Not All Physical Barriers Are Barriers Anymore…the Election Experience of UCC YouthMappers
In December 2019, a deadly disease hit the shores of the world. It spread quickly and got to Africa in no time, and by March 2020, World Health Organisation had declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), over 800 million learners worldwide have been affected in the educational sector. Over 102 countries had ordered nationwide school closures, businesses shut down, companies began to run at a loss, and even human movements were restricted. These challenges hampered the growth and activities of educational institutions and organisations such as the University of Cape Coast (UCC) YouthMappers. These challenges led to the decline of the chapters' movements, and as a result, there was a sine qua non to help revive the chapter's activities. Abraham Maslow once said, "In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety."
UCC YouthMappers, in particular, and the world in general, chose to step forward into growth to promote further development, enhancement and improvement. Fast forward to today, the outbreak of COVID-19 made our chapter realise the importance of online activities. With the internet, we could efficiently carry out daily activities, such as online meetings, vetting procedures, handing over ceremonies, organising elections, ''mapathons'', and many more, which has helped the chapter grow irrespective of COVID-19 restrictions limiting our activities and movements. So we took a step forward into growth, moving away from our physical encounter or face-to-face procedure of doing things to an online platform. After the coronavirus outbreak, schools were closed down, and there was a need for us as a chapter to elect new executives to bring new ideas on board, organise activities and help the branch grow stronger and stronger. This motive is because the most significant way to impact an organisation is to focus on leadership development and continuance. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organisation that recruits good people, raises them as leaders and continually develops them.
The picture above was taken during our 'time with mappers' program where old members who have completed the university came back to share their experiences and took us through some exercises.
However, we were so bought into the idea of doing things per the status quo (face-to-face), resulting in severe challenges. As UCC Youth Mappers, we dwell in a life of possibilities and thus found a bolt-hole in online activities to overcome the significant barrier of not meeting physically. The online medium allowed for the voting and election of new executives to ease the pressure off the outgone executives. During this period, aspirants picked forms online, which might not have been so in previous years, marking a shift from our standard model. Vetting processes followed shortly after using Google Meet. Each aspirant had close to 15 minutes to share his or her ideas and aspirations and answer questions posed by some astute and abled panellists. The chapter also made online platforms available for aspirants to communicate and get their messages and ideas across to members as to why they should be considered for the various positions.
Furthermore, a free, fast and efficient voting process began. The online voting requested the voter's details, such as an OpenStreetMap identity (OSM ID), which was vital since voting was only for members of the chapter. As a result, individuals who voted without an OSM ID or wrong IDs had their votes rejected, making the elections process free, fair and limited to members of the chapter.
Moreover, during this period, mapathons were organised by the chapter. These mapathons recorded one of the highest participation and contribution by members of the chapter, which helped the branch grow stronger and stronger irrespective of the absence of physical meetings. To uplight and rejuvenate mapathon activities, the chapter executives also thought it wise to incentivise those who contributed the most. Furthermore, the chapter executives also found it necessary to provide online links to courses related to youth mappers and other Geographic Information System (GIS) activities which members of the chapter found very educative and helpful.
The pictures above were taken during and after our 'blog writing' program
Therefore, as a chapter, we believe that other chapters could and should emulate and use virtual platforms to help their branches grow irrespective of these challenges faced due to the covid 19. Although we believe as a chapter, our experiences with Covid-19 have been undoubtedly characterised by unfamiliar territory; it is a learning ground we wholeheartedly embrace.
About the Authors:
Kwadwo (left) and Regina (right) joined UCC YouthMappers in level 100 and have remained committed members of the chapter since then rising through the ranks to be advanced mappers