A month ago, we would never have imagined where we are today. The spread of COVID-19 has changed the activities we participated in, affected the people we love, and shifted the world we thought we knew. While this new reality profoundly affects us all, I hope there is at least some small comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Even as we embrace social distancing as the new norm, we remain in this together.
EPIP has always been an organization made richer by your strength, your passion, and your commitment to a just world where communities have the resources they need not only to survive but to thrive. Now, as this crisis shines a brighter light than ever before on the systemic inequities that hurt and hamper so many, especially in vulnerable and marginalized communities, we remain committed to that collective vision for a better world, even as we shift the way we achieve it.
In the interest of keeping EPIP’s staff, supporters, and members as safe and healthy as possible, we have made the decision to postpone EPIP’s National Conference until Summer 2021. Additionally, all in-person EPIP chapter activities will be suspended, at a minimum, through the end of April 2020. As we move forward, we will continue to monitor new developments and guidance about the spread of COVID-19 from the government and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We are actively developing alternatives to in-person gatherings and intend to reconfigure some of our conference’s content to be delivered virtually. Chapter programming will also be hosted virtually, and I encourage you to visit your local chapter’s webpage to learn more about upcoming virtual events.
So much of the human experience many of us know relies on in-person interactions, especially in philanthropy, where relationship-building plays such a critical role. Now, in this new climate, we are being challenged and invited to imagine ways that human connections in our sector can be made and sustained virtually. I have spent the past week listening to and reading the advice of disability advocates, who have long stated that the reliance on in-person gatherings can be ableist and exclusionary for many who live with disabilities or chronic illnesses. It’s unfortunate that it has taken a global pandemic for many of us to stop and listen, but I am thankful for the activists and organizers who continue to make resources readily available to those who are still trying to figure out a way forward.
Over the last few years, EPIP has become a virtual organization with an all-remote staff, and while we have insights to share from our own journey, we also look forward to learning more as we connect you with us and each other during these challenging times. Over the next several weeks, you will hear more from us regarding virtual learning opportunities and other ways to engage as EPIP looks forward to our 20th anniversary in 2021.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge that this time has had a personal, heavy impact on us all. While EPIP, as a virtual organization, has had to make fewer adjustments than many of you and your institutions, the effects of this crisis on all of our families, friends, and communities cannot be understated. One of the things I have thought deeply about in my new role as Executive Director is how to center equity not only in the work we advocate for but in the work that we do. In that spirit, over the next several weeks EPIP will be taking measures to support our team in mitigating some of the additional stressors brought on by the uncertainty of this time. EPIP staff are on travel restrictions through at least the end of April and staff has been given the flexibility to reduce their hours in order to make time for self-care and care for their immediate friends and family members.
While I recognize that this is a privilege that many do not have as you work to shift resources and care to front-line communities and those most at risk, it is important for EPIP to push for the person-first approach to our work that we want to see elsewhere. As we do this, we also want to elevate the work of those who are challenging and changing philanthropy to meet this moment and all the difficult and important moments to come by being nimbler, more flexible, more community-minded, and more equitable. You can find those on our COVID-19 resources page.
Finally, because these are challenging times, we encourage you to be easy on yourself as well. Without you, there is no work and there is no us. We have been strongly encouraging the institutions in our sector to check in on the health and well-being of their staff at all levels of the organization, to use human resources policies like telework and paid sick leave to ensure that all staff are able to care for themselves and their families as best they can during these times, and to know that this is a moment of change and thus of changed work expectations that counter the unsustainable labor system many have accepted as the norm.
We hope you will be able to take time to heal and care for yourself during these trying times; in that spirit, our COVID-19 resources page shares some resources that may help you or your organization to include liberative self-care as part of your plan moving forward.
Take care of yourselves, and let us all take care of each other.