After 15 years of successful in-person training, COVID-19 forced the PLDI alliance to get creative. In March 2020, Ontario was in a state of emergency, and everyone was ordered home and there were to be no face-to-face meetings or gatherings of any kind. 2020 quickly became a pivotal year for the PLDI program. Ontario had just recruited and hired five new, HIV-positive facilitators from various parts of the province. We were ending our year, ready to start a new one with many workshops planned, but the future was uncertain.

Was PLDI going to make it through COVID-19?
Shortly after Ontario’s stay-home order came into effect, other provinces quickly followed.  Luckily, Ontario is in an inter-provincial alliance, and within days the three managers and national coordinator began weekly meetings. They brainstormed different ways to keep the program alive and going. They were in such a state of uncertainty it was unclear if this way of working (from home and no face-to-face gatherings) was going to last months–they definitely didn’t expect it would last more than a year. 

In April, the Ontario facilitation team had their first meet and greet, introducing the seasoned and emerging leaders to one another; this was done on a 2-hr zoom meeting. The alliance continued weekly manager meetings with all 3 provinces and our coordinator. In these meetings, we were able to check in with each other and strategize on moving forward. These meetings strengthened the alliance and allowed the managers and coordinator to lean on each other during uncertain times. July numbers of COVID diagnoses and deaths were up. Having face-to-face meetings anytime soon was not looking good, so the alliance started exploring different HIV organizations, specifically national ones, to see how they offered online training and how they were engaging people living with HIV in meaningful ways.

The alliance is much more than the coordinator and managers, so we engaged all PLDI facilitators nationally to help us with our new path. We formed different groups with representation from all three provinces, started looking at the curriculum, and started brainstorming the future of PLDI. In August and September, the different groups were busy looking at various online learning platforms, adapting the Core training workshop to an online module, and adapting the curriculum, governance, and communications to develop a whole new workshop.

October, the managers, and coordinator signed up for Brightspace certification. Ontario started a pre-PLDI facilitator boot camp for the new facilitators. This was 5 weeks of 2 hours reviewing code of conduct, the curriculum, application process, facilitating tips and tricks, group work, individual work, and strengthening the team. The countdown to the Online core training started in January; we needed many items to begin adapting; application form, imagery, copyright info, and there was still so much more to learn on bright space; Covid-19 could notstop this alliance from ensuring PLDI continues.

This week PLDI will be in its 3rd week of Online Core Training Pilot… The Online Core Training (pilot) is:

  • A dynamic online adaption of our in-person Core Training for new participants.
  • A mix of instructor-driven sessions through Zoom and self-paced/directed sessions offered through Brightspace.
  • A mix of five weekly two-hour facilitated and self-directed sessions.

We now have 11 leaders from all over Ontario ranging in age from 25-64, with a total of 87 years of lived HIV experience.

We asked each participant to share their definition of leadership here is some words of wisdom from our emerging leaders.

“Leadership is not a privilege but it allows the person space to serve your community and meet their needs particularly as a racialized folk.”

“A good leader is someone who can guide you, learn from everyone including his mistakes, be able to walk on someone’s shoes, who does all he can for everyone to reach their goals .”

“A good leader does not stand apart but rather stands among those that they lead.A leader encourages, listens, and supports. A leader will take ownership and admit wrongs rather than placing blame. A good leader has first-hand knowledge through lived experience or has the willingness to learn along with those they are leading. A good leader is not afraid of opposing viewpoints and will stand up for their beliefs.”

“A good Leader must have Positive Attitude, Accountability, Responsible, Good Communicator, Ability to challenge failure, focused, innovative, and able to delegate. A leader is one who takes up responsibility in collaboration with their team to attain great results.”