March 12 COVID-19 Response Update

Last night the leadership team of the Whidbey Institute made the difficult decision to pause all in-person programming in light of emerging data about the spread of novel coronavirus. This important decision feels aligned with what we’re learning about the projected course of this virus and our responsibility to protect public health: through social distancing, including through the cancellation or postponement of public gatherings. This decision is centered on our commitment to the health and wellbeing of our program participants, staff, and communities as well as the health of those in our regional communities and beyond. 

With our work in growing the capacity of people and communities to engage generatively with the challenges of our time, we are present to the importance of how we collectively respond in the coming days and months. This is a moment that invites adaptive leadership, collective care, and wise action from each of us. We’re grateful to have you with us. 

Our immediate steps:

  1. We are cancelling and postponing all events scheduled through March and are working with our program leaders, program participants, staff, and kitchen team to be as supportive as possible of one another during this extraordinary period. 
  2. In preparation for reopening with care for all and in alignment with best practices for public health, we’re using this pause to do rigorous research, sense emergent conditions, develop protective procedures, discern our community’s needs and wants, integrate recommendations from Island County and King County departments of public health into our practices, and attune to the regional and global need for response. We will remain in communication about the timing of our re-opening. You can watch for regular updates.
  3. We’re empowering a special COVID-19 team to move forward with nimble, day-to-day decision-making and action on our COVID-19 response. Roles on this team will be filled by members of our board, staff, and board emeritus sectors plus people with special expertise in the field of public health. 

Reflections on our collective responsibility: 

  1. We can promote self-care and community-care. While social distancing is recommended as the best way to stop the exponential growth of this infection and protect human lives, social isolation is also a serious public health risk. Here’s Ezra Klein’s take on the risk of a loneliness epidemic. As a home for transformational learning, we’ll be working to develop better and more frequent ways to connect virtually through this slow-down. We’ll also be staying in touch, personally and collectively, with our friends and neighbors. We invite special care for those at special risk of complications from COVID-19, such as the elderly and the immunocompromised, and those without an economic or social safety-net. 
  2. We can support our small businesses, our community organizations, and our local economies. The significance of the economic impact of COVID-19 cannot be underestimated and the need for a strong social fabric is clear. Our organization alone has many depending upon it, including our staff, our kitchen team, and our program leaders and their support staff. As we “tighten our belt,” so to speak, we’re looking at how to support our team through this period as well as looking for opportunities to source needed goods and services from local vendors affected by this regional outbreak. For businesses and workers experiencing this economic impact in Washington, here’s a list of resources.
  3. We can make a proactive and informed response. The data shows that a bold approach to social distancing is the most effective way to flatten the curve and keep COVID-19 from overwhelming our healthcare system and taking more lives. Here’s one of many articles on the subject. 

Our requests to you: 

  1. Stay connected. As a learning organization, we hope to support you in finding the information, the self-care, and the community-care resources you need. This may take the form of video conferences, online offerings from our program leader community, virtual community forums, and/or more frequent blog posts about our collective sensing—and it may take a form we’ve not yet named. Stay tuned for opportunities to connect!
  2. Share your ideas and hopes. Is there something you want or need that we might be able to provide, or some question you’d like to put to our community? Comment on this post to start a public dialogue, or email [email protected] to let us know what you think. We’re so very grateful to be in this together.
  3. Support the Whidbey Institute and your favorite nonprofits. Like many of us, the Whidbey Institute is taking a significant financial hit as a result of this pandemic. Please consider donating, or better yet setting up a monthly donation, to help the Whidbey Institute continue to serve our community in this critical time. Your support will help us advance our mission during a time when it is truly needed, as well as help keep our team intact, support essential operations, and position us to rebound strongly when our campus reopens for in-person learning experiences. Some program participants and program leaders have graciously chosen to convert their program refunds into tax-deductible donations to the Whidbey Institute, and this is another great way to help.

We wish good health for each of you, and for your families, neighbors, and loved ones. We are so grateful to be in community with you as we make our individual and collective responses to this extraordinary global challenge. 

With gratitude to you and care for the whole,

The Whidbey Institute team

March 12, 2020

Public Health