National Volunteer Week is always important to the CCA. Our work has depended on the generous gift of time and expertise from hundreds of individuals, and it’s because of them that CCA reports have consistently injected important policy decisions with solid evidence for more than 15 years. This year, however, is a bit different.
Instead of being able to connect in person, over conference tables and meals, in hallways and on route to venues, it’s been computer screens and awkward virtual hellos, mute buttons, and background filters. But the enthusiasm and commitment of CCA expert volunteers has never wavered.
From April 18 to 24, 2021 organizations across Canada will recognize the contributions and achievements of their volunteers. At the CCA, the volunteer hours spent on developing reports, and the oversight and guidance provided by our Board of Directors and Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) remains essential to our work. CCA’s panellists, Board and SAC members, and peer reviewers were as rigorous and involved this year as they have been from our beginnings. They have responded with enthusiasm and a collaborative spirit; despite the many demands on their time, the Zoom fatigue, and other personal and professional stressors and commitments. It is a testament to their desire and dedication in support of evidence-based decision-making.
As challenging as this year has been, it’s also offered us an opportunity to learn. Like so many, we’ve been forced to adapt, moving everything online, including the expert panel meetings that are at the heart of what we do. COVID-19 has made some things harder, without a doubt, but not everything. For some of the individuals who work with us, a shift to online meetings was at least somewhat welcomed ― reducing the demand for travel and all of its associated time, personal, and environmental costs. Participating became more accessible to those who may otherwise not have been able to make the commitment.
Of course, online meetings can’t replace the real thing when they are at the core of what we do, but it’s given us pause to consider our process and what might potentially change even once things normalize and travel becomes safe again. Like most of the world, it’s been a time for reflection.
It’s our hope that before we reach next year’s National Volunteer Week, we will once again be able to break bread together in person. Until then, we remain in awe of the enthusiasm and commitment of each and every member of our incredible volunteer community.
Eric M. Meslin, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS
President and CEO, Council of Canadian Academies