect online. It is also very expensive for some people. In Beirut, for example, it takes 4-5 hours to download 1.5 of GB.
  • Diversity and bringing in new communities will be impacted. Face-to-face is so important to both welcome and onboard new folk.
  • Lack of humanness. Video and chat become one dimensional no matter how many emojis you use. People may retreat into themselves.
  • Individuals may default to using commercial, vender-lockin, tools because they just work. This is dangerous because they are more susceptible to surveillance
  • It’s hard to maintain momentum in virtual conversations and activities due to delayed responses caused by any number of things, ranging from technology errors to family interruptions.
  • It’s difficult at times to get everyone on the same communication platforms.
  • While folks are trying to mimic physical meetups, its not the same and impacts collaborations.
  • It’s so difficult to create opportunities for networking, spontaneous conversations, and meeting new people. In other words, it’s hard to create space that leads to random side conversations and collaborations like they do in conferences.
  • It’s so much more difficult for new folks to enter the circle of trust., as this usually requires a confidant to guide you, but almost impossible to do online.
  • People may become more isolated because of depression, anxiety or other mental health reasons that may be exasperated.
  • Many folks are using online conference tools for the very first time and don’t know how to use them. They are getting frustrated because there are so many problems associated with the events they are organizing.

The IFF team will continue having collaborative talks with the IF community and help brainstorm together on possible solutions to these problems. In addition, we will continue to develop virtual community initiatives to help bring the community together, such as our virtual workshop series, daily coffee check in, and glitter meetup, which can be found on our virtual Calendar of Event.