Fall 2021 COVID-19 Recommendations for Community Engagement:

 

With the Fall 2021 semester now underway , many faculty, staff, students and community partners have resumed in-person community engagement activities. While the University of Iowa will continue to rely on guidance from the Board of Regents, State of Iowa; the Iowa and Johnson County departments of public health (IDPH, JCPH); the Big Ten Conference; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding appropriate COVID-19 guidelines and precautions, the Office of Community Engagement encourages students, faculty, and staff to work collaboratively with community partners to determine appropriate COVID-19 protocols for partnership work occurring this Fall semester.

Communicating with community partners early during project and partnership development about expectations for meetings, presentations and site visits will ensure all stakeholders are comfortable and prepared for activities this year. While faculty, staff and students should adhere to all university COVID-19 guidelines (https://coronavirus.uiowa.edu/fall-2021), individual community partners may have additional protocols for their own organization or building, and campus partners should abide by these protocols during community site visits. As a reminder, instructors planning community partner visits should review the university’s field trip guidelines: https://riskmanagement.fo.uiowa.edu/field-trip-guidelines-faculty-and-staff.

General Recommendations

 

Communication is key

Consistent communication is always a key to successful community engagement, but this is true now more than ever. New developments with the COVID-19 pandemic occur regularly, so frequent communication with all stakeholders, especially students and community members, involved in the partnership is essential to ensuring everyone is on the same page.

 

Collaborate with community partners to adapt partnership

As changes occur to the size, scope and nature of the engaged partnership, ensure that both campus and community partners are involved in discussing the changes. Community partners are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well, so make sure they are integrally involved in discussions about how to shape the partnership as new developments occur.

 

Utilize technology

Even before the pandemic, communicating and presenting effectively online were important skills for students to acquire. Continuing to provide opportunities for students to hone these skills, in combination with safe in-person engagement activities, will enrich community engaged learning for UI students. Often community engagement does not occur in our backyard, but across the state, nation, and world, and being able to work professionally in an online world will be invaluable for students as they progress in their career.

 

Stay flexible and focus on building relationships

Community engagement is about building mutually beneficial partnerships and relationships, not about reaching a perfect outcome. Even the best laid plans for engaged research or engaged teaching during the continuing pandemic may not come to fruition as originally envisioned. Instead of worrying about specific project details, focus on continuing to build relationships between campus and community partners so they will be stronger than ever when it's safe to return to normal.

 

OCE also encourages campus partners to consider a variety of methods of communication with community partners, including continuing some of the virtual communication practices developed this past year. Leveraging virtual communication tools allows faculty and students to stay more closely connected to community partners during times when in-person visits are not available. .

Please contact the Office of Community Engagement at ui-engagement@uiowa.edu with any questions, concerns or requests for further assistance with community engagement as we prepare for the 2021-22 academic year.