Arlington, VA

Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The organization Women in Government Relations held an excellent webinar last week on fine-tuning one’s executive presence in this new normal.

The panelists who represented national corporations and associations focused on the changing culture due to COVID-19. Specifically, they conveyed how we can look at past outcomes and determine how to achieve similar results now by changing our tactics through intentionality and over-communication.

For example, we previously could easily run into someone in the hall at work, or even go to a meeting for one purpose but also connect with others to communicate. Those interactions may now be harder to achieve in our new age of physical distancing.

While it is not new, this past week we were reminded of the consistent disparities and inequities which exist locally.  Even if there are disputes about how the data is analyzed, recent health data show that the Columbia Pike corridor is overrepresented in COVID-19 cases.

Arlington prides itself on the Arlington Way, a process that aims to ensure opportunity for civic engagement, participation and transparency to address our community challenges. Many look to the government when searching for solutions, but it is critical that we also focus on civil society. The formal and informal organizations in Arlington are an essential part of our culture. We should all question how we can do more as a community to confront and prevent challenges.

As we adjust to the new normal in Arlington, this is the perfect opportunity to rethink our organizations’ role in the Arlington Way. A few recommendations include:

Countywide all sector State of Arlington summit — An annual “State of Arlington” Summit which brings together several sectors of our community could foster and result in regular communication and collaboration. This would build on the great work of several organizations that have conducted similar events including the Arlington Community Foundation’s Shared Prosperity Initiative, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s State of the County and many other events throughout different sectors.

Regular communication among organizations — One of the basic lessons of crisis communications is regular updates and more opportunities for communication and feedback. We should continue this COVID-19 practice by intentionally sharing knowledge and raising awareness among organizations, to our members and the broader community on new issues on the horizon through regular online meetings, newsletters, and social media.

Standard (optional) organizational analysis — Groups and organizations should be encouraged to complete a customized Arlington organizational analysis which focuses on the attributes that Arlington values including equity, participation, digital and technological capacity and collaboration. The internal analysis could assist organizations in directing their efforts towards both their objectives and broader Arlington goals, and allow them to measure their progress towards increased engagement in Arlington and their organization.

Formal organizational capacity building and sharing — Organizations are at different levels in terms of experience and resources. Yet the ability of organizations to promote engagement and interaction with different sectors is a critical part of the Arlington Way and Arlington values. Access to online training, webinars and classes specific to achieving organizational objectives, and sharing and mentoring among organizations in Arlington could help strengthen our civil society.

Arlington’s new normal elucidates challenges that have always been present. We should rethink how we view the organizational component of the Arlington Way as a preliminary step in continuing to address the concerns which plague our community. We must be intentional and communicative in order to continue to move Arlington forward and leave a legacy of which we are all proud.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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