terms differently. In the private sector, for example, partnerships and joint ventures imply contractual arrangements between organizations that include business plans with formalized marketing, finance, and operations components. The terms may be applied differently in other sectors.

How do notions of collaboration play into the building of disaster resilience? The term collaborate is defined by Merriam-Webster as “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor” and “to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected.”22 Human affairs (and their history) can be understood in terms of collaboration. The human condition and the prospects for humanity’s future are determined not just by demographics, geography, the growth and nature of economies, the advance of science and technology, or a conjunction of critical moments in history with the emergence of heroic individuals. They depend in at least equal measure on how people, institutions, and sectors of institutions engage and work with each other in the array of human concerns and aspirations on scales from the local to the regional to the national to the global. The concept of collaboration is an organizing principle or lens with which to view society and suggests how things can be accomplished (Wright, 2001).

Unavoidable and sometimes unpredictable extreme natural events may result in disasters because of the decisions people make regarding societal land use and development, public safety and health, economic growth, protection of the environment, and geopolitical stability (e.g., Mileti, 1999). With proper decision making and preparation, however, disasters can be avoided or their effects mitigated. Events can be anticipated, and resilient societies factor them into planning and action. Both researchers and practitioners increasingly appreciate the intersection of collaboration and disasters and are paying greater attention to private–public collaboration to build community disaster resilience (CARRI, 2009).


The recent popular work A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster (Solnit, 2009) describes how disaster can be the crucible for a community’s transformation. This committee’s task was to identify how communities can encourage that transformation, correct resource deficiencies, adopt beneficial public policies, and exercise practical means to elicit functional, community-based partnerships well before disaster strikes. To determine how this could be done, the committee convened, as part of its charge, a national workshop that brought together researchers and others from for-profit organizations, various levels of government, and citizen and volunteer organizations actively involved in collaborative approaches to community disaster resilience (NRC, 2010a). The


See www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/collaboration (accessed May 25, 2010).

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