Community: Before, During & After COVID-19

Interview by
Diane Danvers Simmons
Natalie Simmons
Published on
March 31, 2020

In this episode...

With the onslaught of COVID-19, the world has changed overnight. Social distancing, shelter-in-place and quarantine have become the new norm and our ways that we connect with one another on a daily basis are shifting. In conversation with Martha McBride, community builder at the Neighborhood Project, we discuss the ways that we can come together during and after the global pandemic.


Martha McBride

Martha McBride runs the neighborhood project for the Nantucket Project. Prior to joining the team in 2017 to launch and grow the movement, she’d spent years developing programs and growing distributed teams. She’s the GenX mom of a Millennial son and finds generational conversations fascinating.


Episode 7, Community: Before, During & After COVID-19, questions how we go about building community through the lens of the Neighborhood Project's leading lady, Martha McBride. The group discusses diversity, universal truths that unite us, and the effect that COVID-19 is having on us all.

Key Ideas:

Diane & Natalie share the premise and structure of the episode sharing that the original episode was recorded on March 9th, 2020 before the social distancing effects of COVID-19 took hold and the second was recorded on March 25th, 2020 in the wake of new government mandates reflecting the shift in the ways our communities are interacting with one another. 

Martha introduces herself and the group answers the warm up question: “if you could invite anyone living or dead to the neighborhood project who would it be and why?”

Martha goes into detail about how the Neighborhood Project - bringing people together to have deep discussion about universal topics - grew out of the Nantucket Project - a four day ideas festival.

Natalie challenges the concept of “building community” and asks Martha to share how the Neighborhood Project goes about this.

The group discusses diversity versus the connection points we can discover and the way that the Neighborhood Project creates a safe space to share opinions and experiences using tools like “the Preamble.”

The group discusses how community shows up in cities versus rural areas citing apathy in numbers from a Freakonomics podcast episode. 1 

Diane poses the question of whether millennials, college students and alumni are looking for group gatherings like the neighborhood project and Natalie shares some of her experiences navigating building her own networks as a young adult.

Natalie asks about the uptake of the Neighborhood Project in different political groups. And Martha breaks down how the group takes a nonpartisan approach.

Martha shares her favorite Neighborhood Project moment when the greater community came together to support a mother and her children during the Malibu fires from around the country. Confirming that they are building a broader community beyond the individual “projects.”

To wrap up the episode, the group discusses ways that we can take action and build community including: remaining present and open to connection with those around us, saying hello to our neighbors and putting down our phones to make eye contact with people.

Diane & Natalie welcome Martha McBride of the Nantucket Project back to the show - for the second time - after their initial recording two weeks earlier to discuss how “community” has evolved in the wake of COVID-19. 

Martha shares how The Neighborhood Project is reacting to COVID-19 in the days of social distancing using the power of video conferencing even after originally being a skeptic about the power of digital versus in-person connection.

The group discusses how COVID-19 has affected our daily interactions with friends, families and our broader communities. Pointing out silver linings such as increased touch points our networks and using technology to create a sense of closeness through video and telephone versus text.

Martha shares about the natural feeling of grief during this time and some she believes about how COVID-19 will affect the way we connect and build community after the virus. 

The group discusses the way that technology can tear down boundaries and bridge divides between groups allowing more people to come together no matter their location or living situation. 

The three women share their hopes that in spite of the trying time our world is facing, we can come together to build a more connected, resilient and collectively-minded society for the future.


1 | 5 Psychology Terms You're Probably Misusing (Ep. 334 Rebroadcast), Freakonomics Radio, May 19, 2018

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