Creativity to combat effects of COVID

CEOLI has a beautiful center where the children learn, grow, and play.  CEOLI and its students which is a challenging barrier.  COVID-19 has changed the daily operations of all businesses and organizations, and has adversely affected finances of most; CEOLI has been affected in both these ways. Because of the pandemic, many of the services offered must be put on hold as a group learning environment would pose too many risks during the pandemic. Also, Bolivia has been in a strict lockdown for a long time.  CEOLI has adapted to provide the services that it can safely. Right now, only select individual services such as physical therapy can be offered by CEOLI.  But, reduced attendance has affected a lot of things, as less team members are needed to carry out CEOLI’s services.  Additionally, online options are not as feasible for Our client has experienced a lot of financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.  One of their other revenue streams is a community pool which was not able to be opened this year.  Their income has been cut back which has resulted in them needing to reduce staffing and wages.  I know that this impacts the organization’s morale as each individual is impacted on a personal financial level. 

The pandemic has impacted all of our work during this semester.  My team originally came up with the idea for the art show as a substitute for the trip that the International Consulting Project team usually takes.  We came up with this idea because we knew that the spring semester team of students would want a project to work on despite the pandemic.  The art show will showcase the cards that are made by CEOLI’s talented artists.  The cards are another one of CEOLI’s revenue streams.  I love the cards — the designs are beautiful! They feature a lot of Bolivian scenery and traditional clothes.  If you’re reading this blog, you should check out the CEOLI cards — they truly are incredible. As a whole consulting team, we have some team members working to find grants for CEOLI and others (myself included) are working to sell more cards and build CEOLI’s network.  We are making a marketing plan and plan for the art show.  Both will work to build more awareness of CEOLI and the cards.  

Because of the struggles every individual has had in the global pandemic, I feel a sense of worldwide unity in the pain that we’ve experienced.  Each individual has dealt with impacts of the pandemic. The grief, exhaustion, and confusion of this time brings us together when we meet as our hearts are able to recognize that each individual showing up that day has put aside their individual hardships to continue to move forward as best we can.  We show up to try to find ways to continue to create new solutions to combat the negative impacts the pandemic has had on CEOLI.  As we work on the art show plan, my team has to be creative and innovative to come up with a way to carry out the virtual art show.  I am happy that I am surrounded by talented and creative team members.  I don’t want to spoil too much, but our team member Lauren came up with a great idea to generate interest in the cards Instagram and the virtual art show.  Social media will prove to be an essential asset as we work in a virtual space. Instagram gives us the ability to market the art show frequently and efficiently. 

Working in a virtual environment has had its mix of positives and negatives.  I’ll start with the positives because I am an optimist.  First, the most advantageous part of the virtual environment is our ability to meet with our clients with ease.  Despite the many, many miles that separate me — in Pittsburgh — from our clients — in Cochabamba, Bolivia — we can easily meet on any single day without a day of travel (and from the comfort of my bedroom).  I am so thankful that we have the opportunity to meet with members of the CEOLI team multiple times.  This has helped us gain clarity about what direction to go in with our work. We have also had a blast getting to know the members of the team.  But, that brings me to one of the negatives of the virtual environment which is that we will not have the opportunity to travel to the beautiful country of Bolivia or meet the wonderful CEOLI team in person.  Another positive of communicating cross-culturally is the chat box.  This allows us to type things out, such as numeric values, to simplify the translation process. Luckily, our team has not really experienced technical or connectivity issues; I know this is a common weakness of working in a virtual setting. The virtual environment has actually allowed my team to work together more efficiently — we can easily meet over zoom in between all of our busy schedules! 

This project has challenged my consulting skills in numerous ways. Many of which were brought about because the pandemic uprooted the majority of our normal processes.  But alas! We pivot, we innovate, and we work to create innovative strategies despite the circumstances.   The pandemic has affected our project, our team, CEOLI, and the world, but we will all continue to move forward the best we can.  My hope is that the work my team does on this project truly helps CEOLI to move forward during this hard time. 

(And if you didn’t listen to me earlier, you really should check out the cards. You can find them at https://amizade.org/shop/ . )