Almost immediately after launching the RipplePHX Loteria Project, COVID-19 began ravaging our country, and we were forced to shift our entire project online. But as we made this shift, we found ourselves searching for stability, while standing on unstable ground.
A portion of our project revolves around our 8 Loteria Team members researching NLM articles, creating Memes and Fact Bits to push out to their communities on social media to encourage people to click on NLM articles. That portion of the project would still face some challenges but didn’t need much attention initially.
However, moving a weekly, game-themed event that was designed to pull people together around Loteria, entertainment and one-on-one interactions to get people to access NLM information from their phones was a whole other beast.
Our first move was to get the Loteria nights shifted to an online broadcast, set up online registrations and ways for people to access unique game boards online, and still encourage people to click through to view NLM articles – knowing we’d likely see reduced outcomes, but wanting to keep the momentum going from our initial launch until the storm cleared.
But the storm didn’t clear.
The storm still hasn’t cleared.
We don’t know IF the storm will clear during this project period.
Even the social media portion of our project found itself lost in a world where another virus was bigger than HIV. Where protests and injustices in the world were bigger than HIV. Where we struggled ourselves to figure out where our project – even our mission – fit into the Facebook feeds we were looking at every day. Our well thought-out plan didn’t quite fit the new, COVID world.
And although we had successfully transitioned the weekly Loteria events online, they were designed to be exciting, vibrant gatherings with our community, that were now feeling a bit tone-deaf to the world around us.
Some on-the-fly adjustments were easy to make with simple tweaks of our language to be more COVID-appropriate. Messages like “Check this article out and find a PrEP provider today” would become “Check this article out and here’s a link to a provider offering Tele-PrEP appointments”. This seemed easy until the killing of George Floyd, where it felt extremely tone-deaf for our focus to be on HIV when so many important things were happening in our county. Our click-throughs to NLM articles started to drop.
Then, there was the hosting of our new, weekly virtual Loteria broadcast in our “office-turned-studio near downtown Phoneix, where we could hear flash bangs off in the distance from protests during the broadcast.
We also saw a surge in Loteria registrations when we re-launched online, but then the surge dwindled until Mid-June, when the surge was back (for no apparent reason).
And our office that was temporarily being assembled and re-assembled every week for live broadcasts is starting to feel much more long-term – causing disruptions in our regular day-to-day operations.
The RipplePHX and Loteria team spent the majority of the 2nd Quarter searching for “normalcy”, when normalcy was in short supply. Although still on-track to reach project deliverables and outcomes, our goals remain to strive everyday to make a much-needed, measurable “ripple” in our community around HIV awareness.
As we enter into the 3rd quarter, we’re taking a break from posts and our weekly broadcast the first week of July in order to re-group with our Loteria Team, evaluate our current “normal” and work to revise approaches in our original project to continue things that are working well with minor modifications, and update approaches that were better suited to a pre-COVID world in order to improve project outcomes in the virtual world we’re living in today.
Please stand by.
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