Living Alone Together: A New Virtual World

The last few weeks have been a constant period of rapid changes occuring in my world, and in the world around me. Just one month ago I was writing a blog post recounting my excitement and eagerness to head to Trinidad and work with our clients, the DORCAS Women’s group and Nature Seekers, but now here we are. These unexpected changes started off with the cancellation of the trip to Trinidad, and were succeeded by the cancellation of all in person classes as well as a switch to a lifestyle in quarantine. While my world has changed quite a bit over these last few weeks, it is important to step back and consider the impact that this COVID-19 has on not just myself, but also on businesses, the entire education system, and the rest of the world. It even makes you consider factors such as technological accessibility that are currently impacting people’s abilities to stay informed on the virus and its spread. 

More specific to this course, in the aftermath of all the alterations that have been made to our curriculum, including not being able to travel to Trinidad, we must compare and contrast the consequences these changes have on our team and on the client. The concept of reciprocity helps us better understand these consequences and how both my team and our clients shared a mutual dependence that is now hindered because we are unable to travel to Trinidad. Some of these consequences will impact, and have already impacted, the team and likely surround the difficulty that the group will have creating our deliverables. One of which includes the challenges we will face tailoring our marketing plan, given that we were unable to go to the country and see the work that Nature Seekers does first hand. There is a lot to be said about familiarizing yourself with a product before you are able to market it, and I think that while we can rely on the existing materials that are out there, including their social media and website, being there in person allows you to fully connect with the brand and therefore it is now more difficult for us come up with the most effective plan. Specifically pertaining to deliverables, it is impossible for the group to complete a partnership analysis that would benefit both the DORCA’s Women’s Group and Nature Seekers, because we are unable to visit the country and see how both organizations would provide each other benefits. Aside from some of the challenges that directly impact the deliverables, the team will not be able to successfully establish a face-to-face relationship, as we had hoped to, through client interactions. This relationship is essential for the success of our project and for projects to come, and is what I believe, to be one of many major faults in not being able to travel to Trinidad. This face to face interaction is also, as we discussed in class, a key component of service learning. As we reviewed in class, the most successful service learning programs combined an in class component paired with a face-to-face or interactive component, something to solidify what you have learned and apply this knowledge to a real life situation. While we can hope that the future holds an opportunity for us to travel back to Trinidad to continue this portion of our project and our learning, it is disappointing that we will not be able to put those two pieces together. The challenges that our group faces may limit us on what information we can use for the report and how personal it is to the client and their hopes, but it is also necessary to consider the challenges faced by Nature Seekers. The main challenge that I think our client will face related to the project deals with the specificity of the marketing plan that we provide them with versus what they expected. The expectation is that our group provides them with a marketing plan that resembles their goals, however it is always possible that some things get lost in translation and a lack of communication, paired with no in-country component, may hinder the specificity of the report in comparison to what the client was looking for. To that end, it is possible that we will not be able to deliver exactly what is in the clients best interest, but our group will try to meet their demands to the best of our abilities. This could mean we focus a majority of the report on things such as their current social media sites and competitors marketing strategies to determine what is best for Nature Seekers, because these resources are readily available to us and contact with them is minimal, especially in light of the chaos that the Corona Virus has brought. In situations such as the one we find ourselves in now, I think the success of the group will rely on our ability to use our resources, but also to remain flexible and adaptable at all times.

Something that at one point just a few weeks ago on March 3 seemed hard to wrap our heads around, is now our reality. Our group needs to rely on flexibility and adaptability throughout the course of the project that remains to ensure that the group is, at least, in part successful. Looking back at receiving the initial news that the trip was cancelled I think selfishly my first thought was disappointment that my spring break plans were ruined. It was very clear to me after the fact that my initial reaction was clouded by emotions, and accordingly was not rooted in my ability to be flexible or adaptable. As the days passed however, it was the responsibility of myself and my team to determine our next steps and to figure out how we could still give the client as much as we could, without actually getting the privilege to travel to the country. After sorting out how we could move forward with the project and regaining composure, only to be met with more alterations in the project and curriculum from COVID-19’s impact, the group was able to get back on track and has now created a plan of action to move on with the deliverables. Now that time has passed and I am able to look back and reflect on what has occured, I have a better understanding of why they made the call to cancel the program, and feel better about continuing to compile deliverables for the client to the best of our abilities. The importance of flexibility and adaptability is now a foundation of our work moving forward in the project for this course, but also in the other online courses that have been adapted in this new “norm” of virtual learning.  

The ramifications of COVID-19 stretch far beyond this project with our clients. The novel virus has sparked a global pandemic and has caused countries around the globe to enter a state of urgency, including Trinidad. In some countries this means closing the borders, and in others this means making people stay inside their homes only to leave for food, medicine, or to go to the hospital. As of now, the United States is in quarantine and a state of emergency, however the country is large and has access to a lot of resources. While outages of things such as toilet paper have been common, the supply chain has recognized the demand and is trying to keep up with supplying resources to anyone who needs them. In places like hospitals however, supplies such as masks are running low, and auto manufacturers such as Ford and Tesla have stepped up to convert their facilities into places that can make supplies such as ventilators, and health resources alike. While all of this is true in the United States it is important that we reflect on the implications COVID-19 has on Trinidad specifically. Being a Caribbean island that relies on overseas imports for some resources it is very possible that a virus like this could pose a greater threat to the population, especially if the virus were to spread to remote areas that are not in close proximity to hospitals. Considering the consequences that organizations such as Trinidad’s Nature Seekers are facing  they, along with businesses across the country, are suffering a loss of visitors through Amizade and other groups, and pertaining to their Turtle Warriors brand, a loss of sales and inability to distribute their products. Much like the economy that took a hit in the United States, the same is true for Trinidad’s economy and economies across the world. The implications the virus holds on these businesses and on Nature Seekers, impacts our project because we now rely on them to provide us with any information they can so we can deliver a report that reflects their needs. However, in times like this, Nature Seekers has bigger problems and are not able to focus as much attention on our project as they were before. 

COVID-19 has had drastic impacts on the world and how we are meant to live now, in quarantine. The success of the team as we continue on in this project will be dependent on the steps that we take to complete the project with flexibility and adaptability, all while we deal with the ramifications of the virus that surround us in our everyday lives. My hope is that we are able to make an impact on the clients marketing abilities moving forward and provide them with as much information as we can on how they can extend their outreach as much as possible.