By Esther Babawande
Health Leads’ Bay Area Health Justice Collective (BAHJC) team in San Francisco faced a decision at the onset of the COVID crisis. They had been leading a Policy Through Storytelling project before the pandemic, where they demonstrated an Education First Approach to Policy. At the start of the crisis, the choice seemed clear— slow down their information services during the pandemic—but community partners objected.
BAHJC is used to prioritizing community voice above all else. The collective outcry at the proposal to suspend their efforts was immediate and voluminous. Their policy work during the current COVID crisis pivoted to focus on tenant rights and protection advocacy. The community asked them to kick it up a notch and they did.
BAHJC responded with its first newsletter, interactive video clips, virtual engagement, and resource dissemination. Lauren Pennachio, Manager of West Coast Partnerships & Strategy, describes this shift as “a fundamental change to their operations.” As a result of their COVID response, BAHJC is seeing a growth in the number and strength of their network as well as an influx of positive messages from community members.