Collaboration to achieve disaster resilience requires considerable attention to organizational design and structure. Insufficient attention to organization is likely to result in short-lived partnerships that fail to achieve their objectives. Inappropriate forms of organization can lead to participant dissatisfaction and conflict among stakeholders. Accordingly, the committee gathered research-based evidence on appropriate forms of organization for collaborative networks and collected the views of experts regarding best practices. The committee’s conceptual model for resilience-focused private–public collaboration (Figure 2.1) can serve as a visual reminder of the connections between various collaborative elements and desired outcomes. Referring to the conceptual model while planning and mobilizing a collaborative network can assist organizers in decision making and assessment of activities.

The Importance of a Coordinating Function

The University of Delaware Disaster Research Center Project Impact assessment studies emphasized the importance of local Project Impact coordinators, whose jobs consisted of ensuring that communities were progressing in collaboration, partnership building, and other project goals. The findings suggest that regardless of how collaborative activities are organized, it is necessary to devote resources specifically for collaboration management. Put another way, it appears to be insufficient to argue for the importance of collaboration without also investing in individuals or groups that are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that collaboration is taking place. The experience of dedicated staff ultimately reduces jurisdictional confusion and wrangling after a disaster, allows more efficient pooling of resources, and promotes faster recovery. It is relatively easy to persuade potential collaborators to join umbrella organizations or to be signatories to disaster plans. However, given the infrequency of serious disasters in any given community, it is far more challenging to engage their active participation in resilience efforts on an ongoing basis. A strong collaborative network with dedicated staff will help keep loss reduction and resilience a community priority as an integral part of normal community functioning.

Some may argue that a coordinating function is not consistent with the committee’s suggestion that decision making remain decentralized. The committee would counter that decentralized decision making is possible within an organized structure. Our system of governance in this country is an example. Rules and guidelines exist to direct the structure, but the structure does not direct the outcomes of decision-making processes. As long as there is consensus regarding rules of collaboration and the actions of a coordinating person or body, and as long as those rules are regularly evaluated for their relevance, decentralized decision making is possible.

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