A silver lining: Pandemic’s shift to virtual proved beneficial for YPIowa

August 13, 2021 | Shaping Iowa's Leaders of Tomorrow Emilee Richardson, Chair, Young Professionals of Iowa,

As the pandemic struck last spring, businesses, schools and organizations scrambled to shift into the virtual world. For many, this radical and abrupt shift brought myriad challenges: How do we operate this new technology? Will people show up and engage in a virtual environment? How do we continue to provide value when we can’t offer the traditional methods of connection and collaboration that we’ve always relied on?

For Young Professionals of Iowa (YPIowa), an organization designed to support the development of YP communities around the state by connecting emerging leaders with ideas and resources, these questions were equally relevant. But as a statewide organization that has frequently faced geographic challenges when trying to plan and host programming, an up-side quickly became clear.

Our first virtual event was in May 2020. It was an informal discussion billed as an opportunity for young professionals to “discuss a variety of topics related to today’s pandemic and its effect on our young professional communities across the state.” What resulted was a robust discussion – cathartic for many of its participants – about the fear and uncertainty many of the participants were facing in their personal, professional and community lives. More than 20 participants “Zoomed in” from all corners of the state, and while the event didn’t answer all of the questions, it helped create a sense of shared experience that researchers say helps improve individuals’ mental health.

In the months that followed, YPIowa hosted virtual events about highlighted topics from social justice to community impact. Our (virtual) YPIowa Conference focused on finding a “better normal” through sessions related to resilience, inclusivity and innovation. Just last month, we hosted a discussion to address the ways the pandemic will continue to impact our organizations titled “Moving into a Post-Pandemic World.” With each event, we continue to see participation from across the state – and that diversity of perspectives strengthens our mission.

Throughout the past year, we often end our events with a question: What’s your silver lining of all of this? For YPIowa, that silver lining is the ability to bring people across the state together – and while we look forward to the day we can gather together in person to share ideas around a conference table or over a round of drinks, we now know that it’s not just physical proximity that creates a community. 

To engage with YPIowa or get your community organization involved, visit YPIowa.org.