Frederick Weil
Community Cooperation in Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

(Funded by the National Science Foundation.)


Project Description.

In most major disasters, people in communities come together to respond to the challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic is a major disaster, but a pandemic is different because it turns the usual face-to-face community cooperation itself into a source of threat, namely, the risk of infection. This project addresses a novel question: What new forms of cooperation do people develop when they cannot easily come together in traditional ways? The project will study community leaders and residents in the city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana, places with much experience in responding to disasters, but which have consequently developed significant traditions of innovation. The project will identify (a) innovative strategies that community leaders are pursuing in response to the pandemic and economic dislocations – which, notably, emphasize synergies of mutual assistance under conditions of social distancing – and (b) the impact that the pandemic and the economic downturn are having on the general public: how people respond to the new initiatives, and how well assistance is getting through. The project will identify best practices and promising innovations that can be shared with other communities, thus informing community leaders nationwide who can formulate and implement new policies to facilitate recovery, thus promoting safety and security in our society.

This project investigates what new forms of cooperation people develop in the face of disaster when they cannot easily come together in traditional ways. It uses two sets of qualitative directed, open-ended, in-depth interviews. First, the project will interview about 15-30 community leaders in New Orleans, a city with broad experience in community response to disasters, building on project leaders' extensive contacts with community leaders, developed over 15 years of research and continually updated. Second, the project will use Louisiana State University (LSU) undergraduates to interview about 100-200 friends and family in the general public about their life conditions in the time of the pandemic. The diversity of LSU students will be leveraged to obtain a diverse, qualitative sample across income, race, gender, and age lines. The project will conduct three waves of interviews with each group over a 12 month period, following the course of the pandemic over that time. The project will analyze these in-depth interviews using qualitative data analysis software, seeking themes and patterns of community response. Findings will contribute to sociological theories on disasters and community organization.


  • The interview protocol
    • Last (4th) wave, here
    • All waves, here.
  • Themes found in our interviews, here.

Papers & Reports

  • Final Project Report to NSF (public portions) - Here.
  • Weil, Frederick D., Samantha Ramey, Oliver Garretson, Jiabin Fan, and Alison Qi. 2021. "Racial Differences in Response to Covid-19: Solidarity, Vulnerability, and Social Justice." Paper presented in Plenary session at the Researchers Meeting of the 2022 Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop, July 13-14, 2022, Broomfield, Colorado. - Powerpoint here
  • "Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic: Anxiety, Isolation, Dispute, and Support." Paper presented at the Researchers Meeting of the 2021 Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop, Broomfield, Colorado. July 15, 2021. Here.


  • LSU Research Magazine, an annual publication, features my work as its cover story for 2021-22, also featuring my "Neighborhood Portrait" photo project, with 3 separate cover photos, a dozen full-page photos, and 68 thumbnail photos: "The Human Condition: Building Connections Across Neighborhoods." Online version here. Print version here.
  • LSU Office of Research & Economic Development, "Looking to Louisiana Communities for Good Ideas: A Grassroots Approach for How to Cope with the Pandemic," July 7, 2020. Here or here.


All materials which I created, including animations,
are Copyright © 1998-2023 by Frederick Weil; all rights reserved.