Two weeks into the pandemic of 2020, I started out on my usual morning jog. I found maintaining the regular ritual kept me in the right state of mind to tackle the challenge of taking care of two small children at home while keeping up my full-time job. Climbing to the top of the third hill in my neighborhood, I was listening to a podcast that was discussing creative ways to try to confront the coronavirus. “A corona-corps of volunteers, similar to a domestic Peace Corps,” was the way Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at the NYU Stern School of Business, first started pitching his vision of launching a network of coronavirus contact tracers.
As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) myself, I know a few things about the skills and commitment to service that volunteers can bring to a mission. It’s also one of the reasons why I work at Forum One—a company started by a fellow RPCV and committed to making a difference in the world.
Right away, as I huffed and puffed now down the hill, I thought: “this could be a way that I—that we—can help. At the time, I had just heard the news that the Peace Corps made the difficult decision to bring all Peace Corps volunteers back to the United States as a precaution to their safety.” What were they up to? Could they help us bring the pandemic to an end?
Forum One’s leadership consistently repeated that they were open to ideas about ways that we could use our skills to make a difference. Within days, I pitched to my boss, and then to our CEO, that we should partner with my former employer, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA), the world’s largest organization supporting and connecting the Peace Corps community, to contribute our services in branding, communications, strategy, visual design, and project management, to help them start this program.
After meeting with NPCA President, Glenn Blumhorst, and a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens, who it turns out had the same thought at the same time, the NPCA Emergency Response Network was born. The idea was to recruit willing RPCVs to join with local health service agencies as contact tracers. King County, Washington, where Covid-19 was first traced in the U.S., was the initial agency to respond to our offer. Currently, there are NPCA Emergency Response Network volunteers working in King County, with opportunities to reach more communities and states nationwide.
Working closely with my colleague, Joey Tackett, and other members of the Forum One branding team, we developed a concept paper for NPCA to pitch the product to organizations working to trace the virus. We also created this video to share the work being done by the King County tracers, as well as to share the passion that they bring to their roles.
I am so proud that Forum One has been able to already play a part in the initial phase of fighting this global pandemic. As we look ahead in 2021, the need for creative solutions and strong communication around Covid-19 prevention and management continues to grow, and I look forward to the growth of the NPCA Emergency Response Network to utilize the passion and experience of the Peace Corps during this pandemic— as well as any critical events that need it in the future.