Back in March, the Pacific Northwest was thrust into the spotlight as Seattle became the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis. During this critical moment for our region and our communities, Philanthropy Northwest responded by launching our COVID-19 Weekly Northwest Funders Calls to bring our network the latest information and thinking from public officials, researchers, community leaders and funders on how we can collectively address the pandemic.
The new, weekly funders' calls that we convened these last eight months offered opportunities for us to bring attention to critical issues emerging across the region. We covered broad COVID-related topics, such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages, issues facing frontline workers, food insecurity and the need to develop new collaborative funds. We also lifted up racial equity, particularly the pandemic’s disparate impacts on communities such as Indigenous populations, immigrants and undocumented residents. We focused attention on anti-Black racism in June following the murder of George Floyd, the devastating Northwest wildfires in September plus the election lead-up and aftermath in November. We saw sustained interest across our network to come back each week to connect, learn and examine new issues together.
As the pandemic persisted, we did deep dives around not only the harsh realities and fallout of COVID-19, but also the incredible ingenuity, hard work and creativity of our communities to develop solutions that, if made permanent, could have lasting positive impacts. We learned that philanthropy can move at lightning speed when we remove perceived barriers and when we make new decision-making processes that center community and rely on trust and shared leadership. We see this especially in efforts like the Black Future Co-op Fund and the WA Food Fund.
We will be navigating COVID-19 response and recovery together into 2021. Daily infection numbers are higher now than they were in March. Businesses continue to be impacted, with some shutting their doors permanently. COVID-19 still disproportionately impacts communities of color. Schools are operating virtually (partially or completely) throughout the country. Virtual education impacts access to basic education and social-emotional well-being for thousands of young people, particularly in tribal and rural communities. At this publication date, Congress remains stalled on the next relief bill. These challenges and other emergent issues that have hit our communities, locally and nationally, will continue to be significant factors for us in 2021. This year more than ever before, we learned that philanthropy has much more to offer than money. Philanthropy’s response during this time has given us hope; it has shown us possibilities we might not have dared to imagine. As we look ahead to 2021 and beyond, we know that there is much more to be done. Together as a sector, philanthropy can continue to use its access, influence and privilege to uplift the voices of community and take action to improve the lives of people in our region.