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This article appeared in NFCB’s Novvember newsletter. You can subscribe here:

Many states have been relaxing coronavirus restrictions, but that has not allayed most Americans’ fears about the virus. Such concerns keep many people out of public events and spaces where large numbers may gather. Add to this the matter of lingering polarization after the election and the cold winter months that tend to keep us home and you’re looking at strain in cities and towns to create a sense of belonging.

How can you safely hold in-person events today? In what ways can you create spaces where community members can talk again? Where can we intervene in ensuring our audiences are not isolated? These practical questions are on the minds of many venues, nonprofits and stations for good reason. With community radio dependent on donors — our listeners locally and online — and our educational missions, it is incumbent upon us to help our audiences find their place locally. You’ll also help someone not to feel so stressed out and alone.

Twenty percent of Americans say they feel socially isolated right now. More and more studies indicate such issues can lead to health problems as well as suicide. In his book Together, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says social isolation has an equally pernicious effect on our culture: the rise of extremism.

Creating community, even when we’re still separated by the pandemic, may thus have a wider impact on our community’s health.

How might your station creatively foster community? Here are some ideas:

  • Trying to get your head around how to fuse your community together in these fractured times? PressOn recommends tackling an issue like diversity as an act of community building. If you expand that notion in other areas, it could help leaders to creatively consider community building during COVID-19.
  • Many of us use social media to share our work, but what platforms do particular segments of your audience use? Have you tried reaching out to them only there with targeted content? Consider what Madison365 did. In reaching communities of color, they found specific social platforms were the gathering place, so they went there, with the help of local nonprofits, to reach them as a part of their audience.
  • How about choosing one day a week for everyone to gather virtually? That’s what the Triibe did, making the online meetup a place for conversations, learning and skill sharing. Read more about how they expanded their community and next steps following Triibe Tuesdays.
  • Speaking of online meetings, virtual events are still the rage, but have you considered expanding what you do? How about bringing people together for poetry, on Zoom? “Poets are, above all, truth tellers,” writes KUNM’s Mary Oishi, who writes about a recent online event. “From here we can cut through agendas and gaslighting to speak what everyone deep down knows to be true.”

In December, NFCB will be convening its final diversity, equity and inclusion discussion for 2020 for member stations. In 2021, NFCB will be hosting talks on breaking past polarization. If you are not with a member organization, you are encouraged to join today.