Community Conversations: New Jersey’s COVID-19 Storytelling Project is a statewide, collective ethnography designed to gather and transform the personal accounts of New Jersey residents, especially those who have faced increased marginalization or greater risk as a result of the pandemic, into the building blocks of a more resilient, compassionate and Healthy New Jersey. It is a collaborative project coordinated by New Jersey YMCA State Alliance and the New Jersey Department of Health and funded through generous support from the Russell Berrie Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, New Jersey Department of Health and additional support from the New Jersey Health Initiatives.
From November 2020 through April 1, 2021, Community Conversations: New Jersey’s COVID-19 Storytelling Project aims to record and synthesize the full spectrum of residents’ experiences during COVID-19 through a qualitative approach that includes interviews, focus groups, social media dialogues, creative artworks, journaling, participatory observation, or document analysis. This first-of-its-kind project will memorialize the voices of New Jersey residents in all 21 counties, paying particular attention to those who are historically underrepresented and marginalized and may not be currently be represented in the state’s pandemic narrative. From there, WRI will provide a comprehensive analysis of the data, carving out key themes and noting disparities as well as featuring positive outcomes that together, can inform recommendations for improving public health in Healthy NJ’s 2030 State Health Improvement Plan. The first findings are scheduled to be presented in March 2021, with a final report planned for summer/fall 2021. To date, the project has recorded more than 250 entries towards their goal of engaging at least ten residents per county. Select submissions will also be curated into a series of short films and featured in at the state’s annual Culture of Health Conference, and archived for widespread public access in the future through the New Jersey Library Association. Additional information and the portal for submission can be found here.