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Working with BCE: An update for a virtual world

Being based in Boston, Team Care Force (TCF) has often had the joy of serving with Boston’s own, homegrown Civic Engagement team, affectionately known as BCE. Articles have been written on this collaboration in the past, but this year, our dynamic (like all things) has been a little different. For one, being digital has allowed both teams to collaborate more than ever before, and on the rare occasion, getting to work together in person has been a treat. If you’re interested in how BCE and TCF would collaborate on a normal year, be sure to check out the blog posted last year. This year, we’ve been finding new ways to continue to be a civic engagement community.

TCF members working alongside BCE at The Boston Latin School

Care Force and Boston Civic Engagement have collaborated on a total of five virtual service events this school year. These usually consist of both teams being broken into pairs, one member of TCF and one member of BCE, who then lead a group of volunteers in their own private breakout room. One half of the pair tends to be the Project Coordinator who leads the introduction, and the other half runs the technology in the breakout space, such as playing music or sharing their screen. It’s an arrangement that works well, thanks to both teams’ ability to adapt and cooperate. When setting up virtual infrastructure for large events, having double the staffing makes technology in breakout rooms much, much easier. Throughout the event, both team members switch off in demonstrating projects – these could consist of pencil pouches, fidget keychains, origami bookmarks or other crafts specific to the event. Although there haven’t been enough events for every member of TCF to work with every member of BCE, it’s been an enjoyable adventure learning the different leadership styles of the AmeriCorps members that we don’t work with very often. Some are more rigid, some are more laissez-faire, but their knowledge always compliments ours. Working with BCE not only provides us with some much-needed friendly collaboration, but it allows us to look more critically at our own virtual events and our packing/shipping processes. Without the ingenuity of Boston’s Civic Engagement, we never would have streamlined our methods of labeling boxes for shipping or improved how we teach volunteers to make origami bookmarks.

TCF member Jake Smith leading a breakout space with BCE member Claire Connors during an event with Harvard Pilgrim and the Boston Celtics.

Sometimes, we even have a rare opportunity to meet in person. Early in the year, Boston Latin School reached out to BCE to help them pack kits for students learning at home. Since BCE is Boston based and has a history (and a duty) in the community, they have many more responsibilities here in Boston than Team Care Force. BCE was busy on that day and TCF was luckily not, so we were invited to come help. About half of Team Care Force and half of the BCE Team showed up to the school parking lot bright and early, to find an assembly line full of school essentials set up and school admin already milling about. That day, we packed hundreds of boxes and bags full of whiteboards, books, pencils and more that got immediately donated to students. We created valuable materials for the scholars of Boston Latin, and it felt good to do it in person with our local counterparts.

TCF member Jessica Zuchowski packing school supplies for students at the Boston Latin School.

In these times where human interaction is scarce and TCF is not traveling to other City Year sites, having the opportunity to work closely alongside other AmeriCorps members is a rare blessing. To that end, I am particularly glad to be working with a team as fine as BCE. They remind us of a local perspective on the service we do; without them, we would lose a bit of the joy I’ve come to expect from the small interactions this year. Hopefully, we provide them a bit of the same. Allow me to conclude with a hope for the future: BCE and TCF, friends forever.

Practice making bookmarks on Zoom with TCF and BCE before a virtual event.

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