Why we organized this special session. Regardless of where teams are on their three-year IRL journey, fellows have been sharing how their communities are responding to the norm-altering disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, structural racism, murders of our Black community members, and political turmoil surrounding the presidential election. Fellows have also been sharing the challenge of continuing their research and community engagement activities in a way that centers community voice during this unprecedented time. The January 2021 cross-cohort virtual forum was designed to share IRL teams’ common ground and leverage their experiences tackling community engagement and research challenges.
Since the first outbreak of COVID-19 in the early spring of 2020, IRL leadership has adapted to accommodate and support its fellows. Our fellows have had to quickly figure out how to make dramatic changes to their research and community engagement plans. Fellows across cohorts expressed their interest and need to learn from and share with one another successful and sustainable practices in connecting with and engaging their communities while carrying out their IRL projects.