Embracing Community In Times of Isolation & Crisis

For the last month, South of Seoul volunteers have been asking questions and working quietly but consistently to support our community during Coronavirus. Within our organization, we do not lead from a place of fear. Instead, we lean into the power of our community and the people that live in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.

Our unique community includes strong and: 1) resilient Koreans, 2) confident US military community, 3) scrappy ex-pats. We are grateful to face this economic and health crisis (Coronavirus) with a group that understands the value of sacrifice and community as well as the realities of making hard choices. The entire community has made great sacrifices that have kept our community infection numbers very low thus far. The community has also been increasingly flexible and involved in finding solutions to help others survive the hardships.

South of Seoul, as a community support organization, has spent the last month focused on supporting and searching for ways to help individuals and businesses find success in the long run. We have put our energy into 1) keeping up morale, 2) assessing where the most help will be needed in the future, and 3) creating articles and action lists for communities around the world who may not have the supportive government we have here.

In this article, we are speaking to the small or rural communities (like ours) around the world; particularly those that might face this economic and health crisis without the strength of support we have received from the South Korean government.

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This article outlines our system for figuring out how we can help our community. The system uses questioning and active listening to build localized solutions that fit the unique needs or you and your people. This is a system our founder and our CLO have used in the past to help communities facing the SARS, MERS, and Coronavirus pandemics across several countries. It is also the system we use for guiding our organization on a daily basis. We hope it empowers your ability to lead within your communities.

We are all in this together.

Who is your community?

You exist as a part of a community—an ecosystem of support. Even if you feel alone, you are not alone. You buy your groceries from someone. You get your mail from someone. All our actions connect in small and big ways. Begin the process of preparing for leadership within your community by defining your community.

South of Seoul created the following visual to empower you to sort your ideas and frame your vision of your community with clarity. Look at each level of your social circle, consider: Who exists at each level? What do each of these people mean to you? What is their role in the larger social systems? These relationships create your sphere of influence. Visualize your place in the community and the value that you bring to each circle. Remember that you are not alone, even if you don’t see these people every day.

Physically chart how your actions can positively or negatively affect your social circle.

Now that you have connected with this concept of community, look at the chart and ask yourself and/or your community questions such as:

  • Who is the most vulnerable and at risk? (Don’t make people ask for help. Take the action steps to observe unspoken need.)
  • What kind of support do they need? (Don’t be afraid to ask people what they need.)
  • Where are the most vulnerable and how can they be accessed? (Maybe you can only reach them virtually. That is ok.)
  • When are they going to need help? (Some people might need help in three weeks. Some might need it today. Always be thinking about the present AND the future.)

What are your resources?

Next, assess your resources. Start asking questions similar to these:

  • What are the knowns and unknowns of the situation?
  • What are your individual, acceptable levels of risk?
  • What resources do you have? (Money, Time, Access, Ability to Coach, Ability to Lead, Emotional Space to Listen, Community Network, Online Access, etc. For example: How much time do you have in a day to talk or text with an isolated friend?)
  • How can you pool resources to make them go farther? (Example: If you live alone, could you move in with a friend to keep each other company?)
  • What skills or systems we can improve to make our resources go further? (Maybe it’s time to try those recipes or become a master of baked goods. There has never been a better time to learn something new.)
  • How can you divide up both the physical and emotional labor in order to make sure no one carries to big of a weight? (Taking responsibility for emotional labor has never been more important.)
  • What community can I join? Are there groups who share your values and interests that you can join and share emotional labor?

How can I think more creatively?

Next, ask yourself questions to get creative with solutions finding:

  • Who can I talk too about my ideas?
  • What does does failure look like?
  • What does success look like?
  • Where can I get support?
  • Where can I get involved?
  • When can I find time to prioratize myself?
  • How have I successfully changed my situation in the past?
  • How can I challenge my own perspectives and think differently?

Who is on my team and ready to take action?

Once you have asked a ton of questions and documented your answers you are going to see your options more clearly. You are going to make plans and backup plans for plans. Flexibility is the key to success. To stay nimble, South of Seoul recommends creating an action-focused accountability group that:

  • 1) Actively listens to each other and provides feedback and reality checks. (Truth is, we can ALL get a little overwhelmed or irrational in isolation.)
  • 2) Provide a support system where you each carry the emotional labor when others are faltering. (Everyone needs to share the leadership so nobody drowns in the weight of the need.)
  • 3) Support each other in making decisions that are based on facts, community, and goals. (This is no time to make choices based in fear of change or fear of loss. Sometimes you have to lean into the changes to have the best outcomes.)

You do not have to make fear-based choices simply because it’s a scary time. You can stay home because staying home is the smart, empathetic choice. Staying home doesn’t mean you are fearful, it means you are smart. You can choose to wash your hands 20 times a day because it’s smart. It’s a powerful move to put extra effort into your health.

The current economic and health crisis is serious, unknown, complicated and WE ALL NEED TO STAY SOCIALLY DISTANCED and stay healthy! Staying home or away from others isn’t hiding. It’s simply a change in a physical place. We are still a community that can help each other, pool resources, and find ways to thrive.

We are home, but we are not alone.