Hope in Times of Uncertainty
On March 12, River Network made a choice: to move River Rally, after 20 years of inspiring in-person national gatherings, to a virtual format in the wake of the COVID-19 global health crisis. These were the early days of response, before travel restrictions, social distancing, and stay at home orders had become the new normal. While the rationale for the decision was solid, the implications were massive for our team as well as for our community. What is happening now inside of River Network to bring this vision to life is nothing but astonishing.
Providing such a rich experience, giving it time to unfold over several weeks, then giving us two months to absorb all of it, and making it such an affordable price, means that this Rally has potential to reach far more people than ever before.
– Beth Stewart, Cahaba River Society and long-time River Rally attendee
In the weeks that have followed, and the weeks still ahead, our team is working hard to ensure that Rally will deliver exceptional learning about what it takes to keep our rivers healthy and our waters clean, connecting peers doing great work around the country, and elevating inspiring stories of courage and determination. COVID-19 will be at the table too, through our plenaries and other content. We’re also building in plenty of fun, delivering the energy you know and love from this annual event.
So, what can you expect? Our dynamic program will run for three weeks, from May 18 – June 7, 2020. During this period, we will have scheduled ‘live’ content including plenaries, workshops, discussions, award celebrations, movie nights, open mic, and other informal social opportunities to connect. We are building new content daily to make this an extraordinary experience for everyone. We are also asking our community – including you – to contribute ideas and suggestions here. By inviting your contributions, we aspire to remain true to our intent that Rally is an event built for and with our community.
This new format has some other benefits, too. For example, we are able to provide all registrants with two additional months of ‘on-demand’ access to recorded content – workshops, plenaries, movies, and more. This means you will have more access to more content over a longer period of time as compared to a standard in-person conference. This format also allows us to set our lowest registration rates and, thanks to the generosity of our scholarship supporters, we are able to offer the most scholarships ever, increasing the accessibility of Rally to more people and more communities.
Our program will honor the commitments of the speakers we invited to join us in San Antonio, while also incorporating new content relevant to how we all adapt to a world transformed by COVID-19. Whether you are a water advocate, scientist, policy specialist, government employee, community activist, board member, river enthusiast, utility professional, philanthropist, business leader, or conservation practitioner, we will have engaging content and a unique experience ready for you.
We know that many across our community face profound challenges at home and at work as a result of COVID-19. Our community includes those working on the front lines to improve access to safe drinking water and protect communities and livelihoods from floods and droughts, often places that have now been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 infections and economic loss. Our community also includes so many who have devoted their lives to achieving a more sustainable and equitable future that includes access to clean water and healthy rivers. With the shock waves of COVID-19, it is hard to see what lies ahead. If you are like me, you may feel unsteady on good days and deeply anxious about the future, the economy, and even democracy itself on other days. By bringing River Rally to you virtually, we want to bring hope forward, leaving you and our community recharged and inspired, too. We need each other at this time of unprecedented change, in part so we can reimagine our path forward. We hope you agree and can join us at Virtual River Rally.