The ‘Community Resilience Grant: Local Responses to COVID-19’ was a pilot after the unexpected shift during Spring 2020 to remote learning and the drastic economic, public health, and social unrest that arose from the pandemic. As the summer progressed and communities worldwide began responding in varied ways we invited students to connect with organizations and individuals working within their communities to build resilience and identify root causes of the systemic inequities which were already present before the pandemic made them even more apparent.
Read more about the grant opportunity pilot from Spring and Summer 2020.
Projects completed during Summer 2020
Project by: Albert Xing '23
In collaboration with the Berkshire Innovation Center, Pittsfield, MA
Read the Full Report: The Applications of Onshoring and Employee Ownership in the Berkshires
Reflections on this summer: I used the internet as well as interviews with experts to gain knowledge about my topic. The project branched out a lot more than I thought because each topic was super deep, and there were many intertwined factors. I learned that local supply chains are more resilient in current times, and that the success of employee ownership depends on the strength of the company culture, among others.
Project by: Cinthya Maldonado '23
In collaboration with Shield America Now, Miami, FL and South Florida
Read the full report: An In-depth Exploration into the South Florida COVID-19 Experience
This is a subjective research project that uses personal narrative to tell the experience of a community through the writer's eyes. A non traditional way to share information seemed like the only way to share my community's story with complete authenticity.
Reflections on this summer: The project is an intersection between personal experience through my narrative, an interview with the nonprofit Shield America Now, and research. I used the project as an exploration into marginalized communities during COVID-19 with a predominately Latinx population in South Florida as a focus. Shield America Now served as a representation of community resilience centering around protecting healthcare and essential workers. Widespread effects and actions during the outbreak where analyzed taking into account health disparities, communities of color, and the disproportionately affected ethnic minority groups. Multiple perspectives placed emphasis on cultural norms and deep structures within communities to highlight how that affects mass response to the pandemic.
Project by: Nikhil Palanki '20
In collaboration with Mercato Ventures (formerly the Aksum Project, an organization that Nikhil had started), San Diego, CA | New York, NY
Reflections on this summer: My project aimed to capture and understand how exactly small businesses in urban environments were affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic, with a focus on small businesses in low-income or minority neighborhoods; the intention of this research was to ultimately better inform the structure of a low-cost small business incubator (the Aksum Project, which I renamed Mercato Ventures following this research project) that I had designed and for which I had won a 2020 Davis Project for Peace grant to launch this year (the grant, however, was furloughed into 2021). Through my research, which included looking at data detailing Paycheck Protection Program disbursements, collecting documented accounts of small business closings & bankruptcies across the United States, and researching history related to government-sponsored interventions to support small businesses/enterprises in a crisis context, I came to understand three core disparities in how crises such as the Covid-19 Pandemic affect small businesses: (1) US government interventions tend to disproportionately support White small business owners, and the current Paycheck Protection Data corroborates this conclusion in the context of a wider history of interventions; (2) the impact of the pandemic on small businesses in the United States is still a dynamic and not well-understood event, as many small businesses have stopped operating without filing for bankruptcy; (3) other existing methods of financing small businesses such as crowdfunding, small business loans, venture capital, and micro-finance are not well-suited for supporting small businesses through a crisis, and small businesses need access to other types of financing in order to sustain their enterprise. With these key insights gained through my research, I was able to adapt the structure and organization of my proposed incubator in ways that address the key issues facing small businesses (by finding appropriate ways of financing in times of exigency/crisis).
Project by: Baladine Pierce '20
In collaboration with City Harvest and the Henry St. Settlement, Lower East Side, New York, NY
Explore the Storymap: Radical Security
Reflections on this summer: My Community Resilience Grant focused on the relationship between sustainable food and food security during the Coronavirus pandemic. I began my project by researching an array of food security efforts based on the Lower East Side and reaching out to their participants. In the conversations I had with project organizers, I asked what their organization or program was focused on before COVID, and how they pivoted to address the most pressing needs of their communities. If the project in question had materialized in response to the pandemic, there were other questions to ask--such as how the project had gotten off the ground and whether it was expected to outlive the pandemic. Early on, I realized that it would be difficult to hold onto a central, guiding theme with such diverse projects on my mind. I was also having trouble accessing volunteer perspectives and I knew that I wanted to center my project in people rather than organizations. As a solution, I decided to become a volunteer with the non-profits City Harvest and Henry St. Settlement. This was an important turning point in my project. I was able to talk to many volunteers about what drew them out of their safe homes and into community action. I was able to become part of the community and contribute to the action myself. Additionally, I found opportunities to speak to the people that the projects were supporting. My learning took on a powerful and emotional quality that would not have been possible had I been restricted to research and interviews. To conclude my project, I created a storymap using Arcgis software. In this storymap, I introduce the Lower East Side and document each of the projects I first looked at on a map of the neighborhood. Then I move into closer narrative accounts of three projects, connecting each one to a potential positive shift in the local food system.
Project by: Dasol Lee '21
In collaboration with One Church Fund, of the Mass Council of Churches, Boston, MA
Listen to the Podcast: Take Me to Church
Reflections on this summer: I published a short podcast series called "Take Me To Church," on the intersection of race, faith and healthcare in the current context of COVID-19. The podcast was originally intended to be a series of interviews from experts in the field, but it quickly became apparent to me that, with the unfolding pandemic, I wouldn't be able to get enough people to interview for that to work. I transformed the podcast into a mix of me explaining what I'd been specifically thinking about and observing as our country faced several major national crises and an interview from my partner organization. Throughout the summer, I saw not only that I am delving into extremely complex and difficult subjects but that there is hope in issues surrounding race, faith and healthcare, because many individual Americans are fighting for and passionate about change.
Project by: Yvonne Cui '20
In collaboration with Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence, Boston, MA
Read the full report: Surviving the Syndemic: the Burden of COVID-19 in Asian Domestic Violence Victims
Reflections on this summer: In hope of gaining a better understanding of the burden borne by Asian domestic violence victims during the pandemic, I reached out to Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK), a Boston-based nonprofit organization serving pan-Asian survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence, and conducted a virtual interview with three members of its senior leadership team. Through this interview, I wish to shed light on the impact of the pandemic on the organization as well as the survivors it serves. I learned that accessing help is extremely difficult for all domestic violence victims during the pandemic, and the situation could be particularly challenging for Asian immigrants or refugees because of the distinct socio-cultural-linguistic barriers they face. In many ethnic groups within the Asian community, respect for authority and hierarchy, emotional control, and endurance of hardships, are highly valued virtues. But these cultural traits also prevent victims from sharing their sufferings and asking for assistance, which could be especially dangerous during the quarantine. I was glad to learn that nonprofits like ATASK recognize the existence of this coronavirus-domestic-violence syndemic and are doing everything in all sorts of creative ways to best support the survivors. And I look forward to collaborating with Asian American Students in Action group in the fall to host a virtual panel with the organization, so more people can become aware of the shadow pandemic and what they can do to help connect the survivors to the necessary resources.
I will collaborate with Asian American Students in Action group in the fall to host a virtual panel with the organization.
Project by: Saud Afzal Shafi '22
In collaboration with Her Turn, Lahore, Pakistan
Read the full report: Her Turn helps women affected by COVID-19 lockdowns in Pakistan
Her Turn is currently helping to promote this fundraiser.
Project by: Maya Principe '23
In collaboration with Boston Health Care for the Homeless, Boston, MA
Reflections on this summer: Through online research and interviews with individuals from Boston Health Care for the Homeless I evaluated the manner in which the city of Boston cared for those experiencing homelessness during the initial outbreak of COVID-19. I soon realized that by relying on Boston Public Health Commission and Boston Health Care for the Homeless the city proved successful at housing, testing, and treating those experiencing homelessness. However, as the virus waned in recent months the city's resources have depreciated. Thus, I turned the focus of my research towards the future and the anticipated "second-wave" of COVID-19. Through this new perspective I decided to address my final writeup to Mayor Walsh and the City Councilors (which I will be sending to their offices).
Project by: AbuBakr Sangare '23
In collaboration with Bright610, Inc., Philadelphia, PA
AbuBakr co-founded the non-profit Bright610 to connect students without adequate support with near-peer mentorship and tutoring to address education inequity in the greater Philadelphia area. At Bright610, they believe that all students should have equal opportunity and support. They work to achieve this by connecting impassioned tutors who provide near-peer support and academic mentorship with students to drive success through self-empowerment.
Reflections on this summer: Part of my project this summer was creating a non-profit organization, along with a group of peers from my high school, centered around providing free educational services for underprivileged students in the greater Philadelphia area (Bright610, inc.). We have created a website for the organization: bright610.com . More broadly my project focused on understanding the already pre-existing disparities within the American education system and how COVID has amplified these disparities in many ways. I plan to share part of my findings with the Williams community by hosting a workshop centered around educational privilege and understanding both how we may have been privileged in our past and how we are currently privileged in attending an institution such as Williams when looking more broadly at students across the country.