Community Engagement Options During COVID-19

Virtual Volunteering With USF Community Partner Organizations

It’s still a good idea to reach out to community partners you’ve worked with in the past, or even new partners to see whether they might make use of virtual student support. We don’t want to assume they don’t need our support, but we want to make sure they are empowered to say no if they don’t need us right now. To guide you in imagining possible activities and assignments, consider the following examples of things that students could do remotely for their host organizations:

  • conducting background research or gathering best practices or other information requested the partner(s)
  • taping, recording, or streaming performances or workshops to benefit community partner(s)
  • creating digital and other social media content, print program materials, or other methods for information-sharing
  • undertaking assessment, evaluation, or feedback via phone or web-based services;
  • offering (or compiling, researching, or brainstorming) strategies that provide indirect support from volunteers as a result of coronavirus
  • conducting virtual or phone-based educational supports for youth and adults

You will need to have a conversation with community partners to confirm that they want and need the services suggested above, and generate shared expectations for deliverables and accountability indicators for students, before directing your students to proceed with these projects.

Student-Identified Virtual Volunteering/Service Opportunities

While it is not ideal to invite students to seek their own community-engaged learning opportunities, this may need to happen during the pandemic while most service opportunities are virtual. The websites below are searchable so students can find opportunities that align with their interests and the focus of your course.  You may want to set parameters related to issue areas, types of organizations/projects, timelines, etc. to guide students’ search processes.  Note that most of these sites require students to register for a free account to be able to apply for opportunities.

  • Catchafire — Digital volunteer opportunities
  • Hands On Bay Area — Students can search for particular opportunities that align with their interests and the focus of the course (e.g. event planning, youth empowerment, etc.)
  • Idealist — Searchable database  for internships and volunteer opportunities
  • Omprakash — Students can search for virtual volunteer and internship opportunities around the world through a centralized search and application platform (requires students to create a free account)
  • United Nations Virtual Volunteer Opportunities — Students can search and apply for various volunteer opportunities that leverage their skills in support of UN initiatives
  • United Way Bay Area — Virtual volunteer and advocacy opportunities
  • Volunteer Match — Students can search for particular opportunities that align with their interests and the focus of the course (e.g. event planning, youth empowerment, etc.)

In-Person (and Some Virtual) SF-Based Service Opportunities

While USF is still determining risk management guidelines for in-person service and engagement for CEL courses, we anticipate that students will be able to choose to do in-person engagement if they feel comfortable. There are a number of pressing needs related to access to resources, food, and services for the most vulnerable members of the Bay Area community, so students can potentially provide direct service.

One Richmond — Aggregated list of local in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities in SF with links

Local and Global Social Movement Opportunities

This is an opportune moment in history for students to join and contribute to local and global social movements. The list of organizations below is just a small sample of opportunities for students to engage virtually in advocating for racial, social, economic, environmental, and gender justice. These organizations offer opportunities for phone/text banking, writing and sending advocacy letters to public officials, and launching social media campaigns. Many also offer free online trainings, teach-ins, vigils, and protests.

  • Amnesty International — Join global and local actions
  • Bay Area Rent Strike — Contribute to the pandemic-related rent strike efforts in SF
  • Bay Resistance — Organization focused on racial, economic, environmental, and gender justice, offers, offers action steps (virtual and in person) related to each issue area campaign
  • Do Something — Get involved with diverse social justice movements and actions
  • Empower All Voters — Virtual voter registration and engagement opportunities
  • Movement for Black Lives — Virtual events, petitions, virtual organizing opportunities
  • Poor People’s Campaign — Students can get involved with local chapter work and/or phone banking and text messaging campaigns
  • San Francisco Rising — Various campaigns that support working class communities of color in SF
  • Showing Up for Racial Justice — National and regional virtual and in-person opportunities
  • Sunrise Movement — Virtual meetings, trainings, phone banking, etc.
  • Women’s March — Digital campaigns (e.g. promoting mask-wearing during COVID-19)

Mutual Aid Opportunities and Resources

Mutual aid is a framework for informally exchanging resources, skills, services, and care among community members to ensure mutual survival through crisis. Several mutual aid endeavors have sprung up in response to COVID-19 and the racial justice uprisings to ensure that our most vulnerable community members are supported. Students can research existing mutual aid networks in their neighborhoods and potentially contribute needed resources, skills, and services (virtually or in person).  Students could also organize a mutual aid network in response to identified community needs that are not yet being addressed. 

SF Bay Area Mutual Aid Resources (KPFA) — Curated list of local mutual aid initiatives and volunteer needs

Student-Led Community/Civic Projects

It’s possible that students can run their own civic projects in small groups or individually.  These activities might include conducting and producing oral histories with loved ones and neighbors or hosting a social justice book club or media viewing party.