Apr 10 2020

Community in the Time of Covid

When Amy and I had life dinner on March 1st, we were both tired after a three-week trip to Boston, Miami, and Atlanta. As we discussed the potential impact of Covid, we talked about the current state of things in the US. The stock market had already had a 15% or so drop but there were less than 10 deaths (all in Seattle) from Covid in the US.

I remember us having an anxious evening that included the statement “I’m really glad February is over and we are back home in Boulder.” Prescient, but not really what we meant.

Life dinner on April 1st was very different. While the Colorado stay at home order went into effect on March 26th, Amy and I had already been in a stay at home mode starting March 11th. The last time I left my house was on March 10th for a board meeting and dinner with Mike Platt for Indian food at Jaipur.

Today is the first day since March 11th that I’ve felt any semblance of space to actually think, rather than react.

While there is a huge amount of intensity everywhere and the Covid crisis rages on, many of the things I’m involved in are now fully operational, the leaders are leading, and everyone I’m working with is focused on solving problems. I have much more situational awareness and perspective than I had even a week ago. While I don’t have answers to many things, I have hypotheses, am involved in trying lots of things, and am focused on being proactive, rather than just reactive.

Notwithstanding the stress and anxiety in the system, I felt a real emotional shift in the last few days among the people I’m involved with. There is less confusion, randomness, speculation, denial, and fear.

For much of my non-work work, I have built several teams of volunteers. I have been amazed at the willingness of people to volunteer, especially in a time of crisis that is impacting and disrupting so many of them.

The leaders have been remarkable and I continue to learn about leadership by working closely with them.

But even more remarkable is the large number of volunteers pitching in. Some are people I know while many are people I’ve met for the first time during the Covid crisis. The level, quality, and commitment of the work being produced is mindboggling. This seems to be true in both validating hypotheses and implementing stuff, as well as invalidating hypotheses and deciding not to continue to pursue a particular path any further.

I’ve written several things that have been rapidly implemented by volunteers in this crisis. Many direct benefits are wired into the local community, so there is a powerful feedback loop around feeling good about helping by actually helping.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this in the next few months, especially around the intersection of community with a complex system, which is the thesis at the core of my new book with Ian Hathaway called The Startup Community Way. I never expected to be living what I just spent three years with Ian coming up with and writing a book about.

To all the volunteers in Colorado that I am getting to work with right now, thank you for everything you are doing during this Covid crisis.