Finding hope, and getting resourceful, in 2020

December 10, 2020

This year, many of us faced the gripping realization that we must again tap into our biological and cultural capacities to be resilient during tumultuous times. Here at Resource Media, we came together to adapt to new challenges, found strength in interdependence and connection, and used messages and narratives as a beacon to illuminate an uncertain path. Throughout 2020, Resource Media linked arms with advocates from communities of color, community-based organizations, and marginalized communities to anchor our work in hope and bravery even when things felt the most chaotic. We may not know what comes next, but we know a grounded, clear-eyed sense of hope will get us through, as it always has. 

Due to COVID, our partners have had to adapt to live-streaming, digital advocacy, and using podcasts and other virtual tools to elevate the voices of those left out of dominant narratives and conversations. Our clients and allies have had to adjust to working from home, children out of school, and aging parents far away. As an organization, we shifted to be more compassionate and more intentional in our communications — and to ensure we were caring for ourselves and our own communities. Thanks to a little creativity, we are proud of the work we’ve done to adapt to our new landscape this year. 

Below we highlight some examples of the ways we’ve worked alongside our partners to adapt, demonstrating resiliency in action in our combined social change work: 

  • Spotlighting harsh energy inequities that COVID-19 exacerbates: It’s a longstanding inequity in our energy system that lower-income households which use the least energy and cause the least strain on the power grid tend to pay disproportionately more out of their incomes for energy than wealthier households. This inequity has only worsened during the pandemic, as high energy burdens force households to make impossible choices, such as cutting back on groceries, medicine, and other necessities in order to keep the lights on. These households also face higher risk of utility service shut-offs and stiff fees for late payments and reconnection, all of which risk pushing them into debt. In fact, utility bill payment is the leading reason consumers take out payday loans or other short-term, high-interest loans, a debt trap that leads many to bankruptcy. These issues have been front and center with our partners working on equitable utility rate design, including the National Consumer Law Center, Vote Solar, and Pace Energy and Climate Center. We recently worked with partners to create a video explaining what is needed to ensure equitable energy service for all utility customers — during times of crisis and beyond. We are sharing this video widely among the energy justice community and with utility companies and regulators. 
  • Activating BIPOC voters in America’s birthplace: All eyes were on Philadelphia during the 2020 election. With seven of 10 Philly residents being people of color and more than half of eligible voters identifying as Black and/or Latinx, various groups sprung into action across the city to mobilize voters in culturally affirming ways. Our Philadelphia-based staff worked closely with Resolve Philly, a local journalism equity nonprofit, on a small but mighty mobilization effort that reached a quarter of a million residents. The Own Your Vote/Reclama Tu Voto campaign curated a performing arts festival on Instagram during the week leading up to Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot request deadline. The “Performance Phest” featured local hip hop and spoken word artists, dance troupes and drumlines, and live chats with young voters and community leaders. To cap this digital love letter to Philly voters, we engaged hometown heroes such as DJ Jazzy Jeff and former Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins in a series of get-out-the-vote PSAs.
  • Against-all-odds news stories: Having trouble getting your news stories picked up in 2020? You won’t if your story is that you are opening — not closing — a restaurant in the middle of the pandemic. Resource Media’s Seattle staff provided media relations services to Global to Local’s Spice Bridge food hall, a project of their Food Innovation Network program in Washington State’s South King County. While this project started before the pandemic hit, it’s an ideal way to demonstrate that even in the face of so much hardship for restaurants, FIN’s Food Business Incubator program has fostered entrepreneurship among women immigrants and refugees. We bet your mouth will water as you read this Seattle Times feature story and look at all of the decadent meals produced by these chefs and food stall vendors.
  • Media tours and press conferences in a pandemic: DESC (Downtown Emergency Service Center) is a Seattle-based nonprofit that builds supportive housing for people who have experienced long periods of homelessness, conducts community outreach, and advocates for housing-first policies to end homelessness. Resource Media has worked with DESC on their PR efforts, including pitching media for a video press teleconference and site tours for a new apartment community called Hobson Place. While in the past, the team would’ve hosted a big, in-person event with speeches by elected officials and apartment tours, this year they opted for a virtual tour instead and video interviews of residents and artists — all without a big ribbon cutting. We hosted one-on-one media tours that allowed reporters to interview volunteers who were arranging apartments for new residents. The new homes are critically needed now especially, given the increase in homelessness during the pandemic. To see how DESC orchestrated their benefit event this year, watch Gimme Shelter, a virtual concert featuring local Seattle band The Dusty 45s.

In a turbulent year, we have taken our training and skills to communities in rural, suburban, and urban areas and have built more enduring partnerships with multicultural, multiracial, and multigenerational advocates. The pandemic has meant massive challenges for so many people in our communities, but hope — along with some creativity and resourcefulness — will get us through this time, together.

 — Pilar Montoya, Executive Director