BC Association of Community Response Networks

The Isolation Pandemic: COVID-19 and the Social Determinants of Health


On March 18, people from Metro Vancouver and communities as far north as Prince Rupert were brought together through their common interest in learning more about the impact of the pandemic on LGBTQ2S+ seniors and marginalized communities.

This online event, hosted by BC CRN’s Lower Mainland Living Out Visibly Engaged community response network (LOVE CRN), logged over 120 registrants. Participants were treated to presentations from Metro Vancouver community leaders, including:

“It was a great day,” says Sadie Livingstone, Diversity and Inclusion Facilitator at Alexandra Neighbourhood House. “The pandemic shone a light on the underlying societal issues that were always there. Those of us who participated in the symposium, we are coming from a very privileged position. Others are not experiencing the pandemic the same way.”

“We talked a lot about racism, ableism, classism, systemic economic issues, and capitalism,” she continues. “These topics are no longer taboo. They are also no longer political issues. They are health issues.”

“The event itself showed how COVID-19 can be a platform to do more collective impact activities. The conversations were richer than I had expected. The vibe of the event was much better than I could have anticipated,” says CRN Coordinator and Alexandra House Community Programs Manager Neil Fernyhough. “Since the pandemic, there has been more cooperation and collaboration between agencies. Because the people we serve are suffering, we no longer have the privilege of remaining in our silos. COVID opened our eyes to a new approach to how we work together in the social services sector, one that is regional, collaborative, and inclusive.”

Live music at lunchtime helped continue setting positive vibes for the rest of the day. (Photo: S. Livingstone)

The Lower Mainland LOVE CRN plans on using the information from the symposium to inform an upcoming survey of local seniors’ facilities that will gauge how well they accommodate the needs of LGBTQ2S+ residents and ensure their safety. The plan is to initiate the survey in 2022 after the pressure of the pandemic recedes.

Recordings of the presentation and companion materials will be available soon through www.bccrns.ca. These resources are free of charge and available to anyone.

Congratulations to the event planning committee on a successful event:

  • Sadie Livingstone, Diversity and Inclusion Facilitator, Alexandra Neighbourhood House
  • Neil Fernyhough, Lower Mainland LOVE CRN Coordinator and Manager of Community Programs, Alexandra Neighbourhood House
  • Jas Cheema, Regional Mentor – Surrey, South Surrey, White Rock, and Langley
  • Joanna Li, Regional Mentor – Vancouver
  • Jane Osborne, Regional Mentor – Vancouver Island Central and North
  • Paul Crump, Langley CRN Coordinator
  • Gloria Gutman, Ph.D., Research Associate, Professor Emerita, Gerontology Research Centre, Department of Gerontology, Simon Fraser University; BC CRN Board.

Tips for Holding a Large Online Event

Online events are here to stay. Based on the success of the Isolation Pandemic Symposium, the Lower Mainland LOVE CRN shares a few tips for your next online CRN event:

  • Leverage the provincial BC CRN organization: “I was quite new to the CRN organization,” says Sadie. “[BC CRN’s Director of Administrative Services] Sharon Johnson was instrumental in getting us set up on Zoom and helping us moderate the session. Having a team of regional mentors was also helpful in my learning about how things work with CRNs.”
  • Offer live music during breaks and lunch: “We received a lot of positive feedback as a result of having live musical performances during breaks,” says Neil. “It helped ground people, lighten the mood, and maintain good feelings and collegiality through the day. Especially with long online events, be intentional about creating time for socializing and entertainment. It’s easy to listen to music or talk to someone new while you eat a sandwich.”
  • Leverage existing networks and be clear on who does what: “Since we had to design this event from scratch, the planning committee was the best thing,” says Sadie. “We freely shared ideas and were open to everything. We figured out who had what expertise and really collaborated. You don’t need to be an expert in everything.”

Learn more about the Lower Mainland LOVE CRN. Read last month’s article on the Isolation Pandemic Symposium.

For more information about the Lower Mainland LOVE CRN, or to volunteer, please contact Neil at communityprograms@alexhouse.net or 604-558-1504.

(Header photo: Creative Commons License)