Managing Pandemic Impacts with Barb
A new instalment in The Accessible Normal: a summer series on the impact of lockdowns on the neuro-diverse community.
Find new articles through Good Foot every Thursday, all summer long.
When Barb started working at Good Foot, she was in need of a change. She had been working at another nonprofit for 30 years, and was looking for a smaller organization where she could see the tangible impact of her work every day. After taking some time off, she was ready to jump headfirst into a new role as the Managing Director of Good Foot.
“It’s been really exciting to see the concrete impact and the difference that we make on a daily basis. It brings me so much joy and it has really re-energized me”.Barb
Although Barb had worked in Senior Leadership at other organizations, she found that Good Foot’s model was a little different from other non-profits. Good Foot has business considerations as a delivery service, and those have to be balanced carefully with the programs and services for the Couriers themselves. After all, Good Foot’s priority is the Couriers.
Barb has found that balancing Good Foot’s non-profit work with it’s practical need for customers is an ongoing challenge. As a business, Good Foot needs to maintain strong relationships with customers in order to ensure long-term success. It’s important for Good Foot to be accommodating and supportive, while also setting Couriers up for success, and preparing them for work outside of Good Foot.
This balancing act between business and non-profit hit home during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Barb and the Board had to make the difficult decision to pause business operations to protect the safety and well-being of the Couriers and Office Staff.
I remember sitting here in the office thinking about what we should do. In the end, we decided to push pause and make sure everyone was protected.”Barb
While operations were paused, Barb was responsible for developing mitigation strategies to minimize the pandemic’s impact, monitoring the ever-changing COVID protocols from the Provincial and Federal government, as well as trying to secure adequate PPE for when Good Foot could return to the office. She also increased her focus on communication with parents, funders, and the Good Foot Board, to ensure that the entire community had up-to-date information. She joined the other Office Staff in calling Couriers for check-ins, which enabled her to build stronger relationships with all of the Courier team.
Despite the urgent nature of some of the work, Barb was also able to use the time to take a deep dive on some important projects, like policy development and funding opportunities. She decided to take advantage of newly popular webinars on management strategies and financial planning focused on helping nonprofits navigate through unpredictability, Taking the time to strategize for the future helped to get her through the uncertain early days of the lockdowns.
“COVID impacted everyone and took a toll on our individual and collective mental health. As a result, work moved slower than anticipated and we all experienced difficulty handling the same workloads as we used to. Even the multi-tasking that we tend to do without effort – it all became an effort.”Barb
Barb found that the Good Foot community helped her enormously during the pandemic. Alongside the Courier check-ins, Barb also was able to co-facilitate the Together Thursday event, which would be 30 minutes of conversation led by her co-worker, and a 30 minute game hosted by Barb. She was excited to try out these fun activities, and had colleagues who graciously helped her learn the new tech platform. Soon enough, she was hosting online games with relative ease.
Barb also noticed that she created deeper relationships with Good Foot funders and partners through the lockdowns. She was grateful for how understanding and flexible they were of the situation, and of the need to occasionally readjust goals and expectations. At times she was overwhelmed by the amount of compassion and support that funders had, which was instrumental for Good Foot’s long term viability.
“Managing through a pandemic has been unpredictable and challenging. One of the overarching insights has been the reminder that staff must be front and centre in all aspects of planning”Barb
When it comes to the biggest lesson learned from the pandemic, Barb feels that she found a renewed importance to be flexible and provide excellent communication. It was important to be flexible when plans could change at any minute. It was also important to make sure that everyone in the Good Foot community had access to clear and contextualized information. It was a continual process in the adjustment to virtual work.
And of course, Barb and all of her colleagues learned to be especially considerate and mindful of one another during lockdowns. Sometimes mental health needs took priority over work. Sometimes work needed to move at a different pace than usual. Barb had to be very selective and thoughtful about which opportunities to take on and which to set aside, in order to be mindful of people’s capacity.
But moving forward, there are a lot of projects that Barb is excited about, and one of the biggest is the new plan for e-learning. With the support of funders, Good Foot will adapt its Courier in-class training modules into an online classroom that can be accessed at home or in the office. It will give new Couriers more flexibility and more accessibility, as the modules will provide extra accommodations for different abilities. Barb is excited about the possibilities this provides, and excited to embrace that shift to more accessible, flexible learning.
Ultimately. Barb is excited to move forward, and confident that all of the hard work done during the past year will enable Good Foot to remain a strong, resilient organization that makes meaningful change.
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