How to use a crisis to engage a community

It seems so long ago now that COVID-19 entered our lives and took over almost all aspects of it. Almost eight months have passed since the day staff at Carey Baptist Grammar School in Melbourne were notified of a case of the virus at the School. This was the first incidence of COVID-19 at a school in Victoria resulting in a closure. I was so impressed to be part of a school and team that responded so well.

“It is really wonderful how much resilience there is in human nature. Let any obstructing cause, no matter what, be removed in any way, even by death, and we fly back to first principles of hope and enjoyment.”

Bram Stoker

With no prior experience to draw on or colleagues to lean on for advice, Carey managed a sudden and unexpected school closure, swiftly transitioning to an entirely new online learning environment with no preparation. Carey saw not only a challenge, but an opportunity. Through the new online mode, Carey engaged its community, and saw an incredible move to band together and support one another, with staff, families, Alumni and past families alike all working to ensure the best outcomes for Carey students.

Welcome to the new world
It was first thought Carey would remain closed for a short period in March and we would all go back to work and be in the classrooms in a matter of days. As an Alumni and Community Manager, my team and I were busily planning for reunions, speaking events, luncheons, and other gatherings at Carey. With such lovely autumn weather upon us, March is always a busy time on the events calendar. But without an official lockdown announced and limited government direction to go by, there was little to suggest that our entire year’s calendar would be cancelled, and we had no concept of the struggles that were to follow.

As the situation evolved, it became clear that the methods we’ve always used to engage our community would no longer suffice, but we could use the opportunity to create something greater.

Firstly, we would need to adapt our approach to engage a community that would be physically distanced and everyone experiencing their own struggles. Secondly, if we were to engage this new type of community, it meant we had to deeply understand the community’s needs and expectations and offer programs and support
accordingly.

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About Katie Hunt Alumni & Community Manager, Carey Baptist Grammar School, Victoria

Katie Hunt is the Alumni and Community Manager at Carey Baptist Grammar, whilst taking on the position as Executive Officer of the Old Carey Grammarians Association. Katie has over 16 years in business development and relationship management in both the private and not-for-profit sectors. Alongside her experience in engagement and relationship management, Katie is a certified Advancement Practitioner and holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Community Health) and Masters in Social Investment and Philanthropy from Swinburne University.

Katie understands the powerful role in which society and our relationships influence the decisions we make. As such, she uses this knowledge to connect and engage her communities. Katie has worked with local and global not-for-profits managing personal and corporate high-net-worth relationships. In her spare time, is an active Board Director at a Social Enterprise, holds a leadership position on the Swinburne Social Impact and Philanthropy Alumni Association and sits on the committees Scholarship Advisory Committee.